Christianity,  Politics

Speaking of Evangelicals and Politics . . . Jim Wallis

Yesterday I lamented the fact that the evangelical left has their priorities all wrong. They refuse to treat abortion-on-demand as a transcendent moral issue. In other words, they do not think it should be a priority for Christians to support the protection of the unborn in law. Christians might try to reduce the abortion rate through social action, but they should not seek to protect the unborn through political means. At least that’s what the religious left is urging us to do.

Jim Wallis may be the leading political activist of the evangelical left, and he made this very case in a recent interview with Christianity Today. Wallis addresses what he believes the “prophetic” stance is on two hot-button issues: abortion and gay “marriage.”

“I think the prophetic stance right now in the pitched legal stalemate on abortion is abortion reduction. Instead of endless, meaningless debates about the law and constitutional amendments, let’s actually save some unborn lives. People can disagree with my stance, and say the constitutional amendment to ban abortion is the prophetic stance. I don’t believe it is.”

Right now it is legal to kill an innocent human at any stage from 0-9 months gestation. Over 50 million people have been killed in just this way with the full protection of the law since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973. My question for Wallis is this. Wouldn’t protecting the unborn in law have the effect of reducing abortions? If you are really interested in reducing the abortion rate, why would you want to keep it legal? Don’t you think that the unborn should be protected in law? Or are they somehow less than deserving of legal rights before they pass through the birth canal? We don’t have to pick between measures to reduce abortions and efforts to protect the unborn in law. Why are you urging Christians towards a false choice?

Wallis’ confusion on the ethics of abortion is matched only by his remarks on the question of gay “marriage.” He says this:

“On the issue of gay marriage, the prophetic stance, I think, is dialogue. It’s talking to each other.”

How can the prophetic stance be anything less than speaking the truth in love? The Bible is unambiguous in its condemnation of homosexuality (and thus of so-called gay “marriage”), and it is equally clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ can save any sinner, including homosexuals (e.g. 1 Cor 6:9-11). Shouldn’t Christians be declaring both truths when they engage the wider culture on this question?

Something tells me that the dialogue Wallis is prescribing might be less than clear on this point. In his book, Wallis supports “civil unions from the state and even spiritual blessings for gay couples from congregations prepared to offer them.” Wallis thinks churches should give “spiritual blessings” to gay couples? Why would any faithful church sanction officially or unofficially that which God clearly condemns (Rom 1:26-27)?

The apostle Paul identifies homosexuality (among other sins) as a contradiction of the gospel itself (1 Tim 1:9-11). There are lots of things that Christians may dialogue about, but this is not one of them. When God has spoken so clearly in His word, our duty is faithful proclamation, not dithering about and giving the impression that King Jesus is neutral about sin.

There is much more that could be said, but I will leave it at this for now. Sadly, Jim Wallis is proving himself to be as unreliable as Claiborne and Boyd.


UPDATE: Thanks to commenter “Nick” for alerting us to Doug Wilson’s response
to the Wallis interview. Doug Wilson concludes his critique of Wallis with this:

“Not only is this a man not qualified to represent what the Bible teaches to anyone, the larger evangelical church that gives men like this the time of day is equally unqualified. We have come to the point where a scratch and sniff prophet like this can take an honored place among us, which means that ours is a dishonored church.”

Amen to that.


  • Denny Burk


    Don’t you believe that the unborn should be protected in law? Do you think it should be legal to kill an unborn person at any time from 0-9 months gestation?

    What about homosexuality? Do you agree with the scripture’s repeated condemnation of homosexual behavior (e.g. Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:9-11)?


  • Brett

    I think it’s funny how homosexuality is the only unredeemable sin in the church. I mean, we never speak like this of greedy people, because they give their tithes and pay our bills! And we all know that Americans need a rebuking about greed much more than homosexuality.

    Why would any faithful church accept into their fellowship that which God clearly condemns (liars, greed, envy, jealousy, idolatry, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions). Where are your posts on these other things Denny? Maybe those are for non-election years.

    Trying to fuse two kingdoms? I think it’s clear which side is unreliable on these issues.

  • Hoey

    Where is your message of hope Denny?

    Why are such a large portion of your posts seemingly bashing someone you disagree with?

    All I see is, “here is a bunch of people who are wrong”.

  • Andy

    1. Abortion is an issue requiring more nuance in content and rhetoric than you think. People who have abortions, or support Roe, aren’t “baby killers.” Try resisting the urge to impose your religious beliefs on others (who may reason differently than you) through the law. A pluralistic society necessarily requires a politics that respects dialogue and seeks compromise if growth is to occur.

    2. The concern of Paul in Romans 1 is not homosexuality. Again, read between the lines. He’s setting up the Gentile/Jew dialectic to talk about how “all have sinned” two chapters later, and he does it by explaining “why” (worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, not being homosexual) in chapter one. You’re an NT scholar, right? Shouldn’t you know this?

    The same type of argument can be made for 1 Cor. 1 Timothy isn’t even Pauline. Besides, Paul operates, clearly, with assumptions he attributes objectively to “nature” (i.e., Romans 1) which are actually subjective renderings of Hellenistic social and cultural norms. (Historian John Boswell covered things like this almost thirty years ago now, before religious scholars even got much wind of it.) Again, shouldn’t you have covered this in grad school?

    I like reading your blog. Forgive me when I say it’s a nice bit of fundamentalist inanity to brighten my day.

  • Ranger

    I agree with Denny that abortion should be illegal, and would love for the United States to pass a federal amendment against abortion. Unfortunately we are nowhere nearer this goal than we were twenty years ago despite the church spending literally tens of millions of dollars to acheive it. In regards to Wallis’ comment, let’s not exagerrate what he actually said. I think he is saying that instead of spending as much money aimed at an amendment, we ought to spend it to better our methods of reaching out to women considering abortions and attack the problem from a different angle (which we’ve always done but could do more). It’s not like Wallis is pro-abortion, so let’s not even suggest that he is. I simply think Wallis is saying we might be attacking the beast with a flawed strategy. In that regard, his topic should be up for debate, but we shouldn’t suggest that he’s leading Christians astray or doing anything unorthodox for simply suggesting a different strategy.

    I do not agree with his misrepresentation of Boyd and Claiborne, which was continued in this article. The sad thing is that instead of really engaging their arguments, he had to attack their unrelated beliefs. What does their pacifism, or Boyd’s open theism have to do with their wanting to back off the push for anti-abortion legislation? It’s the old “he doesn’t hold to ‘x’ so we can’t trust what he has to say about ‘x'” argument, which as we know isn’t really an argument per se unless the two topics are directly related.

    Of course, Denny was focusing on only one issue from the interview in his comments, but anyone who listens to the full interview will see that the two who seemed to have the most in common were actually Claiborne and Colson. I noticed the odd coupling when I first listened to this interview, and have also seen this discussed around the blogosphere. That’s definitely not a grouping I would have made before listening to the interview, but it is rather clear at various points throughout the discussion.

  • Ranger

    Here is what Wallis said about abortion in the link referenced above. I think it gives a much better picture of what he is trying to say, much more so than the small quote above:

    “The abortion debate has really gotten very stale. . .” [read the rest here]

  • D.J. Williams

    I read the article the other day, and Wallis had a lot of good things to say. However, I found his talk of giving spiritual blessing to gay civil unions very troubling. We can have loving dialog with those who are homosexual while still maintaining the hard truths of the gospel. At the SBC in Indy in 2003, some friends and I invited a couple of the protesters from Soulforce into the convention hall and sat and talked with them for a couple hours. We were frank with the Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality and the call of the gospel, but we had a great discussion, largely because we were willing to listen – listen to their backgrounds, their fears, their stories. This willingness to accomodate people, though not their sin, opened the door for future communication with these guys. It was obvious from their demeanor that simply inviting them into the convention hall demonstrated that perhaps we weren’t the angry bigots they believed us to be. I commend Wallis’s heart, and some of his ideas, but I fear anytime I hear compromise of the truth held out as necessary for dialog, because I know beyond doubt that isn’t true.

    BTW – Brett, per your comments on homosexuality’s front and center status on many evangelicals’ “sin list” – right on, bro. It’s always easier to harp on the sins of the “other” than it is to turn the mirror on ourselves.

  • Brandon

    Brett (#3): Your careless comment that “I think it’s funny how homosexuality is the only unredeemable sin in the church.” only serves your own interest in trying to spark controversy and cause division. This is never the stance of the evangelical right, nor is it ever stated as such in the Biblical text.

    Denny clearly stated this in his statement:
    “The Bible is unambiguous in its condemnation of homosexuality (and thus of so-called gay “marriage”), and it is equally clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ can save any sinner, including homosexuals (e.g. 1 Cor 6:9-11).”

    Please clearly think through your arguments before you espouse divisive and polarizing comments such as this. It does nothing for the good of unity.

  • Nick

    Douglas Wilson had a post about this yesterday:

    He closes with these remarks:

    “Not only is this a man not qualified to represent what the Bible teaches to anyone, the larger evangelical church that gives men like this the time of day is equally unqualified. We have come to the point where a scratch and sniff prophet like this can take an honored place among us, which means that ours is a dishonored church.”

  • Kevin J

    Brett & Hoey,

    If you do not like the posts here…please go somewhere else. Your comments above (3 & 4) have absolutely no contributing info other than judgmentalism and division. In other words, “If you think someone’s house stinks…don’t go in.”

    Just my “2 cents worth”

  • D.J. Williams

    Brandon said…
    “Your careless comment that “I think it’s funny how homosexuality is the only unredeemable sin in the church.” only serves your own interest in trying to spark controversy and cause division. This is never the stance of the evangelical right, nor is it ever stated as such in the Biblical text.”

    It’s never our stated stance, but I do feel we (and I use “we” to refer to general evangelicalism, though I understand such a reference is inherently problematic) often come off that way in our attitudes. The sins we harp on the most in public tend to be the sins that we don’t struggle with. This is a natural tendency of the fallen human heart. In that way, I think Wallis pushes those of us who are more comfortable on the political right to think differently than we’re used to, even if I don’t agree with all his conclusions.

  • Hoey

    Whatever about my post (that was just an aside – one I believe is valid), Brett’s was actually addressing the issue, so leave him be. Just so happens he disagrees with Denny. I think that’s ok.

  • Hoey

    Hang on, hang on, hang on….

    Why is Wallis unqualified to represent what the Bible says? Is he so unqualified because he differs in his interpretation from a strict theologically conservative view?

    My goodness, is that how we are to treat other believers who hold a different opinion – to not “give them the time of day”?

    And I’m the one who’s apparently being divisive and judgmental?

  • Chris

    Hoey in #15,

    “Why is Wallis unqualified to represent what the Bible says?”

    I share your feelings that saying he is unqualified is harsh, but it is true. Read again this paragraph from Denny’s post:

    “Something tells me that the dialogue Wallis is prescribing might be less than clear on this point. In his book, Wallis supports “civil unions from the state and even spiritual blessings for gay couples from congregations prepared to offer them.” Wallis thinks churches should give “spiritual blessings” to gay couples? Why would any faithful church sanction officially or unofficially that which God clearly condemns (Rom 1:26-27)?”

    The startling and scary comment there is what Wallis stated in his book that he thinks some churches should bless gay couples. It is not a matter for interpretation to state that the Bible does not condone/bless homosexuality. What he said is just flat wrong.

    Calling sin “righteousness” is a big problem that disqualifies one to speak prophetically about the truth of Scripture.

  • Hoey


    There are so many issues in scripture that many Christian leaders get wrong (spectacularly so – we’re all human!), but we don’t write them off and treat them as ‘outsiders’ because of it.

    I don’t agree with Wallis on spiritual blessings for gay couples. I also wouldn’t disregard all his views or say he’s unqualified to represent what the Bible says just because of that single issue.

  • Benjamin A

    Andy said, “People who have abortions, or support Roe, aren’t “baby killers.””

    Yes, Andy, they are killing human babies. And just like you enjoy protection for your life under the law, so should all humans enjoy that same protection under law. Especially pre-born humans, who have the image of God all over them (not apologizing for imposing my religious belief here Andy) from the time of conception.

    Andy continued, “Try resisting the urge to impose your religious beliefs on others (who may reason differently than you) through the law.”

    Maybe Andy doesn’t realize that most of our laws were constructed by religious men using the Bible as their guide. It was their religious belief that established our legal system. The Law is an imposition of religious belief Andy. And it’s the humanistic religious belief that won the day for Roe. Every system of belief is religious and all require faith. I’m surprised that someone as sophisticated as Andy didn’t realize that. It’s impossible NOT to impose religious beliefs about anything. Wake up/ smell the coffee.

    Andy also said, “A pluralistic society necessarily requires a politics that respects dialogue and seeks compromise if growth is to occur.”

    What kind of growth? The only kind of growth I see happening in this pluralistic society (that Andy clearly wants) that requires respect and compromise in our dialogue is a moral cancer that is spreading a culture of death and disease (esp. STD’s) abroad. Who in their right mind would want more of Andy’s concept of growth? I don’t like your religious beliefs Andy and don’t want them influencing the culture/world in which I live. I will oppose your religious tolerance beliefs every step of the way, as Grandma always said, “The proof’s in the pudding”. And the proof of a pluralistic society and the kind/type of growth it produces is a heap of skubala!

  • Paul

    1) I doubt that Wallis, Claiborne, Boyd or many, many, many others on the evangelical left would be upset if abortion were magically outlawed tomorrow. However, I think what Wallis, Claiborne, Boyd and certainly lots of people like me are saying is that the law is only one piece of the puzzle. And possibly the least important piece of that puzzle. One thing that the evangelical right N-E-V-E-R seems to address is the fact that the first thing that’s needed to address the abortion issue is to do what is necessary to minimize unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Practical education needs to be front and center in this discussion. It never is. Learning from the countries in Europe where abortion rates are miniscule is a necessary part of the discussion. But it never is.

    The problem is, if you outlaw abortion, all you’re going to do is drive it underground. If a woman doesn’t want a baby growing inside her, and if she’s desperate enough to get rid of it, trust me when I tell you that she’s not going to let a law stand in the way of getting that abortion. Especially because even if abortion on demand were to be outlawed tomorrow, I guarantee that the punishment wouldn’t be much more than a misdemeanor. There would be far too many Democrats AND REPUBLICANS that would fight to insure at least that much.

    So, while a law might lessen the number of abortions somewhat, it will make the abortions that still happen more dangerous for both mother and child.

    Of course, this post will be ignored and not commented upon by every last one of the conservatives that reads this because they’re afraid to educate their sons and daughters, and they’re really, really, really afraid to admit that the Europeans are right about anything.

    2) re: gay marriage…Wallis is right in calling for civil unions for gay folk. However, this hooey about spiritual blessings from churches for those unions is hogwash. The Bible does clearly state that homosexuality is wrong. That should be respected, even by those all the way to the left. However, trying to limit the rights of gay people to do what they want to do in a nation of secular law is also completely wrong.

  • D.J. Williams


    I agree with you that there are other fronts in the abortion war than just the legal front, I just believe that the legal front is a bit more substantial substantial than you do.

    One question I can’t resist asking – how could an abortion be “more dangerous” for the child? It seems like they’re pretty dangerous for them as it is.

  • Paul


    I am willing to disagree on what the most substantial substantial 🙂 front to fight abortion on is.

    That’s a much easier course of action to deal with than being told that your faith somehow loses its validity (Hi Denny) if you don’t believe exactly the way that certain conservatives believe.

    Insofar as back alley abortions being “more dangerous” for the child…I agree, they’re pretty dangerous as it is. However, if they’re going to happen, I would prefer that they be as painless for the baby as possible. I can’t imagine that death by coat hanger is a lovely way to die.

    (I am sorry for the callous sound of that last sentence. If there’s a nicer way to put it, Denny, please feel free to edit.)

  • Daniel Davis


    1) conservative Christians, along with many other designations of Christian, advocate abstinence. so you cannot say they N-E-V-E-R speak of practical ways to minimize unwanted pregnancies. unless of course you are referring to ways that practically endorse non-Christians morals of free and unrestrained sex.

    now, i’m not sure why trusting you is necessary to believe that an anti-abortion law won’t prevent someone from getting an abortion? i completely agree based simply on the sinful nature of people. for example: laws against murder do not prevent some from committing murder anyway. but there are potential murders prevented because of laws and consequences. so, i would also assume that some abortions would be prevented due to laws and consequences. perhaps, people would even be smart enough to try and limit unwanted pregnancies because they wouldn’t want the “curse” of having to carry a baby to term.

    now, while i don’t appreciate the condescension implying that some Christians (apprently myself included as conservative) put their heads in the sand (i will teach my children and any other children under my authority to abstain from sex until marriage), please educate me on how europe is so successful in limiting abortions.

    2) on this point, i do find myself with a quandary. part of me finds it hard to require a secular state to prohibit civil unions. if civil unions only involved the homosexual partners, i wouldn’t be so disturbed by their endorsement. i do not in any way support civil unions, however, and support means to prohibit them because of the consequences. the primary consequence i fear involves children. governmental support for civil unions will open the door wide (right now it is only cracked, but growing anyway) for gay couples to take in children and have any number of procedures in order to have children. i believe that such a situation is detrimental to children. [on a side note, i am equally “judgmental” of heterosexual couples who do wrong by their children]

  • AJ

    I wonder why Denny hasn’t responded to Ranger (#6&7). Selective quoting that doesn’t acknowledge the author’s “big picture” can be an exercise in “flame-throwing.”

  • Trent G.

    I was talking with my brother over the weekend and we were discussing the whole saga in Texas with the polygamist sect and their children. My brother asked me why polygamy is illegal in the USA and I guess I had never really thought about it. I assume it is for the same reasons homosexual civil unions are denied. I do find it interesting that you never really hear people on the left arguing for polygamy to be legalized, but it seems that if homosexual civil unions would be legalized, why not polygamy? I realize this is off-topic, but it was something I had never really thought about, but it seems consistent.

    NOTE: I’m not taking a stand on either issue, I’m just making an observation about our society and wondering if anyone has any relating thoughts. Also, you can substitute polyandry (multiple husbands) for polygamy in my post if you think I’m being a chauvinist 😉

  • Trent G.

    As a parent in the adoption process, I would say I think you may underestimate the adoption situation for gay couples. Every adoption seminar we have been to (5 so far) has been roughly 3 to 1 homosexual couples to heterosexual couples. At first I thought this was an anomaly, but after talking to others who have gone through the process, this is perfectly normal (I’m using “normal” loosely). Granted, we are adopting through a secular agency, which may skew the numbers since many of the “christian” (I’m using that term loosely as well ;), heterosexual couples will only work with christian agencies. But my experience is that, as far as adoption, the door is pretty much already “wide open”.

  • Paul


    1) I will say this: if you ONLY talk to your kids about abstinance until marriage, what happens when your child goes astray? Will he or she know what to do in that situation to avoid becoming pregnant? Not to mention, how will your kids know about the heartbreak that often accompanies sex when it is done outside of a fully committed relationship? How will your kids know that their indiscretions now WILL take a toll on their eventual marriage years down the line? I could keep up with these questions all day and all night.

    Knowing that many conservatives refuse to talk about that other side of the coin with their children, yes, many conservatives ARE putting their heads in the sand, and yes, many of those parents and children do reap the consequences of that ignorance. And they shouldn’t have to.

    And let’s face it, if knowing how to use a condom is going to shake your children’s faith, then you as a steward have a MAJOR problem on your hands. Ignorance is NOT bliss.

    Not to mention, at the end of the day, not everyone is like us. 80% of the country might believe in the concept of God, but only 30% of those “believers” are hardcore, get to church at least once a week, get your nose into a Bible at least a couple times a week types like those of us that post here. So, how do you propose that we educate the rest of the people in this country so that they won’t feel the need to get an abortion in the first place? And no, evangelizing is not a reasonable answer to this question.

    On to the second half of your statement…yes, a law would deter SOME abortions. However, after having pandora’s box open for close to 40 years, I think that the number of illegal abortions that would occur would still be far larger than what it was pre Roe v. Wade.

    As far as I understand the European model, they’re open about sex with their kids, students, etc, etc, etc. That doesn’t mean that they condone it necessarily (especially in Spain, Portugal or Italy), but it does mean that they’re willing to talk about it. I still find it fascinating that in Sweden, you’d better be dying if you want to get an abortion past the 12th week, yet, in “God fearing America,” we can kill our babies up until the day before they’re born. So, yeah, Daniel, there IS much that can be learned from Europe, and it’s time for American arrogance on the subject to be taken down about 18 notches.

    2) Your response brings up so many red flags that I don’t know where to begin.

    a) this IS a secular country. If it’s not, then we better tell the Jews, Muslims, Hindis, Sikhs, Buddhists and Unitarians to get out, and soon. But, being that this is a secular country, we have no business sanctioning religious ceremonies and/or contracts in the first place. ALL marriages should be civil unions, and whoever wants to get them should be able to. If you want to get married in the church, then by all means, do so!

    b) I know a few gay couples that have adopted, and you know what? They are raising better behaved kids than a lot of the heterosexual couples that I know. And if there’s suddenly going to be a massive increase in the number of kids up for adoption when abortion is criminalized, we’d better be willing to find homes for those kids, and if the families most able to provide for those kids are gay couples, someone’s gonna have to buckle.

    Basically, Daniel, your comment on the gay marriage issue reveals something that I find very wrong with the conservative side of the evangelical spectrum: you confuse homosexuality and homosexuals. Just because someone is gay doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person. It just means that they sin, just like you do. And to paraphrase my favorite verse in the book of James, once you’ve committed one sin, you’ve committed them all. (James 2:10) So, Daniel, how does it feel to be gay?

  • Benjamin A


    Bingo! The religion of humanism that is pro-civil unions, must by necessity, in that all law should only be secular (misnomer), allow for all sorts of un-natural sexual orientation (men with men; women with women; humans with animals; etc.). They have no moral standard outside of themselves.

    Where does it stop? When do the anti-Christ of our secular humanistic religious left reach a threshold that even they cannot go beyond? And by what basis do they claim a moral foundation for anything they personally wouldn’t prefer? And how dare they say such enlightened things like, ‘for the good of humanity it seems best to…’; such statements are inherently religious and obviously not allowed in a secular enlightened society.

  • Matt Svoboda


    I appreciate the post. I do think abortion is a major issue and it is one that we should deal with every way that we can! Including laws, pregnancy resource centers, etc. Although issues like this are best dealt with from the bottom to the top. But it would be a great day to see the murder of babies become illegal.

    The only problem I have is the churches who put all of there resources in changing the laws and not reach out to women who need counseling because of the abortion they got, or providing money and clothes to girls so that they will keep the baby, or adopt there baby! Also that churches would reach out with homosexuals with AIDS, etc..

    What do you think would be a good approach for churches to actively and intentively reach out to such people?

  • Quixote

    Paul in #26…

    I take issue with your last paragraph, since First John tells us (many times) that if we choose a LIFESTYLE of sin, that we are not truly God’s child. So, I don’t know how to reconcile those verses of Scripture with those who choose* the homosexual lifestyle. It’s NOT a sin like lying or greed or something that a Christian does one time and then repents of and receives forgiveness for. (And then perhaps later does again.) Perhaps a homosexual encounter might be. But not choosing* to live and embrace the lifestyle and then get a civil union and/or fashion a “family” as a homosexual couple.

    *And, I used the word “choose” because if you’re admitting that homosexuality is a “sin,” then you must believe that it’s not something a person is “born” into and can do nothing about.

  • rach


    thank you for your tireless and loving reminders of the current views/politics on abortion (and gay unions)even among those who call themselves Christians. may we all be encouraged to pray more, speak out more and do more to hold high the moral standard of our great God- that His name might be glorified.
    o Lord, come!


  • Paul


    Well, even Albert Mohler admitted that there might be something to the idea that at least some homosexuals are biologically disposed to the idea. Which would make sense, as about 3-5% of the rest of the animal kingdom exhibits homosexual behavior as well. I will agree though, however, that there is probably at least part of the GBLT community that chooses that lifestyle as opposed to being predispositioned to it.

    As for choosing a lifestyle of sin, let’s use Ken Lay (the former head of Enron)as an example. The guy professed to be a Christian, but given the guy’s track record, it was obvious that even if he repented for his sin every night before he went to bed, he still went out and committed that same sin each and every day. At which point, his repentence was just lip service, and God would know that. And he’s just one example. I grew up around traders at the mercantile exchange, and I can tell you, there are plenty, plenty, plenty, plenty of people who fit that same mold.

    I also find it interesting that you cast homosexuality, which is basically a sin that hurts virtually no one else but the sinner, in a different light than those who are greedy or false witnesses, who, by the very nature of those sins, hurt others.

    In short, we need to prioritize here. And if we’re going to push for gay marriage amendments because homosexuality is a direct assault on a Christian nation, then we also need to be pushing for amendments which force us to feed the hungry, care for the elderly and orphans, and punish the greedy the same way that God does. If it’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven, then shouldn’t we be making laws to ensure that people can’t be socially irresponsible with their money?

    We could ban Paris Hilton. I like this already…

  • Paul

    “thank you for your tireless and loving reminders of the current views/politics on abortion (and gay unions)even among those who call themselves Christians.”

    where’s the rolling eyes smiley when you need it?

    seriously, I love the condescension here. We’re not REALLY Christians unless we’re conservative southern baptists. Please, get over yourselves already. Southern Baptists didn’t write the Bible, y’all weren’t there when Jesus roamed through Israel, and you certainly weren’t the ones comforting the early apostles when they were being persecuted. So, please, stop acting like you’re the only ones that have Christianity cornered. You’re not.

  • AJ

    Abraham Piper posts some recommendations for better blogging on the Desiring God Blog. His recommendation # 10 is pertinent given the issue that Hoey raised in #4 above.

    “10. Let the general flavor of your blog be positive, not contentious.

    (Warning: In order to become all things to all men, I’m going to be harsh when I make this point.)

    If the majority of your content is made up of disagreeing with people, you should question your motives for blogging.

    If you actually derive pleasure from bashing others, you should just quit.

    If your blog regularly makes you enemies, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being persecuted for Jesus. It may just mean you’re a jerk.

    (OK, I’ll go back to being nice now.)”

  • D.J. Williams

    Paul said…
    “We could ban Paris Hilton. I like this already…”

    Where do I sign the petition?

    Also, thank you for charitably disagreeing disagreeing with me earlier. 🙂

  • Daniel Davis


    i guess i should have been a little more clear on at least one point. teaching abstinence involves teaching what God expects of sex and that there are consequences for doing otherwise. i don’t feel the need to teach them how to use a condom – paraphrasing another Scripture, i expect them, as does God, to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:13-16), but just to be clear, this does involve evangelizing my children.

    the european model you describe doesn’t sound bad. is that the whole picture? sweden has limited abortion to 12 weeks, huh? how many conservative Christians would be happy with that? a whole lot! we just wouldn’t be content with that. how many Christians are learning to be more open to talking about sex? i am, and i suspect i’m not alone. the stigma of talking about sex in the Church is fading away, i believe. it is being replaced with a healthy, biblical perspective that God designed sex for a purpose and with good boundaries.

    as far as education goes…a law making abortion illegal would be a pretty quick education that abortion shouldn’t happen. and, sorry, but i must also throw in there evangelizing. nothing changes the mind and heart like the Gospel.

    my comment above regarding homosexuality was my opinion from a practical perspective. there can be exceptions to my rule, but i don’t believe that negates the inherent problem of children being raised by homosexual couples. God designed marriage and families for a purpose, and just like above with sex, there are consequences for going against God’s created order. homosexual parents do harm to themselves and the children under their authority.

    can’t say what it feels like to be gay (nice brotherly slap in the face, though)…but i know i hate to see sin in my own life, whatever the form. i even hate to see it in the lives of others. i wish sin offended me as much as it does God. but i recognize i’m a sinner saved by God’s grace, so i can i can show love, mercy, and grace to other sinners. doing so involves telling and standing for the truth. a practicing homosexual may not be a bad person, but he is in a bad situation being under the wrath of God.

  • Daniel Davis


    my wife and i have adopted two children. our first one was through a secular agency. we did see “success” pictures of numerous couples, but only a handful were homosexual couples. perhaps the door is more open than i think, but i would still believe the vast majority of adoptions, domestic and certainly international, involve heterosexual couples.

    in adoptions involving a homosexual couple, are both parents the adopting parent, or just one? i thought it was the latter. if so, recognizing civil unions would seem to make the adoption process much more accessible and appealing to homosexual couples.

  • Denny Burk

    Dear Hoey and AJ (#4 and #36),

    I want you to know that the issues you raise are fair, and I take that criticism to heart. I want to glorify Christ in all things, and I am certain that I fall short. Truth be told, I’m the biggest sinner I know. Please pray for me that I would be able to be more discerning of what is good and helpful to my readers.

    “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good… 17 Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:9, 17-18)


  • Brett


    “Call themselves Christians”

    Okay bro, give me a break. Because we’re not Republican reformed Southern Baptists means we’re not Christians? Because we don’t preach right-wing agenda we’re not Christians. You need to get your priorities straight bro, because judging people is not very Christian, so maybe you should look at yourself every now and again

  • Hoey

    Denny, your response is humbling and shows a heart after Jesus.

    Thanks for that lesson!

    That’s a brotherly heart and is lovely to see.


  • Paul


    Thanks for the clarification.

    Please allow me one of my own. When I said that evangelization isn’t the answer, I was speaking to the idea that educating on the dangers of sex to a secular audience is going to have to include something other than evangelism. It will HAVE to include content on how to avoid pregnancies, in order to limit the number of abortions happening in the first place. You’re right, nothing changes the heart like the gospel, but if people aren’t receptive to it, there’d better be a plan B in place and right quick.

  • AJ

    Thank you for the humble acknowledgment of your need. I will pray for you even as I pray for myself that we glorify God in all things in humility and in love towards our brothers and sisters “for whom Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11). “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give [us] the the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice [we] may glorify the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:5-6).

  • Daniel Davis

    is abstinence education insufficient? even apart from a Christian context, abstinence education can inform people about the negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects of sex outside of a marriage relationship, and conversely the positive effects of abstaining until marriage.

    i don’t see what mandate the Church has to be involved in sex education to the point of educating about condoms and the like, which in my mind implies a secondhand approval of the behavior.

    are there other cases where Christians essentially bank on the sin of others and thus simply try to diminish the consequences?

  • Kris

    It is apparent that most on both sides, “liberal” & “conservative”, agree that abortion is a terrible evil. Even though both sides may not agree on how to stop it lets agree to disagree on that and continue to promote both social & political actions to ‘curtail’ & stop the murdering.

    We shouldn’t fight so much as each has measure of faith according to the grace given us. I hate abortion, I hate that we have lost our way in this country, but those in Christ still have to be the light in this darkness.

    It is humbling to see, at least on this blog that the Spirit of Christ is ruling in the hearts of the commentary & the commentors.

    Thank you, Denny, for your time to run this blog and the space to comment.

    Grace & Peace

  • Ben R

    Daniel (#47)

    The idea of divorce immediately came to mind when I read your comment.

    Didn’t Christ say that it was because of sinful hearts that divorce was allowed? (I’m too lazy to look up the reference.)

    Is that cogent to the sex education debate?

  • Paul


    I would say that it is, and that’s EXACTLY why I am saying that solid sex ed is an integral part of any plan to get abortion rates down (which is the eventual goal here, right?). Especially in a situation like we have in America where abortion will never, ever, ever be completely outlawed. At best, a repeal of Roe v. Wade ONLY gives the decision back to the states. At which point, 1/3 to 1/2 of the states (minimally) will have legalized abortion available to at least half, if not more of the population anyway.

    So, what can be done? Sex ed can be done. Eliminating the need for the abortion in the first place becomes the first priority in the fight against legalized abortion, and that means that even your saintly kid needs to know how to use a condom in case they’re lead astray in a moment of passion. This is one instance where it is much, much, much, much, much better to be safe than sorry.

  • Quixote

    Paul in #34, I commented about this around #10 this morning, but for some reason, my comment never showed up. I’ll try again.

    You say homosexuality should be classified differently because it harms no one else (which I might not agree with but still…) the Bible agrees with you about that sin being set apart, saying that sexual sins are classified differently because they are sins against one’s own self.

  • Brett

    Kris said,

    “I hate abortion, I hate that we have lost our way in this country, but those in Christ still have to be the light in this darkness.”

    In all honesty Kris, when did we ever have our way? What was our “way” like before we “lost” it?

  • Quixote

    I guess if we’re going to teach our kids how to use a condom (because we want them to be safe just in case), we might as well teach them how to properly use a needle so if they’re led astray and want to shoot up, at least they will be safe.

  • Paul


    that’s apples and oranges, and you know it.

    I have to say that I find it VERY interesting that in the abortion debate amongst Christians that those on the political left want to get to the core of the problem and limit the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. On the other hand, those on the political right stay disturbingly mum on that portion of the subject and want to get straight to banning a procedure without regards to the rest of the discussion.

    Interesting indeed.

  • Paul

    Nice aside, there Quixote, but it still dodges the question.

    Now, to answer yours: the core of the problem is of course, the hedonistic nature of mankind. Fair enough?

    That said, what are you going to do about the fact that people that shouldn’t be having sex yet are having sex, and that until we address that practically, that we’re going to have a problem here?

  • Trent G.

    I think the question of “what IS the core of the problem?” is an appropriate one and really reveals a fundamental difference in this discussion. Paul gives the political left a pat on the back for getting to the “core” of the problem by limiting unwanted pregnancies, but are unwanted pregnancies really the core of the problem? I would say no. The core of the problem is not that we have all these unwanted pregnancies. The core of the problem is that we have a society that views the fetus inside the woman as something less than a person. Citing unwanted pregnancies as the core of the problem is akin to wanting to eliminate the tobacco industry so we could minimize slavery in the USA. It misses the real issue. Sure they could be proud of themselves and tell everyone they were doing more than those silly abolitionists who thought slavery was immoral, but their problem was their policies would still see the Africans as a lower class of human beings. They could say, “We’re never going to get rid of slavery so we may as well make it rare and safe.” But if you truly believe that slavery is immoral then you aren’t satisfied with slavery being minimized because it leaves the fundamental problem unaddressed. The same is true of abortion. Our country is still dealing with the ramifications of a belief system that minimized Africans to the status of second-class human beings, but we are better for acknowledging, as a country, what the real problem was, racism. We would be better for acknowledging what the “core” problem is in the abortion discussion.

  • Paul

    conservative #2 that dances instead of answering the question.

    Why don’t conservatives talk about ways that we can limit unwanted pregnancies?

  • Brett

    The core of the problem is the sinfulness of humanity if you want to get down to it. What is the Christian’s response to that is the question. Did Jesus pass laws and join the zealots to get rid of tax collectors and prostitutes? His approach to sin and injustice is far different than the conservative right’s side. Granted, I’m not saying the left is much better. However, at least we try to implement and bring up approaches other than voting for Republicans and passing laws. Again, the whole conservative right doesn’t do this, but it’s certainly a general trend.

  • Matt Svoboda


    I am a conservative and I do. I even worked for a pregnancy resource center and dealt with the issue probably a lot more than you have and yet you are the one that is being the accuser!

    Let us stop throwing out accusations! It does no good, at all. I am a conservative and yet Claiborne is the most convincing on this issue, even though I don’t like some of his stuff.

    We are a kingdom-people. From the ‘city of God.’ Why are we taking earthly sides and blasting each other? Aren’t we foreigners to this sin-driven nation?

  • Paul

    So, Matt, you talk about unwanted pregnancies, but you’re not talking about them here. At which point, it’s like not talking at all.


    it’s not a hard question…

  • Matt Svoboda

    This post has very little to do with unwanted pregnancies.


    You seem to think that Christians can work up some great plan to get lost sinners to stop sinning? Have you read Romans and everything else in the Bible? There is nothing we can do except reach people with the gospel!

    Unwanted pregnancies are not the problem! Lost people sinning is the problem. There needs to be a change of heart, not a change of action. Jesus did not come to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live! People misunderstanding what love is and living for the passions of there flesh is the problem the church needs to work on, not doing worldly things to get girls to stop having unplanned pregnancies. Did you know that 53% of all unplanned pregnancies happen while the girl is on birth control? Did you know all condoms have naturally occurring holes that are 5 microns around and the size of an average sperm is only 2.5 microns?

    We should be teaching kids that condoms are not an option. If you say, ‘don’t have sex, but if you get in a passionate moment this is how you use a condom! So here you go, put this in your wallet and keep it with you.’ then what do you think is going to happen? THEY ARE GOING TO USE IT! Are you naive? Your plan of teaching them how to go ahead and use a condom is RIDICULOUS and unpractical! It is just giving them an excuse to fall into sin!

    We need to educate parents on how to be parents! To know where their kids are and who they are with and not let them stay out as late as they want!

    The arguments you are the same of the lost liberals I had to deal with when working at the pregnancy resource center.

    Making birth control and condoms accessible does very little to help a very big problem.

  • Kris

    Brett, I think we have lost our way when we started falling away from the civil laws our country was founded on. It is obvious that these laws were based in part on the Mosaic law of the old testament.

    Why did God give the law to Jacob’s descendents?

    To show the sinfulness of mankind. If our society continues to go away from this law then we head backwards to even before the days of Noah. Civil laws are needed to restrain the human heart in a society from it’s evil inclinations. It is not the cure we both know that Christ is the cure and the end of the law for righteousness for those who believe.

    Even Paul says somewhere that the law is for the unbeliver not the believer. So why should we oppose making illegal immoral actions that will restrain and help the unbelieving?

  • Trent G.

    I’m not “dancing” around the question, I’m just not willing to concede that your question has anything to do with a discussion about abortion. You see, I’m not willing to say that the problem is all these unwanted pregnancies and we have to figure out how to get rid of this thing inside the womb one way or another. Unwanted pregnancies are a problem in our society, but they’re not the real issue behind abortion. Contrary to popular belief, abortion is not the only solution to an unwanted pregnancy. I was under the assumption this was a discussion about abortion.

    Now, having stated the above, I’ll answer your question “WHAT DO CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS THINK THAT WE SHOULD DO IN ORDER TO CURB THE NUMBER OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES IN AMERICA?” You’d be hard pressed to deny that conservatives have for a long time pushed for the teaching of abstinence in schools across America. My church supports, monetarily and through volunteers, an organization that goes into schools to teach kids the value of abstinence. However, this is quickly dismissed by anyone on the left as absurd or worthless because everyone is going to have sex anyway, but you can’t deny that it is an effort on the part of conservatives to stem unwanted pregnancies AND stds which run rampant in the USA and Europe alike. The difference is the left wants to concede that everyone’s always going to have sex like animals and we’re always going to view the fetus as sub-human so we might as well do the best we can with what we got (somehow, the great value placed on education doesn’t apply to abstinence and teaching about the personhood of the fetus). Others aren’t so willing to concede the underlying philosophies of such views. Call it “being a realist” if it makes you feel better. I call it having no spine.

  • Brett


    The law was a cultural phenomenon and we should by no means imitate the Mosaic law in this country. It was given to a particular people in a particular time going through particular circumstances that are very far detached from our world. We even see in the OT the law changing some, being added to, being subtracted from, etc. In any case, this is not a theocracy anyways and we tend to deify our “founding fathers” when they shouldn’t be.

    Contrary to popular opinion, God’s purpose in giving the law was not to show man his sinfulness, it was to show Israel how to live and be a light to the nations around them. The law may expose our sin and make us aware of it, but this was not God’s purpose in giving it

  • Paul

    Trent and Matt,

    1) that both of you basically state that a discussion about abortion has little to do with a discussion about unwanted pregnancies just boggles my mind. The two are inseparable. Stop the unwanted pregnancies, and by proxy, you’ll stop the abortions. That y’all can’t get your heads around that is just beyond me.

    2) Matt’s opening comments in #64 also shine light on a flaw of the evangelical right…the only way to help anyone is with the gospel. Now, I agree wholeheartedly that we should share the gospel whenever and wherever possible. However, some people, heck, most people will reject the gospel when it is presented to them. What can we do to minimize or stop abortions in their case? Yes, of course, overturning Roe v. Wade is one way, but as stated before, that, in the long run, isn’t going to affect the majority of Americans. So, what can be done in the states that will keep abortion legal even after an overturn of Roe v. Wade?

    Now, do I think that abstinence training should be a BIG part of any sex ed discussion? Of course I do, and for reasons I’ve already stated upthread. But there will be those students that will not heed that message. I’d rather that they be at least somewhat safe than not know what to do in the first place. As I’ve said before, if simple knowledge of how to use a condom is going to make your child sin, then the problem is YOU and not the education.

    3) Matt’s quotes about 53% of unwanted pregnancies happen with women that were on birth control are interesting (and I tend to believe them, being that my beautiful daughter was a welcome surprise), but I’d like to see where he got that number from.

    4) Trent, I don’t concede that “everyone is going to have sex like animals”. However, you’d be hard pressed to not concede that SOME people will do just that. And those are the very people that are having the abortions, aren’t they? So, those are the people that you have to reach, if you don’t want them to have abortions in the first place. Telling them that sex is evil until the day that they get married, and then it’s a wonderful thing is not only confusing, it’s also not teaching anything practical to the kids that will not heed that message anyway.

    And being that 25% of teenage girls have STD’s these days, one’s got to agree that abstinence training ALONE isn’t getting the message across to at least 25% of the population, and more than likely much more than that.

    This is a huge problem that has everything to do with sin. But what the right seems to want to do is just to write off those sinners. And if Trent wants to tell me I have no spine, that’s fine, but I’d likely respond that he has no heart.

  • D.J. Williams

    Brett said…
    “Contrary to popular opinion, God’s purpose in giving the law was not to show man his sinfulness, it was to show Israel how to live and be a light to the nations around them. The law may expose our sin and make us aware of it, but this was not God’s purpose in giving it”

    That statement seems to be not contrary to popular opinion, but contrary to Scripture. After all, Romans 5:20 tells us specifically that the law came “to increase the trespass.” Paul’s argument in Romans seems tied to the idea that one of the primary purposes of the law was indeed to show us our sinfulness.

  • Trent G.

    Yeah, about that “no spine” comment. I immediately regretted saying that as soon as I pressed enter. I realize that is an antagonizing statement and I probably should’ve let sleeping dogs lie. I apologize. I really do value your input and I realize you have a heart to see things done to help the problem and I think we probably agree more than we disagree.

    Having said that, I’ll say again, I disagree that unwanted pregnancies is the core of the problem of the abortion issue. I misspoke in my comment above by saying, “I’m just not willing to concede that your question has anything to do with a discussion about abortion.” Of course, they have something to do with the discussion, but I won’t concede that it is the core issue because that seems to imply the damage is already done and now the only answer is abortion. A girl who has an unwanted pregnancy but believes in the personhood of the child inside her and sees abortion as the taking of that life can find alternatives for her problem of an unwanted pregnancy other than abortion. This is in contradiction to Wallis’ statement above where he implies voting pro-choice isn’t that bad if you’re doing other things to minimize abortion. It’s not about the number of abortions, it’s about a societal mindset that says the child in the womb is less of a human.

    “Telling them that sex is evil until the day that they get married, and then it’s a wonderful thing”

    I won’t react to this statement because I really do assume that you know better than to think that this is the message that promoters of abstinence teach. However, I will note that you said this is “confusing”. How is telling someone, “don’t have sex before marriage but if/when you do this is what you should do” NOT confusing? Talk about sending mixed messages.

    The 25% STD rate of teenage girls is certainly an alarming one, but are you suggesting that this is a result of the failure of the abstinence message? It seems like that is what you were suggesting (I may be wrong). I would say that this is the result of a society post-sexual-revolution. A society that mocks the message of abstinence and political views that dismiss it as antiquated and a waste of time. A society that looks at a 24 (not to mention 40) year old virgin as a freak of nature. With STD rates like these I think the message of abstinence is more important than ever and shouldn’t be easily dismissed with a “yeah, but no one will do that.”

    “But what the right seems to want to do is just to write off those sinners”

    Again, I will assume you’re over-reaching for effect. I really don’t think either the right or left writes off people. They just have different approaches and different goals. I’m not sure what you mean by this comment since most of the crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence initiative programs I know of are almost exclusively run and supported by people sympathizing with the right. These people aren’t writing off sinners, they’re helping them in their time of need and addressing what they addressing what they see as a way to prevent it. Maybe you could clarify what you mean by this.

    Finally, let me say this. I agree with what you’re saying in some regards. What I am opposed to is an ever-increasing mindset that says “let’s get over the pro-life thing” or “why can’t we just live with abortion and try our best to reduce it”. I reject these statements because they fail to see the reality of the ideology behind abortion and the implications for our society and humanity in general.

  • Matt Svoboda


    All of my number’s come from the CDC- Center for Disease Control. That is where the pregnancy resource center gets all of there statistics for the health education program.

    As to your first comment. I needed to clarify more on what I meant. Because I agree with all that you said about sharing the gospel as much as possible, but then we must do more when they don’t take heed of the message.

    There is still one HUGE problem with your argument.

    “As I’ve said before, if simple knowledge of how to use a condom is going to make your child sin, then the problem is YOU and not the education.”

    Nothing, but the child’s own decision is going to make him sin. But why as a parent would you want to make it easier on him to make that decision? That is completely unbiblical. Parents ought to be doing all they can to prevent there kids from falling into sin, not giving the ‘safer’ way to do it. I do not see where you get this type of principle from the Bible. Is it ‘flee from sin’ or ‘don’t sin, but if you do at least do it the safest way possible’?

    The answer seems clear to me.

  • Quixote

    I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the term “unwanted pregnancies.” That phrase in itself is another indication of how far we’ve come since the Bible days when there were no such things. Pregnancy was prayed for and desired above nearly all things and those who weren’t able to get pregnant were considered cursed of God. No bith control pills, condoms, and those that spilled their seed on the ground to keep from possibly impregnating dropped dead. Just an interesting thought…who are we (commanded to be fruitful and multiply) when blessed by God Almighty with the gift of creating and sustaining life to then decide that a pregnancy is “unwanted.” Seems very “off” to me.

    Okay, let the tomatoes ride.

  • Matt Svoboda


    That is how it was for the Israelites, but that isn’t true for all nations in OT times. Hopefully, it is the same today. Christians should never have unwanted pregnancies, but lost people most certainly do.


  • Quixote

    Just to address those who will no doubt bring up rape and incest to my#73…you can check the CDC on those stats and find that they are miniscule in the reasons for abortion.

  • Quixote

    Matt #74,

    I think that’s part of my “WHAT IS THE CORE OF THE PROBLEM? probe a few comments back. We (as a nation) don’t value the gift of life within us. And to limit the number of pregnancies by simply *preventing* them with some type of birth control, doesn’t address the issue of devaluing life. Because if the condom fails, or the pill fails, those same people will more than likely go ahead and get an abortion. So we didn’t change the person’s heart or their attitude toward pregnancy, we just gave them a bandaid and hoped it worked in preventing the fruit of the problem.

    I can somewhat understand an unbeliever having an abortion. Or not knowing what it is that they’re doing. They still suffer from it and have consequences that last a lifetime, but perhaps they don’t know what they’re doing.

    What I CAN’T for the life of me figure out are CHRISTIANS who not only are pro-choice but have had abortions and are still pro-choice. I don’t get it.

  • Quixote


    Did you ever find my original comment, or did you delete it?

    Hoey #33: I haven’t replied to your comment/question because I didn’t think you were being serious. But if you are, the Bible doesn’t say that obesity is a sin, does it?

  • Hoey


    Obesity itself may not be a sin, but gluttony and greed are. So too, it could be argued, is being a bad steward of the resources God has given you (your body).

    If someone is obese and continues to habitually over-eat (a very common problem in America), is that not a lifestyle choice? Are they then living in a chosen lifestyle of sin? And if someone who is gay cannot be considered a child of God, then surely the same applies to someone who is obese and continues over-eating?

    For the record, I believe that someone who is gay can actually be entirely embraced, loved, blessed and considered a child of God – even though I believe homosexuality is a sin.

  • Brett

    D.J. said (and Lucas echoed),

    “That statement seems to be not contrary to popular opinion, but contrary to Scripture. After all, Romans 5:20 tells us specifically that the law came “to increase the trespass.” Paul’s argument in Romans seems tied to the idea that one of the primary purposes of the law was indeed to show us our sinfulness.”

    Thanks for asking those questions because I feel they are important ones to wrestle with. There are actually a couple of different ways you can take Romans 5:20, I’ll demonstrate:

    The NASB states: “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”

    However, now look at the NRSV: “But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”

    Notice the differences? One says the Law came SO THAT sin may increase, and the other says the Law came WITH THE RESULT THAT sin increased. This is something in Greek called a “hina plus subjunctive clause.” You can take it as purpose, or you can take it as a result, it’s up to the individual exegete (and I’m sure theology plays a small role in the translation process if you haven’t drawn that connection already!).

    On the one hand, you can say the purpose of the law is so sin could increase, but on the other you can say that when the law came in, the result was that sin increased. On my superficial reading of Romans, I would choose the latter. Not just because Paul seems to go this way, but because his knowledge of the OT Scriptures was so vast and they never, ever point to this being the purpose of the Law.

    Also, something many translations lack, is that when it says “The Law came in,” a Greek work (pareiserxomai) is used and it denotes “slipping in” (same word Paul uses in Galatians 2:4 for the Judaizers) and BDAG says that extrapolated, this means the Law “had no primary place in the divine plan.” So Paul is telling us in this verse essentially that the law slipped in when, when it wasn’t ever intended. We could go on and on with Paul and the Law, but that would be never ending!

    This is some deep water we’re treading in here, and a short blog post will not do it justice. There are many opinions and works on the Law, and I think we would all do well to wrestle with the issues instead of stating the status quo “God’s purpose for the Law was to show us our sin.” Nowhere do we see that in the OT, and in the NT it’s ambiguous at best. In fact, Paul later says in Romans 7 that the law produced wrong desires in himself. So essentially, law makes people sin more (though that’s not it’s design). Thoughts?

  • Lucas Knisely


    Either translation of the hina plus the subjunctive of πλεονάζω doesn’t change the meaning of the passage. If God is sovereign and created the law, he knew what the outcome would be, and thus wanted it to be that way. So either translation illuminates God’s purpose in making the law. Unless you believe God created the law for another purpose, and the result was something other than what God wanted. Which means man thwarted God’s plan and purpose.

    Now, about “slipping in” with the word παρεισέρχομαι. I think it is very dangerous to use a word, which is only used twice by the Apostle, to create a doctrine which states that the law had no primary use in God’s divine plan. I also think calling this an extrapolation is being very generous. As Paul is paraphrasing the history of mankind’s sin and the answer to man’s condemnation, the law comes into the scene. And the word he uses can simply mean “come in or go in beside“. And the completion of the thought about the law ends with, “grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The extrapolation that you are spelling out ties the law not being part of God’s divine plan to salvation through Jesus Christ. Which means salvation through Christ wasn’t a major part of God’s divine plan either. This to me, is very dangerous.

    So now, according to your two points… We’ve got a God who didn’t know what the outcome of the law was going to be or at the very minimum it wasn’t a major part of his divine plan. This also includes providing a way of salvation through Jesus Christ as not being part of his divine plan and “slipping in”. All this won’t stand in light of all Scripture, and it is built on a weak extrapolation, and a translation of the hina plus the subjunctive that doesn’t necessarily change what the passage says in light of God’s sovereignty. Purpose remains in the action if God knew what the result would be.

    These are just my thoughts in response off the top of my head. I hope it makes sense.

  • Brett


    I too would like to know how you got that Greek font to work.

    In regards to your post:

    The hina plus the subjunctive does change the meaning depending on how you take it syntactically. Look at Romans 11:11 for another hina plus subjunctive, which is a result clause, for clarification. Taking a clause as either purpose or result changes the meaning a great deal. One focuses on the reason, the other on the outcome. If Paul were focusing on the reason of giving the entire Law, then I stand corrected, but if Paul were focusing on the outcome of giving that Law, then I have a case. I am puzzled by you saying that it doesn’t change the meaning, because to my mind it changes it quite a bit.

    The conversation we’re having proves how much theology plays in to one’s translation of the New Testament. You can take different prepositions, conjunctions, and constructions a whole host of different ways, and theology inevitably plays into this. For example, your next statement says, “If God is sovereign and created the law, he knew what the outcome would be, and thus wanted it to be that way.” If one starts with this presupposition, then it affects how one translates and interprets the entire Bible. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have presuppositions (b/c they’re inevitable), but these are obviously ones you bring to the table. I do believe God is sovereign (though you and I would most assuredly define that term different ways), and I do believe he created the law, but to then claim that he knew the outcome and thus wanted it to be that way is where I do not follow through. Do you really feel comfortable about saying this about God? Would you feel comfortable with this: “God is sovereign, he creates babies, he knew the outcome of Roe vs. Wade would be that 50 million of them would be slaughtered, and thus wanted it to be that way,” or just fill in the blank with “holocaust,” “AIDS epidemic,” “crusades,” etc. You may have no problem with that, but I certainly do. In no way can we read the Old Testament (Exodus, Leviticus, etc) and come away with this line of thinking: “God just gave that law to them to show them how bad and sinful they are.” That was never the purpose at all, rather, it was essentially to show them how to live, not associate themselves with pagan gods, be set apart with the result that they may be a light and blessing to the nations, etc. Was the result something other than what God wanted? I have no problem with saying this in terms of his antecedent will. I do believe that man can thwart God’s plan and purpose, and believe we often see it in the Scriptures. Just look at 1 Kings 20:42. Ahab let a man go that Yahweh had determined should die, and as a result (consequential will), Ahab had to pay with his life and his people had to suffer. I have no problem saying this at all.

    Now about pareiserxomai (I need that font!):

    I think the Law did have a use in God’s divine plan, I just think it was never intended (part of his antecedent will) but rather something he had to give to meet humanity where they were at (part of his consequential will). I’m not creating a doctrine on this word alone, but what I make sense of the OT and NT when studying the Law. I think it is no coincidence that Paul uses this term here. Every gloss that BDAG has for this word denotes some type of side issue…something sneaking or slipping in (also used this way in the Apostolic Fathers). My words were not my own, but what I got from BDAG (the standard Greek lexicon for those who do not know), and they said this denotes that the Law had no primary place in the divine plan. If it sounds better, I’ll rephrase and say that the Law since creation was not intended.

    I would never say salvation through Jesus Christ is not part of God’s divine plan. Therein lies the danger of extrapolations and slippery slope arguments. I use the words “primary place” carefully, and do not wish them to be taken out of my statement. The Law did have a place in God’s divine plan, but it is something he never intended to have to give. Had sin never entered the world, there would be no need for the Law. Romans 5 never says that Christ came because of the Law anyways. Even before the Law there was still sin, and thus still a need for Jesus Christ to make atonement for that sin. So I believe the argument falls up short, because Romans 5 never states that since the Law wasn’t part of God’s primary plan since creation, that means that Jesus Christ wasn’t either. Christ came because of sin (and love and other issues), not because of the Law (to fulfill the Law would be correct).

    The big difference lies in you coming to the text already believing that God’s will always come to pass and nothing screws it up, he already knows everything and has ordained it to happen, nothing cannot happen if God wants it to happen. Thus, if any text goes against any of this line of thinking, then it is dismissed based upon those presuppositions. Of course, I have my own presuppositions (plenty of them), but I try my best not to come to the text with the presuppositions that you have. One, because I believe they fall short of the evidence, and two, because it causes a lot of reading into Scripture of that which is not there (“God already knew and foreordained that David should kill Uriah and commit adultery with Bathesheba, he wanted it to happen). I think humanity is sinful (something we both agree on), and that humanity can disobey and rebel against God (something we both agree on), but I do not believe that God ordained this to happen, nor that he wants it to happen. I do believe he has an end set for his creation and throughout history he has been working with humanity towards that end, but I believe he has given humanity much freedom in the process and does not cause nor ordain all that things come to pass (contrary to the WCF).

    Good thoughts Lucas, you’ve caused me to wrestle with this much more and second guess myself. I must say, I have never really studied Romans, nor a biblical theology of the Law, so i admit my argument has weak spots and inconsistencies. What else do you think?

  • Brett

    By the way, that’s a post I wouldn’t mind seeing Denny: Bible translations and how theology plays a role in them. For instance, there are dozens and dozens of uses for the genitive in the NT, and how one takes them affects the meaning a great deal (e.g. objective or subjective genitive). We often hear that you can’t be too literal, the more literal the better, “this text literally says”, etc. The differences in static and dynamic equivalence, the shortcomings of both of them, textus receptus, etc would be good too. Maybe followed by a suggestions of your favorite version and one you believe is the most faithful.

    You might deem it too technical and uninteresting to people on here, so that’s fine. It’s just something that I think would be neat and lines up with your expertise. Maybe you can even use the text Lucas and I are discussing as an example for how you can interpret it. I personally think people have no idea what factors play in to translation, and think it would be good for them to be informed. Just my thoughts

  • Bryan L

    I’d like to echo what Ferg said. I think that might have been the first exegetical discussion I have seen here. Interesting and enlightening on both sides.
    Keep it up. : )


  • Lucas Knisely


    Thanks for responding!

    First. For anyone interested, is the best site ever. You can copy and paste Greek from there. And it is very helpful with Greek homework. Dr. Joslin if you’re reading this, I only use it once I’m done translating and parsing to check myself! =)

    Second. My point about God’s sovereignty wasn’t that it controls translation. My point was that either translation maintains the same meaning in light of God’s sovereignty. Yes emphasis changes a bit, but the meaning of purpose and result can run side by side.

    I have to have a sidebar due to the questions you asked me about sovereignty.

    First, you asked me about Roe v Wade and other atrocities in relation to God’s sovereignty. In the Old Testament, there was much genocide and killing at the command and control of almighty God. A few verses to think about:

    Exodus 4:11 Then the Lord said to him, Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

    Here God is establishing that those who are hindered by blindness or deafness are made so by God, and no one else. This doesn’t answer your question directly, but it’s building a foundation.

    Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

    Now we have God claiming He is the one who kills and brings life, wounds and heals. So your examples of death are in God’s hands and no one else’s. Just one more for now…

    Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

    Here God takes credit for both well-being and calamity. He does all these things. I can say with confidence, on the authority of God’s revealed word, that He controls and brings about all things.

    Now, before I move on, a few questions for you on this subject…

    If God doesn’t bring about terrible things like Roe v Wade and the Holocaust, who does? And whoever brings it about, if it is so terrible, why doesn’t God stop it? If he can stop it, and chooses not to, how is that any better/different than Him causing it?

    And one more question. Which is more comforting to a grieving mother/father/etc? 1. God has an ultimate purpose in this tragedy. He works all things according to His purpose.
    2.God had no part in this tragedy and either doesn’t care enough to stop it or is powerless to stop it.

    Moving on…

    About BDAG and all it says concerning the subject of “slipping in”. I don’t find the argument convincing due to is being an extrapolation, added to the lack of any other verse or passage to defend this idea that the Law was some kind of an after thought that “slipped in”. And the way that the entire thought about the law includes salvation through Christ causes me to stop and think of a few verses:

    Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him

    Ephesians 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord

    2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

    I again threw this together, so I apologize if it isn’t clear. This is an enjoyable discourse.

  • Ferg

    thanks for your post.

    And one more question. Which is more comforting to a grieving mother/father/etc? 1. God has an ultimate purpose in this tragedy. He works all things according to His purpose.

    this is something that i was alluding to in another post. I honestly don’t understand this. i know you posted some classic verses which can be used to say that God controls everything – i can post verses to the opposite, I’ll do it later, not now as I don’t have time.
    I just find it hard to understand how, for example the 15 year old girl that i work with who was systematically raped by her father, was moved to a care home and was abused there again by someone she trusted. how can i comfort her when I believe that this is part of God’s plan. it looks nothing like Jesus to me to think that God would orchestrate a situation where a little girl would be raped by her father to give him glory somehow in the bigger picture.
    why pray? yes its a command, but it ultimately does nothing as everything is already laid out.
    the man who just had an affair on his wife, while it is reprehensible, should he be thanked for doing God’s will and helping us understand the seriousness of marriage and the dangers of flirting and the internet etc.

    i don’t need to go on Lucas as I’m sure you get my point and I hope i don’t need to say that I write this in love and I genuinely want to discuss it – not argue about it.

  • Bryan L

    I think he point you raised shows that often what this discussion boils down to is what kind of God we prefer more (even though some don’t want to admit it). And how you decide that question (even if unconsciously)will give you the hermeneutical lenses with which you view scripture and conflicting verses (because lets face it there are verses that can go either way for any issue and you have to decide which ones to explain away or harmonize).

    Some people find it comforting to think that through their suffering there is some big divine plan that God had just for them even if they never see it (although there’s hope that in the eschaton they will understand.

    The other side is not comforted by this but is more comfortable with a God that doesn’t purposefully put us through evil and use us as pawns in his big chess game and could care less why he didn’t stop the evil, just so long as it’s not his fault (although they may still believe he make bring redemptive value out of the circumstances that happen to us when we give them up to him).

    In the end so many of these discussions are hermeneutical issues and the starting place is with us. Even when we convert to another view often that view is the one we preferred more anyway.

    Just my 2 cents and not meant to be an argument for either side.


  • Ferg

    You’re right Bryan. I definitely view things through a lense. although I genuinely am trying to make sure I’m scripturally correct, thats why i meet with my pastor once a week. he’s a true calvinist.
    I do think that my way of thinking is scarier. It would be great in terms of security to believe that God was meticulously in control of everything. I just don’t see that scripturally and therefore i believe that Satan is prowling around ready to devour us – and its not part of God’s plan. he can come against what God wants because God, in his sovereignty, has decreed that there be free will. I do know that God is the victor in Jesus, however for now the battle is on and the one thing i’m certain of is that God fights for me and wants the best for me. I do believe that he can use our trials for the best – i just don’t think he causes them.

    i do hope i learn from this, Lucas you seem to have a good grasp of it and i value your input.

  • Lucas Knisely


    I won’t pretend to know why certain things happen. But I have to strive for making God’s word authoritative over my life and thoughts. Until someone presents a strong Biblical case for God not being in control of all things, I can’t stray from what I feel the Scriptures testify.

    And I commonly get told “You used typical/favorite Calvinist verses, and I can throw out a bunch to refute them.” There are a few problems with this line of argument, even if you do end up providing verses that you believe “counter” mine.

    First, if you truly believe there are verses “opposite” mine or opposing mine; that means two things.

    1. It means you acknowledge the plain reading of the passages I referenced can only mean that God controls all things.
    2. You believe there are different verses that refute this.

    The end result weakens any attempt you make to argue from the Scriptures because now we have a book with major contradictions. Which view is right if both views have verses that explicitly back it? Why even bother forming views from Scripture if such glaring contradictions exist? Again, I have yet to see a solid argument made from Scripture in defense of God not being in control of all things. The reason I can say this is because I was anti-Calvinist at one point, and wanted to prove it wrong. I consistently found it difficult to find any good arguments made against God’s sovereignty.

    Second, if you feel the plain reading of those verses do not mean God is in control of all things then you need to provide an explanation of what they do mean.

    Typically I hear one of two things:
    1. That isn’t what those verses mean.
    2. I have verses to counter those.

    Both responses are non-responses. And even if response number 2 provides verses, I’ve shown above the other problems that causes. Unless the “classic verses” are explained, you’ve not helped matters for yourself just by posting verses in response. Nor have you helped matters by throwing out more tragic life experiences. I’m not trying to be rude, I just don’t feel you are helping your case. However, I want to be a loving brother, and I’ll attempt to give a response to your life stories and examples.

    Joseph getting sold into slavery is probably the best response I can give to the wide array of examples and life stories that typically get used in these discussions. Joseph’s own family sold him into slavery! And while they meant it for evil (human responsibility/accountability), God meant it for good (God’s sovereignty). We don’t always know why things happen, and honestly, God doesn’t owe us an explanation.

    Raising man up to this position where if bad things happen to him we feel that we either don’t deserve it or at least deserve an explanation. Based on the idea that we somehow don’t deserve it, we feel we can’t hold God responsible for the tragedy because we see him as just and loving. The truth is we are all sinners who deserve eternal torment in hell, and anything short of that is an act of mercy. That sounds harsh in response to some of the terrible things you’ve described, but if Osama Bin Laden was captured and then beaten within an inch of his life, most people wouldn’t care because they would see him as deserving far worse. Some would think that just letting him live is an act of mercy. So when you describe situations where people are exposed to the most horrendous acts, the truth is they deserve far worse. We are all wretched sinners whose every breath is an undeserved gift from God.

  • Josh Orr

    I agree with you ,the “spiritual blessings” of the church should never happen. It is unbiblical for any church to condone unrepentant sin (except coffee addiction, obviously).
    Now about the idea of gay marriage as a government institution, I’m not sure I understand the issue yet. Just because a marriage between two people is under the government doesn’t mean it has to be recognized by the church. Then again, gay marriage did kill the dinosaurs and they’ll want to marry animals (or insert straw-man argument).

  • Ferg

    I see your point. And like I say, it’s something I’m wrestling with. However, I do think verses can be explained. Also to take your point, I find there are verses contrary to your thinking that are difficult to explain for you. First off, my explanation of Joseph.
    One thing noticed from reading it is that it doesn’t say that God had ordained the even to happen from the beginning of time or even before the brothers hearts were proven to be callous. The passage suggests that only at some point God decided that the situation could fit into a divine purpose. If the brothers hadn’t been the way they were, God could have come up with a different plan to get them to Egypt. Because we mere humans find it so difficult to understand that God can accomplish his means without coercion, we come to the conclusion that he must have planned their betrayal from the beginning. but this can be very harmful; putting our own limitations of understanding onto God and denying his creative wisdom and unsurpassing wisdom. I have no problem with God using people with evil hearts to accomplish his purposes, but its a very different thing for God to predestine that these people act this way from the beginning of time against their will.

    Everything in scripture must point to Jesus which is why I find statements like the one you said in your last post

    “when you describe situations where people are exposed to the most horrendous acts, the truth is they deserve far worse”

    disturbing (I’m sure you may find some of what I’m saying disturbing – and i hope you’ll tell me so we can learn). Jesus never told anyone they deserve the situation they are in. He healed them. Did Jesus come to undo the work of the Father?

    God speaking to Moses in Exodus 4 is a good one for the sovreingty of God. Again, it begs me to ask, did Jesus come to undo these works that his Father did. Satan must be a pawn. Anyways, Jesus said that these infirmities were from Satan, he didn’t allude to Gods secret plan. Jesus went around “healing all who were oppressed by the devil” Acts 10:38. Do you see that there could be a rift here between God the Father who controls Satan and Jesus who came to defeat him? I think in context; moses had been arguing with God about his decision to use him as spokes person when he had a speech problem. God was frustrated with him because he had just performed miracles, therefore God used emphatic unqualified language to establish the point that as creator of the universe he could handle any obstacle that came his way. he therefore rhetorically asked moses the question. i don’t think it likely that it is meant to be taken as a metaphysical explanation of why people are deaf and dumb.

  • Ferg

    A few verses that I see that Gods will can be changed and not everything is concrete are

    Numbers 11:1-2
    1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.

    Numbers 14:12-20
    12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”………. 20 The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.

    numbers 16:20-35

    numbers 16:41-48

    promises of judgement given, both changed due to Moses and Aarons prayers.

    judges 10:13-16
    he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

    1 Samuel 23:10-13
    Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.”
    And the LORD said, “He will.”

    So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

    2 Samuel 24:12-16
    ‘This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’ ”

    1 kings 21:21-29
    ‘I am going to bring disaster on you…….
    Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day

    2 Chronicles 7:12-14
    “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.

    13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

    Jeremiah 7:5-7

    If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,…..
    then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.

    Ezekiel 33:13-15
    if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will SURELY die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right-………..
    he will surely live; he will not die.

    hosea 11:8-9
    My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
    I will not carry out my fierce anger

    Lam 3:33
    33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to the children of men.

    Acts 15:7
    some time ago God made a choice (not necessarily from the beginning of time)

    acts 21:10-12
    “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt (Paul) and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”

    this didn’t happen. When paul was seen he was attacked by an angry mob when guards arrived, arrested him and saved him from them (Acts 21:27-33). contrary to agabus’s prophecy the jews never did bind paul and hand him over to the romans, instead the romans rescued paul from the jews.

    there are many more verses in relation to God’s emotions and his regretting things that go on but i fear i will be writing down too many verses so maybe we can focus on one or two of the ones i’ve writen down.

  • Ferg

    lucas- its 2am here in ireland so I’m off to sleep. i’ll check in the morning and look forward to see how you’ll no doubt have good answers for me!

  • Brett

    Nice work Ferg. In my experience, when these texts get brought up they are quickly dismissed as “anthropomorphisms” or trumped with other texts. I’d like to see some critical interaction going on without the standard responses I noted above. I’ll say more later (about Lucas’ earlier post too), I have to go watch a movie with my wife.

  • Kris

    “Jesus never told anyone they deserve the situation they are in. He healed them. Did Jesus come to undo the work of the Father?”

    That is an excellent question?

  • D.J. Williams

    Man, great discussions here over the weekend. Lucas, Brett, Ferg, all involved – let me just encourage you to keep up the intelligent and good-natured debate. You’re giving those of us on the sidelines some great food for thought.

    I think I’d like to jump off the sidelines and into the game, but I don’t really have time right now to interact with Ferg’s #98 – I hope I will later. For now, just a quick response to Ferg’s comments in #96 on Exodus 4 and the reasons behind the physical infirmities that Jesus healed. Does not John 9 argue pretty convincingly that indeed God did intend these infirmities in his sovereign plan? The disciples are occupied with explaining away the man’s blindness because of his sin, but Jesus says that this is not the case – he has been made this way specifically to display the glory of God in that moment. Christ then goes on to explain that in doing this healing he is doing the work that his Father has sent him to do. Thus, God purposed to make the man blind and now God is purposing to heal him so that he may be glorified and we can behold that glory and find satisfaction in it, which is far better than 40 years of sight. I’m curious as to how you would interpret Jesus’ words here.

  • Ferg

    DJ & Quixote,
    I look forward to what Bryan L has to say, but here’s my what I have learnt and read about John 9.
    First of all I think the disciples have the same questions as you. And me. We all ask, were was God’s hand in things that happen. I think the disciples assumed that God must be behind the mans blindness.
    Jesus reply seems to imply that he was agreeing with them – “He was born blind so that Gods works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3). In most translations it appears like he is. However, when the original Greek is read, Jesus does not say, “He was born blind so that the works or God might be revealed in him.” Jesus actually replies “Let the works of God be revealed in him”.
    Translators add in the words “he was born blind so that” because they think it is implied in Jesus answer to the disciples question. The text seems to want an addition, especially as jesus was answering a question, but it doesn’t actually require it. If we don’t read the text making the assumption that Jesus believed there was a divine reason for everything, the text is perfectly intelligible without the assertion. If we stick to the original Greek, it seems more likely that Jesus was negating the question, not answering it.Jesus never told people who looked for healing to seek the mysterious secret will of God in the affliction and to accept it.
    I humbly think that Jesus was saying – “you want to know who sinned? You’re asking the wrong question guys”. The only thing that matters now is seeing the work of God revealed in this man. “Let God be glorified!”.

  • Lucas Knisely


    I’m too busy to make a lenghty reply but..

    What you said about John 9:3 in the Greek is not accurate. It is a hina plus the subjunctive. Due to context, this is translated as purpose: “in order that the works of God might be displayed in him”

  • D.J. Williams


    Thanks for the response. I’ve sampled as many translations as I could find (NASB, KJV, ESV, RSV, NIV) and all of them translate the verse to connote causality. If this is theology influencing translation, it seems everybody’s making the same mistake. I’ll admit, though, my Greek is very rusty 4 years after the fact, so I’ll be interested to hear you and Lucas interact on the point.

  • Bryan L

    Sorry but I’ve been resisting getting into this discussion because I think it would take too much time (I’ve been really busy lately) although I do appreciate the cordial dialog that has been going on. I don’t want to mess it up by jumping in : )

    I have commented on this verse before on this blog here
    at #23.

    Suffice to say my view is similar to Ferg’s and I don’t think it is that cut and dry to say that one translation is clearly more accurate than the other or that syntax and grammar necessarily settles it. There are good scholars that fall on different sides of the transaltion and interpretation of this passage and ultimately I think this is another area where your hermeneutical lenses will influence which side you fall on and take you the further step in how you interpret it.
    Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that our preference is the only thing that influences how we translate and interpret this passage. I actually do think it is more like Ferg describes it, however I don’t think any of us come to it neutrally with no preferences or presuppositions.

    Anyway sorry I couldn’t add more or be of more help.


  • Ferg

    no worries guys – just checkin. it seems like a few times when posts get interesting the thread just dies. Shame. Hope you get your papers etc done. I guess i’m just a little busy planning for a wedding in three days time!!!

  • D.J. Williams


    My response would be first to reference these two passages…

    “God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
    Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” – Numbers 23:19

    “But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
    What he desires, that he does.
    For he will complete what he appoints for me,
    and many such things are in his mind.” – Job 23:13-14

    “For his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
    all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
    and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” – Daniel 4:34-35

    These passages state plainly (and in the case of Numbers 23, emphatically through parallelism) that God does not change his mind. He accomplishes his purposes and cannot be thwarted by the will or actions of man. These passages seem to be pretty crystal clear. With that in mind, I seek to interpret the ambiguous passages through the clear passages, trusting that God’s word is inspired and authoritative truth, every word. God will not contradict himself. Thus, here is how I approach the verses you referenced…

    1) Numbers 11:1-2 – The issue here is really applicable to the vast majority of the verses you bring up. Let me say this emphatically: a belief in God’s absolute sovereignty does not negate human responsibility. Both are stressed in the Scripture, and thus I believe that both are true, even if I can’t fully understand how they can both be true at the same time. Our faith cannot stop at the bounds of human understanding. As Alistair Begg has said, “If that’s your response to the study tonight, have a good life – ‘cause you ain’t never going to understand it.” God was sovereingly in control of his dealings with the Israelites there, and he accomplished exactly what he purposed to do. To say that he didn’t – to say that he purposed to destroy the Israelites, but decided to change plans on the fly when they repented, is to directly contradict the truth presented in Daniel 4:34-35 and Numbers 23:19. In fact, it’s worth noting that the same author wrote both Numbers 11:2 and 23:19, and he saw no contradiction. Thus, this is not a viable interpretation for one who takes God’s word to be truth. The Israelites expressed their sinful hearts, then repented. God showed mercy when they repented. God’s eternal purpose was not altered or thwarted, but the people were completely and fully responsible for their actions. How exactly are both true at the same time? I don’t know, and I’m not the least bit apologetic about that fact.

    2) Numbers 14:12-20 – See #1.

    3) Numbers 16:20-35 – See #1.

    4) Numbers 16:41-48 – See #1 (once again, please note that these passages all come from the hand of the same man who wrote in the same book, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

    5) Judges 10:13-16 – Here, as far as I can tell, your point is that God’s actions changed. He had saved the Israelites many times before, but here he says he will not because of their sin. A change of action does not necessarily connote a change of purpose. For example, God created for six days and then on the seventh he did not. Did God change his mind here? Did he decide, “I’ve had enough of this, let’s move on to something else.” No. He changed his actions, but did not change his purpose. That’s what I see going on here.

    6) 1 Samuel 23:10-13 – Here, God is telling David truthfully that Saul’s intention is to come down after him. In fact, he is already on his way. Once Saul received word that David has left, he “gave up the expedition,” as the ESV puts it. Honestly, think about the alternative interpretation here. Was God wrong? Did he have to tell David, “My bad,” after Saul turned around? If you’re going to interpret this as an instance of things changing then you’re going to have to accept the implication that God didn’t see it coming. I hope you find that problematic.

    7) 2 Samuel 24:12-16 – See #1. God offers us choices that we are fully responsible for, and he informs us of the consequences of those choices. This does not change the fact that he works all things according to the purpose of his will, and his will is not dependent or contingent on us in any way. The fact that we have been “predestined before the foundation of the world” does not take any of the edge or weight off of “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” The fact that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” does not change the fact that the people “crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men.” Once again, I can’t adequately explain it, but I see it in Scripture, and thus I believe it.

    8) 1 Kings 21:21-29 – See #1.

    9) 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 – See #1. Once again, God’s sovereignty in no way diminishes the fact that he calls us to pray, and promises to act on our prayers. He is a God of means as well as ends. The same God who issues this merciful invitation also works all things according to his good purpose. That good purpose involves the prayers of his people. Our prayers are genuine and real, but we’re not twisting God’s arm like Creflo, Rob Parsley, and others would have us believe.

    10) Jeremiah 7:5-7 – See #1 and #7.

    11) Ezekiel 33:13-15 – See #1 and #7.

    12) Hosea 11:8-9 – Well, the NASB translates the phrase in question as “my heart is turned over within me,” and the ESV translates it as “my heart recoils within me.” Considering the first half of verse 8, these translations seem to make more sense, as the thrust of verse 8 is the great grief and turmoil in the heart of God over the rebellion of his own children. The imagery of God’s heart being wrenched seems to fit better than it being changed in the human sense. So, that’s my take. However, even if the NIV’s rendition is more accurate, could this not be an anthropomorphism? I’m sure some will see that as a cop-out, but I think it’s a legitimate point, especially in light of the clear testimony of Numbers 23, Job 23, and Daniel 4.

    13) Lamentations 3:33 – Here, I think a distinction of will is not only appropriate, but necessary. I see this passage as very much in line with God’s declaration that he “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” However, he does punish the wicked. I’m sure we agree on that. Thus, if we are to accept your interpretation of this passage, then it must follow that the damnation of the wicked is something beyond the bounds of God’s control (which makes next to no sense in light of Daniel 4:34-35). I think the integrity of Scripture is better upheld by seeing this as a reference to God’s emotive will (I’m sure that’s a crappy term, but I don’t have my Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms with me right now 🙂 ) rather than his eternal plan and purpose. I’ve found D.A. Carson’s little book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God to be of great help to me in understanding this idea.

    14) Acts 21:10-12 – It’s not necessarily the case that Agabus was a true prophet. After all, it was Agabus that said, “The Holy Spirit says…” The NT is quite aware that many people made prophecies that didn’t come true, and thus the apostles taught that this was a sign that they did not speak from God, since after all, “Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Perhaps Agabus was a 1st century Pat Robertson? 🙂 This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that Paul does not seem to view this prophecy or the people’s concerned reaction as much of a deterrent. He doesn’t seem to think that God is telling him not to go. Again, think of the implications of the alternative interpretation. Did God just get it wrong? Did he have to tell Paul later, “They can’t all be winners.”

    Well, I’ve attempted to wrestle with each passage you’ve brought up. I hope I’ve helped to demonstrate that we merry Calvinists don’t just pick our favorite verses and skirt the questionable ones. I guess in return I’d ask you how you approach the three passages I led off with in light of your interpretation of the verses you offered. Thanks for the good and challenging discussion.

    Apologies in advance for any typos that surely lurk herein. That was a long one :).

  • D.J. Williams

    But honestly, can you really trust anything I have to say when I begin by saying I’m going to reference 2 passages but then referencing 3?

    The only numbers they taught us at Boyce comes after Leviticus 🙂

  • Ferg

    Denny, thanks so much for the long response. I really appreciate it and the time you put into it. My heart is really being wrenched trying to understand all this in my head. I know I will never be able to put God in a box, but I truly want to have some grasp of the nature of the God I serve and worship. I’m going to re-read what you’ve written and muse upon it. I think we have a mutual understanding that this isn’t a back and forth argument and I’m not thinking of how to refute what you’ve written; I want to sit with Jesus and think about it! Thanks brother. Oh and the site obviously did think your points were awesome!!!

  • Brett

    I don’t under: 2 verses that say God does not change his mind trump the 10 verses that say God changed his mind. Somehow, the latter are unclear? This can hardly stand up to the evidence, and it’s not necessarily open-theistic to take these verses as they are.

  • Lucas Knisely


    I think one is explicitly stating a characteristic of God while the other is describing God’s actions which is more implicit. That may be why D.J., and folks like myself, see them as clear while the others are less clear.

  • Brett

    I just tried to reply and paste a link to an article but it’s not letting me do it for some reason. I’ll try to repaste my words and tell you how to get access to the article:

    See the article below if you ever get time (Lucas, I know it might be a week or 2). It’s not that long and I believe he hits the nail on the head with it. When the text states God does not change his mind, it’s an unconditional decree. The article will make that clear. Also, just realize that with that line of thinking there can be some major inconsistencies with your hermeneutic. Essentially, it basically carries the nuance of, “We can only trust and be sure of what we know about God through the explicitly said characteristics of God in Scripture.” I see problems with this, and would just encourage you all to wrestle with it a little more (and I’ll do the same). If you can direct me to a reformed theologians comments about passages such as these, then I would be more than happy to read it and learn from him. Enjoy!

    Regarding the article. Do a google search of “Chisholm God change his mind. The first hit that comes up should be a .pdf document that is the article I would like to direct you to. Let me know what you think when you get the time.

  • Bryan L

    Without trying to get into this debate here is the info you requested concerning my comment “There are good scholars that fall on different sides of the transaltion and interpretation of this passage”:

    Scholars who translate John 9.3 with a period after 9.3a:
    **John Poirier (has an article in NTS 42 and Filología Neotestamentaria 19 concerning the translation)
    **Colin Kruse
    **Gary Burge
    **Charles Talbert (hard to tell if he follows this translation but he does note it as a valid translation and doesn’t raise any objections to it)
    **Eugene Peterson

    Scholars who see 9.3 as not saying God is the cause of the blindness or that believe that hina is result not purpose:
    **Gail O’Day
    **Herman Ridderbos
    **N.T. Wright (it seems)
    **F.F. Bruce
    **Leon Morris
    **Andrew Lincoln
    **Ben Witherington

    Hope that helps.


  • D.J. Williams

    BTW – I just wanted to clarify per Brett’s comment #117 – I don’t feel that any verses of Scripture trump other verses of Scripture, for that implies a contradiction, that one must win out over another. I simply try to understand more ambiguous revelation in light of more clear revelation. Because of that, when I see point black direct statements made about the nature of God’s character (like I referenced above), and then I see other statements that are descriptive of his actions and emotions, I allow my interpretation of those passages to be informed by what has been clearly stated. I find the explainations I gave for the passages that Ferg offered to be much more plausible than any alternative interpretation for Numbers 23, Job 23, and Daniel 4. I’m trying to see Scripture whole, not trump one verse with another. Hope that makes sense.

  • D.J. Williams


    Thanks for the Godly attitude you expressed in #116. We could use more of that on both sides of these kind of debates (I know I could). It’s far too easy to forget sometimes that we’re challenging one another not for the sake of challenging one another, but that we all might better comprehend truth.

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