Christianity 201

June 29, 2021

Unanswered Prayer for Healing and God’s Sovereignty

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

Romans 11:33

Our daily search for good devotional studies takes us back to previously featured writers, and others who, as with today’s piece, we are discovering for the first time. Author and speaker Reagan K. Reynolds lives in North Carolina (USA) has been blogging at her eponymous site since April, 2015. As always, support these writers by reading their work at the source webpages; just click the header which follows.

Wrestling with The Sovereignty of God in Delayed Healing

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Romans 8:26-29

She sobbed into the phone, “It’s just so confusing. Does God heal people or not? Jesus healed everyone who asked him, so where is the healing I’m asking for?”

My heart ached for my friend, as she has found herself in a whirlwind of despair while also riding a fast train of newly devoted faith in Jesus.

“I feel like I’m on a roller coaster, and I just want to know how this all works.”

The issue of healing is confusing in the Bible Belt where main streets in every small town are dotted with Bible thumpers and prosperity preachers arguing about the rights and wrongs of healing faith. I know, I grew up here. I grew up confused.

As we talked, I prayed for wisdom. I’ve personally experienced very miraculous healing. I’ve also experienced long seasons of deep suffering. In some ways, I am still waiting on the Father. I sometimes catch myself observing that although Jesus has conquered sin and death, all things continue to die around me.

As I prayed I kept thinking about the Garden of Eden. Maybe you know the story, but maybe you don’t.

God creates a beautiful garden and then He places the first humans in that garden. We call those humans Adam and Eve. The Lord places two trees in the middle of the garden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil He deems off-limits––it is His one rule. He commands Adam (and Eve through Adam) not to eat of that tree with a warning that by doing so they will die. But a cunning serpent suggests to Eve that God is a liar and that if they eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree they will not die, but will be like God knowing both good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Eve disobeys God and takes the first step towards trusting her own understanding of what is good and what is evil by claiming the forbidden knowledge as her own. Adam also joins her and their eyes are opened to their nakedness. They feel shame for the first time. The Lord clothes them, curses them, and sends them out into the wilderness with a promise that the longer narrative would not end in tragedy.

Before they eat of the fruit, Adam and Eve live deferring to the God of Creation. When eating the fruit, they follow their own understanding of what is right and permissible for them. As a result, death and suffering enter the human story. The next generations recorded in the Old Testament prove that very real result of sin with a gradual, but drastic, decline in the life span of humanity.

And then another story from scripture came to my mind.

Job is a man who, although righteous before God, is allowed to endure great great suffering for a long time––great, great suffering. In his cries to the Lord he advocates for himself based on his righteousness (read: his faith) in the Lord.  He is desperate to understand why he is being forced to endure great despair. His friends suggest all sorts of things, including that he might be suffering as a result of sin––but he’s not. When God finally responds to Job’s myriad of questions and pleas and laments, He says, “Who is this who questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them,” and then He goes on to end in the most epic rap battle of all time showing Job a panoramic view of how great and mighty and sovereign He is. Summary: He is the Lord. Who are we to question His wisdom, even in our suffering?

In remembering this history, it occurs to me that the knowledge of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘evil’ belongs to the Lord, whether we have access to it or not. Living with Jesus as Lord means we follow His example and defer to the Father. The knowledge of what we should do and how the Lord should respond to us is His to determine completely––after all, He is infinitely greater in wisdom than our finite beings (Rom. 11:33).

Jesus understands this firsthand. He pleads, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). He goes forward and endures the greatest suffering known to man to free us from our sins. The perfect Son of Man responds in obedience and endures His unrighteous suffering, but we––in our weakness––sometimes demand results, and if not results––an explanation, in exchange for our allegiance.

God is not formulaic. God is not transactional. He is relational. And He is beholden to no one.

Yes, not even to you––dearly loved Christian.

Does your skin crawl a little bit and your soul get defensive when you read that? Does something inside you proclaim it is your right to know and determine what the ‘good’ outcome to your suffering should be?

When we demand a formulaic approach to miraculous healing, it’s as if we are holding the bitten forbidden fruit demanding the God of the Universe conform to our understanding of the knowledge He first forbade.

I gently and humbly suggest that if our faith is shaken when God doesn’t respond the way we think He ought to, then perhaps we’ve sized God to our own limited definition of ‘good’ and that perhaps in doing so, we are missing out on the larger blessings––the epic wins––as a result.

“Where is my healing?” is a permissible question to ask the Lord, He can handle all of our questions. But it just might not be the best one. I think the question I am hearing from the cry of the heart of my suffering friend (and so many others) is

“Can I trust Him in my suffering?”

One sure way I know to offer comfort to a believer is to remind them who the God of the Bible is…

He is sovereign. (Colossians 1:16-17)
He is good. (Mark 10:18)
He is righteous. (Psalm 11:7)
He is loving. (1 John 4:19)
He is merciful. (Deuteronomy 4:31_
He is miraculous. (Acts 3:16)
He is present. (Zephaniah 3:17)
He is active. (Romans 8:38-39)
He is powerful. (Job 26:14)
He is gentle. (Matthew 11:29)
He is humble. (Philippians 2:8)
He is a restorer. (Acts 3:21)
He is trustworthy. (Psalm 9:10)
He moves towards the broken. (Psalm 34:18)
He is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-3)
He sees you. (Genesis 16:13)

He is the perfect embodiment of ‘love’ (1 John 4:7-8). He is the very definition of ‘good’ (Psalm 100:5). He created those words and ordained their original meaning (John 1:3).

Knowing what we know about our God, can we defer to Him in all the other unknowns?

My limited view values this life too much. My ego sometimes demands immediate relief from my suffering. But His view stretches beyond the scope of time, eternity, life, and death––and He holds for my life and His glory the perfect plan. And, yes, although everything in this life does die, (who can deny this?) I know that the God of all Creation has promised a new life with no suffering in the end (Revelation 21:1-4). And if you are living under the loving mercy of our mighty Savior, Jesus, then this knowledge is for you as well.

Friend, asking the Lord for healing is in no way undermined by our submission to His sovereignty in all things. We fear an all-powerful God who is out for our ultimate good. He has given a spirit that intercedes for us according to the will of God. Be encouraged that, even when it’s so very hard and none of it makes sense, we have a God that works all things together for our good (Romans 8:26-29)

April 10, 2021

Why Limiting the Role of Women Limits God Himself

An ongoing, front-burner debate among Evangelicals involves the role of women in the hierarchy of both families and churches. The article we’re presenting today obviously leans to one position over the other, but brings out an aspect of the discussion I had not considered before.,

Ernest Vance blogs at Sincere Son of the Sanctifier (say it fast ten times) where you’re invited to click the header which follows. The blog has been inactive for about a year now, but there are some great articles in the archives like this one!

When Bad Theology Mocks God

I have to say, I am not in a bad mood right now, so hopefully I can contain my angst enough to get my thoughts clearly on paper.

I am angry at the past leadership of the church for setting forth a theology that mocks God’s goodness in His creation as well as His goodness in His grace. What theology is this you might ask? It is the theology based upon two repugnant assumptions: Women, because of Eve are either easily deceived (flaw in God’s creation) or usurpers (cause of the fall of Adam).

How does this mock God? It mocks Him by saying that He created Women woefully flawed to the point that He supposedly had to lock her into a position of subservience, ‘aka submission to all male authority’ for all time. Never mind what He did on the cross that redeems us all, it wasn’t enough to keep women from usurping male authority or being easily deceived. Frankly we are humans and we are all easily deceived, so this one is just as weak an argument as any especially considering the logical follow-through as to why the daughters of Eve are supposed to remain in submission: Sons of Adam should know better. And isn’t it part of the curse against Eve that God ordained women would constantly covet man’s power? Seriously? Where does the ‘man’s power’, er, excuse me… authority, come from anyway? Did God tell Adam and Eve, ‘Now dear ones, please understand, Adam was made first, therefore Eve, you are in submission to him in all things. OK?’ No, God did not. The ONLY rule God set forth prior to the fall was that they absolutely NOT eat of ONE tree. An entire garden to choose from and the both find themselves staring at what is forbidden. The fall had already begun the moment they paused there. The fall continued as Adam did not remind Eve in that moment that they should go somewhere else. The fall continued further when neither one of them rebuked the evil one for mocking God and His one rule.

The fall had nothing to do with Eve usurping Adam’s authority. Eve was totally Adam’s equal. The Hebrew words, Helper Meet literally describe a word-picture of two equal beings face-to-face. God called them, ‘one flesh’. There wasn’t even a hidden message in how God talked with them. Yes, God addressed Adam first, but God did directly address Eve. He did not go through Adam as in a priest. Go ahead, read Genesis 2 and 3. It’s all there, no matter the version, though you will have to check an interlinear to see the Hebrew meaning of help meet, or the Septuagint which translates Helper comparable.

So in this bad theology where one might take meaning that men are somehow superior to women in that we somehow are less frequently deceived or usurpers of authority such that women must be ‘put in their place’ for all eternity, do we suppose that God is the one who set this up? Let us look at the wording of the curse in Gen 3. To the serpent God said,

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

It is absolutely clear what God is declaring as His action and proclamation toward the adversary.

But to Eve He said,

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

The first line is clearly God’s doing. Then the remaining three lines are simply statements of what will be. Leaving us to wonder, was this God’s intent, His doing? Or was this simply God saying, this is somehow the result of what happened. I am not doing this to you. Either one can fit. Thus it is not clear in the slightest whether God was forevermore putting Eve and all of her daughters in a place of submission. Nothing in all of the Old Testament clarifies this question. Indeed, Numbers 30 where we see that Fathers have veto power of oaths their unmarried daughters take as do husbands is the only hint at this. But it is further muddied by the fact that if there are women who have neither husband nor father, no one had veto power over her oaths. Widows, therefore, are fully autonomous according to the OT Law. There is no accommodation saying a brother or brother-in-law must take up the mantle of authority over her. Adding to this a Prophetess/Judge named Deborah in Judges 4,5 who had no one in authority over her as she administered these God-given duties.

Thus we get to the matter of Creation and Grace. Both male and females fell from the perfect state at the same time. Adam is clearly blamed for this throughout the NT by the same guy who arguably wrote 1 Tim 2. So why has much of history held women so responsible for the fall that they cannot even hold a position of teaching a Bible study with men present? It is not as clear as some would say and for more of that you can see my reasons for saying so here. But truly, as I have mentioned before, it is based upon two terribly misogynistic ideas that have been carefully couched in ‘holy speak’: women are easily deceived and inclined to be usurpers. The first I have shown to be weak, the second is even weaker. Eve has not shown up as a usurper in Genesis 3, at most she is curious and falls prey to the oily words of a good sales-man… er snake. But Adam has clearly not taken up a mantle of authority and simply allows the entire thing to go down without saying a word either to the snake, or to Eve. At best, in a complementarian view, we should be placing the blame squarely on Adam’s shoulders and by extension the sons of Adam and telling all men to not give into their laziness and apathy. That leadership is, therefore, man’s mantle to take up since Adam failed so miserably. But failing that, women should not be left to wonder which way to go if a man does not lead. In a complementarian society that is both loving and fair, the women should never be told to avoid stepping into a leadership role that needs to be filled when there is no man to take it up.

But I will take this one step further because there is no clearly defined passage that says women who do so are outside of God’s will. As such, there is not any valid, Godly reason for a governing body of a church to see a women with appropriate leadership qualities, well trained and suitable to teach yet avoid placing her in that position. It is just not there. Indeed, in Romans we see Paul greeting a female deaconess (Phoebe Romans 16:1) and many other women in leadership roles, yet we misrepresent him as saying in 1 Tim 3:12 that only married men can be a deacon. I could go on since there are so many women who Paul recognizes and then seems to later define women or even single men (except himself? Really?) out of positions of authority. But all we really need to recognize is that we have made a mistake and overly exegeticized (probably not a word, but I’m sure you get my meaning) certain things in accordance with some men’s presuppositions (giving them too much credit? Possibly).

It is past time we give up these notions that God meant what he didn’t clearly say, concepts that break both his creative goodness and his glorious satan-works-defeating grace, and therefore we must over-emphasize on his behalf and look the other way when someone brings up the fallacy of our too-long-held dogmatic belief in male superiority couched in holy-speak. I am done.

 

July 9, 2018

The Doctrine of the Fall

We’re featuring a new resource today, Life Walk With Marlene. She writes,

This blog is about my experiences, thoughts and feelings on my journey called living the Blessed life. It is about the ups and downs along the way. The Blessed life is about knowing the Author of life. God alone shows the Way to living the good life that He intended for His creatures since the beginning of time. Travel with me and let us discover together the way to a truly happy life.

Click the title below to read this one at source.

The Fall of Man

Fall: The Semblance of Man to God, Knowing Good and Evil

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)[1]

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. (Genesis 3:22)[2]

Man was created in the likeness of God to have a relationship with Him, to be His representative in creation. Why then was he faulted for becoming like God – knowing good and evil? Is this “likeness” similar to what God first intended it to be? Is it not a part of the inherent character of God to discern good from evil?

I believe it is not for “knowing” per se that man was faulted. Rather, it was his act of disobedience to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Previously, God instructed Adam

Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17)[3]

Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into “shame.” They became aware of their nakedness and covered their bodies with fig leaves. Their eyes were opened. They knew guilt and hid themselves when God came looking for them.

Knowing good and evil brings forth shame and guilt. A baby who knows neither right nor wrong feels not shame or guilt. In the previous section, conscience was mentioned as part of the character of God (His image and likeness). Conscience is linked to knowing good and evil. Man became aware of good and evil because he disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The shame in their newly awakened consciousness of their own nakedness speaks to a deeper shame of their own sinful state. Adam’s fear and hiding “because I was naked” (v.10) was a confused cover for a fear and conviction of sin.[4]

The second reason for man being found guilty for knowing good and evil like God is found in the context of the serpent tempting Eve. Genesis 3:4-5 recounts

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.[5]

The serpent deceived Eve by pointing out how God lied when He warned Adam that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would lead to death. The serpent also implied that God did not want man to be like Him knowing good and evil; God did not want to share this “power” of discernment, which belongs to Him alone. Essentially, the serpent was convincing the woman to be “like God” – on the same level as God in the context of pride and power, at the expense of disobeying God’s command. The image of God in man, originally to be man’s glory as he “reflects” God’s glory, is “marred” because man seeks to be like God, thereby, “replacing” God.

What about Genesis 3:22? God seems to be saying that knowing good and evil, like Him (in the plural sense), is “not good” for man. What does “knowing” in this context mean?

The Hebrew term for “knowing” in this verse (verse 5, also) is not unique to this passage or chapter; it’s the same word “yada” used elsewhere, some 960 times in the Hebrew scriptures.[6]

Yada” can mean to learn, to perceive, to discern, to distinguish, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider, to be acquainted with, and other fairly ordinary definitions of the word listed in

How did Adam and Eve get to know evil when all God has created since day one is good? They knew good because it was all that they “experienced” before their disobedience. Adam knew of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He was told “not” to eat from it for he will surely die if he did. (Gen. 2:16-17)[7] Adam may have inferred the existence of “evil” as 1) something tantamount to deviation from God’s law or directive, and 2) something he was to avoid knowledge about. (Related: Good Ignorance: Handling the Knowledge of Evil) Therefore, Adam knew of evil as a theory until he knew or “experienced” evil in his disobedience.

How about God? If experiential knowledge is the kind of knowledge Adam and Eve gained from disobedience, can we then conclude that God also has/d experiential knowledge of Good and Evil?

The Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.”[8]

As God is the paradigm of “Good,” how can it be possible for Him to have personal, experiential knowledge of Evil? Adam came to know by experience, specifically his experience of doing evil – evil being privatio boni, the privation (lack, absence) of good. Adam came to know evil when he did the opposite of good, which was obeying God. On the other hand

God’s omniscience allows Him to know all truths, including what is good, which is rooted in His own nature. And being a God of reason, He knew from eternity past that the absence of good would be evil. Therefore, it is not necessary for Him to know this truth by experience – either seeing it in others or doing it Himself – the latter being impossible. Adam, a non-omnnicient being, could only know evil by either seeing it in others or doing it himself – the latter being the unfortunate reality. In short, Adam became like God in that he knew evil, having come to know it by doing evil. God also knew evil, but by His perfect knowledge of all truth, including the necessary truth that evil is the absence of good.[9]

Implications and applications: Knowing good and evil is part of God’s image and character. Man’s knowledge of good and evil holds him accountable to follow His Creator, so that he will and can live his life in the goodness of God’s image. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and took it upon themselves, wanting to “be like God” – all knowing. This sin is pride. The antidote to pride is humility.

Humility is foundation to all other virtues man should learn to live his life. It sounds paradoxical that man, created in God’s image, with “royal splendor” and dignity, should take pride in his status, yet attempt to remain humble in the same image. Humility is not about self-abasement. It is acknowledging that whatever we have comes from God. It is about dependence on God and not on ourselves. Being in God’s image is to be humbly dignified, totally aware that we are God’s creature – a mere reflection of His glory, and not take His glory upon ourselves in our egocentricity.


[1] New American Standard Bible.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Godandneighbor. “How could Adam and Eve Sin Before Knowing Good and Evil?” God & Neighbor (2012) [home page on-line]; available from http://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/how-could-adam-and-eve-sin-before-knowing-good-and-evil/#comments; Internet; accessed 21 September 2013.
[5] New American Standard Bible.
[6] Godandneighbor.
[7] New American Standard Bible.
[8] New American Standard Bible.
[9] Godandneighbor.

July 12, 2012