Home for Sale

Well…Ash and I are planning on moving back to Oklahoma in the near future. I will continue my PhD work from a distance and we will be closer to my work and family. We are putting our house up “for sale by owner” and are hoping to sell it ourselves. Here are some pictures…if you know anyone interested, forward this on to them!

For any questions email me at mattmcmains82@gmail.com

Also see our home on Zillow: http://u.zillow.com/p3bObo/

BackyardBasementBasement2Basement3BedRoomBedRoom2Bedroom3DeckDenDiningRoomDiningRoom2FrontGuestBathKitchenKitchen2Kitchen3LivingRoomLivingRoom2MasterBathroomMasterBedroomMasterBedroom2SingStairsVanity

Why We Are (Still) Adopting

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:3–5 ESV)

Ashleigh and I haven’t always wanted a large family. Early in our marriage she took birth control, and we figured we’d probably have two kids, three at most. We enjoyed our independence. Waking up when we wanted. Going where we wanted, whenever we wanted, for however long we wanted. We knew children were a blessing from God, and we would have a few…eventually. And so, after 5 years of marriage, along came JP.

JP.PNGjp.JPG
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Talk about change! In case you’re wondering, having a newborn is not easy…I remember many nights when Ash and I were beside ourselves. What do we do with this little person disrupting our sleep and schedules! I mean seriously, do you really need to eat every two hours?? And is it really necessary to scream if we we don’t get there fast enough? But all of these frustrations were outweighed by one simple fact: we both loved this little boy more than we could have ever imagined.

It wasn’t long before Ash and I began to try for another baby, but it didn’t happen. After a year, we decided to see what was wrong. We made an appointment with a fertility specialist and found that, thought it was still possible to have children, it was highly unlikely. Most likely this was do to the strong medications I was on at the time. It was at this time that we decided to move forward with something we had talked about doing at some point in our lives: adoption.

And so we did. We did the research, filled out the paperwork, picked Haiti as our adoptive country, and completed our home study. We have found that adoption is an expensive, time consuming, and difficult process. Yet the more we got into the process, the more we fell in love with the child God would give us. We do not yet know this little child, but God does.

Then something happened. Soon after we finished submitting our home study, Ashleigh comes home from work with an unexpected announcement. “I’m pregnant!”… ”wait, what..?! I wasn’t sure if I was entirely awake…perhaps I was dreaming. But I wasn’t. We are pregnant…and we are thrilled and thankful to God!

Upon sharing this news with others, certain appropriate questions began to arise. What about Matt’s health? Are you sure you can handle three kids? What does this mean for your adoption? These are important questions, and I’d like to address them.

I’ll start with the last one: what does this mean for your adoption? It only changes our adoption in that it makes the process that much more sweet! Instead of adding one to our little family, the Lord has seen fit to add two…and in a completely unexpected way! Some have suggested that perhaps we should not go through with the adoption. While we appreciate the concerns of those who certainly care for us and desire our well-being, and we welcome the thoughts and advice of friends and family, this thought has not crossed our minds. The child the Lord has for us in adoption is as much our child as the one growing Ashleigh’s womb, and unless the Lord closes the door permanently, we will continue to seek to adopt this child. Adoption is nothing less than a picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We who were once strangers and orphans were adopted into the family of God by the death of Christ. We don’t deserve or have the right to be sons and daughters of God, yet by faith we have received his gift of adoption. When we take care of orphans by adopting them into our family as true children, it is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. We believe the Lord used our period of infertility to lead us to adoption…why would we back out when he graciously grants us the miracle of life? Wherever that little child is, we are so thankful to God for him or her, and we love him or her as our own, just as God loves us as his own.

Another question…are you sure you can handle three kids? Honestly, we’re not yet sure we can handle one! Especially the little Tasmanian devil living in our home right now! While there are certainly good intentions behind this question, I don’t really get it. Of course three will be more difficult, of course it will stretch us. Doesn’t God stretch his children? What if we found out Ash were having twins? It’s no different. You do the best you can, praying continually, and the Lord gives you the strength to handle those difficult seasons of life. But the blessing far outweighs the hardships, and as the Psalmist says, “blessed is the one who fills his quiver with children!”

A final, and more difficult question…what about Matt’s health? This one is hard in the sense that from our perspective there are so many unknowns. Will the current treatment continue to work? How long will my borrowed immune system hold up? What if I die soon…would Ash be left to fend for herself with her “quiver full” of children? Add to these the troubling fact that I couldn’t get life insurance to save my life! These are hard and serious questions; questions that Ash and I have wrestled with. Here are our thoughts. First, our family has been dealing with similar questions my whole life. When my brother was diagnosed with SCIDS in my mom’s womb, the doctor’s recommended abortion. The reasoning was simple…the future of your child is unknown, he could die young and it would be really hard on you. Abortion would make it so much easier. I’m glad my parents loved the Lord more than their own comfort. I couldn’t imagine life without my little brother…and I already can’t imagine life without the child we will adopt.

My life has been full of question marks, and it is a miracle I am living and breathing today. In college I became deathly ill and spent 4 years in a wheelchair. My Junior year I weighed 92 lbs and could barely function. Yet the Lord brought me through and gave me the gift of marriage and children in the process!  Recently I was diagnosed with severe lung disease and have had a 2 year long struggle against the pneumonia causing CMV virus. This struggle is still going on, and while current treatments are working, the problem is not gone and the future is uncertain. But there is one constant in both mine and Ashleigh’s life: the faithfulness of our God. This faithfulness will continue no matter what comes of my health…weather I am healed or not. This faithfulness will continue if Ashleigh is left raising children without me around. God’s faithfulness never changes and His mercies are knew EVERY SINGLE DAY! All we can do is obey Him today, and trust Him with the future.

We have some dear friends, Tim and Jaime Gray. They have one sweet adoptive child, and are in the process of adopting another. The thing is, Tim has Cystic Fibrosis and is 10 years post double lung transplant. Tim is well passed the life expectancy of those who have undergone such a transplant. Their decision to adopt two children in the midst of such uncertainty is certainly foolishness to the watching world, but to those who have Christ as an anchor for the sole, it is a wonderful example of faith and trust in our Savior who holds us all in His firm grip. What shall separate us from his love? Nothing. At what point should we cease to trust Him and rely on our own wisdom? Never.

We are very grateful for our families, and those who care enough to ask difficult questions. We are certainly not saying that such questions should not be asked and prayerfully considered. What we are saying is that we have prayed through them, and believe it is God’s will for us to move forward in faith and trust in His provision. And so we will adopt, we will have as many children as the Lord grants us, filling our quiver with little blessings from God. Our Lord is sovereign and his providence governs all things. We will love and serve him no matter what our future holds, because all our days are already numbered by the ruler of the earth, who always does right.

Related Articles:

Football with JP

2012 in Retrospect: Family

Blessings Highlighted by a Rough Day

Lexham Methods Series: Textual Criticism

Series Overview

Logos is release a series a 4 book series titled the “Lexham Methods Series” published by Lexham Press. It will be a digital resource available through logos.com. It consists of four works, including:

  • Textual Criticism of the Bible
  • Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis
  • Social & Historical Approaches to the the Bible
  • Literary Approaches to the Bible

The purpose of these volumes is to enable the reader to “learn, refresh or master the tools of Biblical scholarship” and be “equipped to share the material with others.” I was kindly sent an advanced copy of volume one of this series and would like to briefly summarize and interact with it here.

Summary of Textual Criticism and the Bible

This volume begins with a brief introduction defining textual criticism (TC) and differentiating this discipline with translation technique. TC is simply defined as “exercising judgment about a text to determine the most original wording.” This definition will be further qualified and unpacked in the remaining chapters.

In Chapter 2, “An Overview of Textual Criticism, contains discussions of both Old and New Testament TC, including the present state of the manuscripts as well as how textual variants have appeared. It explains why TC is important, the goal of TC, its basic principles, and its limitations.

In Chapters 3, “Introduction to Old Testament Textual Criticism” the author introduces the history of Old Testament TC, the textual evidence available for doing TC of the Old Testament, as well as a practical section on how to do Old Testament textual criticism, which includes tools and specific examples. This same pattern is followed in chapter 4, “Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.”

Finally, in chapter 5, “Textual Criticism and the Bible” the author lists several popular translations of the Bible and explains each one’s text-critical approach. It also includes a brief discussion on how TC impacts our understanding of the authority of Scripture.

My Thoughts on the Volume

Organization

First, I am a huge fan of how this volume is organized. It is easy to read through in a few sittings or to use as a reference guide. The table of contest is easily navigated and labeled so that it is easy to find the subject matter you might be looking for. Also, throughout the work many important words and concepts have linked definitions, and links to other helpful resources. Each major section also contains an annotated bibliography for further study, which guides one into further study if desired.

Content

This volume is perhaps one of the most thorough yet accessible introductions to Textual Criticism available. It for the most part finds a good balance between scholarly treatment of the issues, yet accessibility to the average reader. For example, the introductions to both Old and New Testament Textual Criticism include a section on its history and key figures. While each of these topics is massive, this volume seems to hit the most important points without bogging the reader down with details.

The same is true with these sections’ discussions of textual evidence. This work hits the major textual witnesses with brief yet informative descriptions of each. With regard to the OT, it covers the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other less significant but still valuable witnesses, including the Samarian Pentateuch and translations from Hebrew into Syriac, Aramaic and Latin. As someone not all that familiar with Old Testament textual criticism, after reading through this work I feel much more competent to address the issue and study it in more depth.

The discussion of the New Testament witnesses is excellent and covers the papyri, uncials, minuscules and lectionaries, with discussions of the most important witnesses in each. There are also brief discussion of the modern critical editions, early translations and citation in the church fathers.

Finally, the sections on both Old and New Testament TC have sub-sections on how to do textual criticism. These sections themselves are reason enough to get the volume. There is an overview of the principles and a step by step guide to the process using specific textual problems from the Biblical text.

Conclusion

The Lexham Methods series looks to be a valuable tool for for students, pastors and laypeople alike. Whether seeking to refresh or learn the valuable tools contained in it’s pages, the organization and content provide an accessible way to delve deeply into the topic.

Volume one, Textual Criticism of the Bible, is more than an introduction to the topic. While it does not provide an exhaustive discussion of TC, it does delve deeply into the issues involved and provides avenues for further in depth study. I am in the process of preparing for my comprehensive exams as a PhD student and this work has certainly provided more than enough information on textual criticism should that question arise! But more important than the impartation of information, which the book does very well, is the fact that it makes TC accessible so that anyone can read it and be strengthened in their confidence in the reliability of God’s Word.

Update: A print version of this series is also forthcoming and will be made available through Amazon.

Statement of Faith: The Person of Christ

The person of Christ consists of one person united in two natures: divine and human. Christ is 100% divine. He created all things and in him all things hold together (John 1:1; Col. 1:17). He and the Father are one. He came not to speak his own message, but that of the Father. He is the great I AM (John 8:58; also Jude 5 ). Christ is also 100% human. He was born of a virgin, he hungered, thirsted, became weary, slept and was tempted. Yet as a man he never sinned and was always perfectly obedient to the will of the Father (Heb. 4:15). This union of divinity and humanity in the person of Christ is known as the hypostatic union, and it is the only possible answer to the dilemma of sinful humanity. Only Christ’s divine nature could suffer the wrath of God and survive, yet only a human can be the substitute for sinful humanity (Heb. 2:9). Thus, Christ’s person is inseparable from his work.

 

Series navigation:

God

The Trinity

Providence

Providence Revisited 

Happy 500th to the 1st Printed Greek New Testament!

 

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the first printed Greek New Testament (January 10, 1514). While the honor for the first published Greek New Testament is rightly awarded to Erasmus’ 1516 edition, the first GNT was actually printed a year before that. Erasmus learned of the recent printing of this title, and so rushed to get his edition of the GNT to the publisher so as to be the first. While he did succeed, because of the rush his first edition is often considered to have the most errors of any volume ever published!

The full title of this rival to Erasmus was Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine in Academia Complutensi Nouiter Impressum. It was part of a “polyglot” edition of the Bible, which means the text appeared in several different languages. This polyglot became known as the Complutensian Polyglot.

Contents

Published in six volumes, the Complutensian was the first of its kind. Volumes 1–4 contain the Old Testament in 3 parallel columns: Hebrew, the Latin Vulgate, and the Greek Septuagint. The Pentateuch also contained columns for the Aramaic text and its own Latin translation. The Greek New Testament was included in its fifth volume, and consisted of the GNT and the Vulgate in parallel columns. The first Greek dictionary, along with various other study aids, composed volume six.

complutensian_polyglot

Hebrew, Greek and Latin

So What?

A work of this import and magnitude should not be overlooked. With the development of the printing press, the Bible could be much more accurately copied and widely distributed. It was commissioned by the cardinal primate of Spain, Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros.It was the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible, and thus contained the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. It also contained the first Greek glossary of the New Testament, which would then be followed by countless others. Cardinal Francisco’s reason for embarking on this project is worth quoting:

“… the most learned translator can present only a part of this, the full Scripture in translation inevitably remains up to the present time laden with a variety of sublime truths which cannot be understood from any source other than the original language. Moreover, wherever there is diversity in the Latin manuscripts or the suspicion of a corrupted reading (we know how frequently this occurs because of the ignorance and negligence of copyists), it is necessary to go back to the original source of Scripture … to examine the authenticity of the books of the Old Testament in the light of the correctness of the Hebrew text and of the New Testament in the light of the Greek copies. And so that every student of Holy Scripture might have at hand the original texts themselves and be able to quench his thirst at the very fountainhead of the water that flows unto life everlasting and not have to content himself with rivulets alone, we ordered the original languages of Holy Scripture with their translations adjoined to be printed.”

His desire was to “to revive the languishing study of the ancient Scriptures.”

This is indeed a worthy goal, and a need that has not waned. We do not read the Bible in a vacuum, but we are indepted to those who have through much hard and diligent work completed tremendous tasks from which we reap the benefits. The Complutensian Polyglot is most certainly one that deserves to be recognized among them.

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What is Textual Criticism and Why It Matters: Intro

What is Textual Criticism and Why It Matters

Imagine if I wrote a 15 page letter and gave it to you to copy by hand. Let’s say you, in turn, gave it to two other people and they copied. Say each of them gave it to several people and they copied it. Say this continued for 1000 years, and my original, as well as the almost all of the copies up to 200 years were lost. What would you have? What you would have is something similar to what we have with the New Testament. This is what makes textual criticism necessary.

This illustrates what the process of copying would have looked like

This illustrates what the process of copying would have looked like

Textual Criticism is not a term most Christians are familiar with. Yet, without it we would not have Christianity. Yes, it is that important. So, in the next several posts I am going to try to introduce this important topic and then give some examples as to how the actual work is done. We’ll start with some definitions:

These should get us started for now. With each post we’ll add a few more definitions as we delve deeper into the discussion.

Autograph

An Autograph refers to the original copy of a manuscript written by the actual author of that manuscript.

So for example, the autograph of 1 Corinthians would be the copy that Paul actually wrote (or dictated). We have no autographs from any ancient literary document. They remain either undiscovered or they no longer exist.

Manuscript

A Manuscript is any piece of an ancient document.

P52 The oldest NT manuscript we possess

 

The New Testament is the most well attested ancient document by far when it comes to the number of ancient manuscripts we have available
to examine. We have around 5,500 Greek manuscripts alone, and when you add in ancient translations into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, etc. the number rises to at least 20,000. Of these manuscripts we have around 124 which were copied within 300 years of the original, a dozen

P52 The oldest NT manuscript we possess

of these being from the second century. If you compare this to any other classical writing, what you’ll find is that no other ancient copy of any literary text exists within 300 years of the original. Not one. And the manuscripts we do have containing copies of

those writings total to about 20 on average, often less. In other words, we can be infinitely more confident that we can trace the NT text back to the original than any other work of antiquity.

Document Date of Originals Earliest MSS  Number of MSS
New Testament 5-100 AD 65-150 AD 5600+; thousands of quotes from Fathers; 8000 versions
Illiad ca. 800 BC ca 400 BC 643
Plato (Collected Works ca. 400 BC ca. 900 AD 7
Tacitus ca. 100 AD 1100 AD 20
Euripides 480-406 BC 1100 AD 330

Textual Variant

Textual Variant is a place in the Biblical text where there exists variation of any kind in the manuscript tradition.1

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to point you to is to show you:

Textual Criticism at work

Textual Criticism at work

In the KJV you find the words

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one…”

However, the most other modern translation, the portion of the text is omitted. Why? This has to do with textual criticism, and we’ll look more closely at this particular text in a future post.

Textual Apparatus

The textual apparatus refers to a section at the bottom of a page of the biblical text, which indicates the various variant readings in the above text.

Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament

This is the most widely utilized version of the Greek Text. It contains a textual apparatus at the bottom of each page of text detailing the major variants within that portion of text. It is typically the starting point for all of our modern translations.

Textual Criticism

This refers to the practice examining and comparing ancient manuscripts so as to discover what was written by the original author.

So with some basic definitions, in further posts we’ll continue to discuss what TC actually looks like and why it is vital to how we read the Bible.

1. [Dan Wallace defines a textual variant as: “any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, even spelling differences…”; Stewart, Robert B., ed. the Textual Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Erhman and Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 32.]

Football with JP

I'm sitting in a hospital room at Cincinnati Children's hospital. I arrived yesterday to receive I.V. antibiotics since my CMV numbers have gone up quite a bit:

That's actually higher that it was when I was hospitilized this summer, so it's probably a good thing I am here. Anyway, the plan is for me to receive the medication through Friday and during that time they'll monitor my electrolytes (this stuff can be hard on your kidneys). If everything looks good they'll send me home with the PICC line and I'll continue to get the medicine at home until the CMV is down to zero.

I was texting my brother-in-law Ben yesterday and when I mentioned that I was gaining weight (10 lbs in about a month to be exact), he said “You're gonna be the next all American tackle at OU.” That's actually a really good goal…and JP will be the quarterback..and the field will be our backyard! I started to think about my recent time in the hospital, and then about this looming bone marrow transplant which will land me in a hospital room for at least 3 months, during which time I won't be able to see JP. It would be easy to get discouraged as those thoughts begin to roll in, but now I am replacing them with some others. Football with JP, family devotions by the fire place, watching my son grow, precious time with my wife, teaching JP to play ping pong, the blessing of worshiping with my church family…the list could go on.

Our gracious God has blessed me with so much, and his greatest gift is Jesus Christ. He lived and died and rose and reigns. What shall I fear? And his life, death and resurrection brought salvation which lasts forever; what is this life except for a vapor in the wind? Yet even so, he has chosen give good gifts in this life as well, and I for one too often take those gifts for granted. There is nothing that can happen to me apart from his sovereign, good purposes; and no gift do I receive that is not from his own kindness. I shall not fear and I shall not want.

So…as I enter into this journey in life, my heart is full of joy. Christ is mine, and I am his and there is no safer place than this. Not to mention, no matter what happens I have this little guy waiting for me:

So yes, I will continue to go to the hospital when I need to, consume 4000 calories a day and I will endure this upcoming bone marrow transplant with joy. For at the end of it all I am looking to one very worthy goal indeed: football with JP.

Providence Revisited

It is not surprising that my previous post requires a follow up. Tom Rogstad, whom I have not known long but already consider a mentor and friend (check out his blog here), has provided some feedback and questions regarding my statement of God’s providence. I wanted to continue the discussion here because I think he raises some important questions. Tom said,

When Paul says that God subjected the creation to futility, doesn’t that necessarily imply that there are some events that are futile and, therefore, meaningless? How do you reconcile that with the verse in Ephesians 1 that says that “He works all things according to the counsel of His will?” doesn’t that verse necessarily imply that all events are purposeful? So, events can be meaningless and purposeful at the same time? Do meaningfulness and purpose belong to two different categories, so that we are not affirming A and not-A at the same time? They must. Otherwise we would be violating the logical law of non-contradiction. But I can’t quite see how the two are distinct categories. Maybe you can help me with that.

These are certainly important questions. Paul indeed says in Romans 8:20-21, “He subjected creation to futility, not willingly but because of the one who subjected it, to the hope that the creation itself will be set free  from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  The word translated futility is used twice more in the New Testament. First, in Ephesians 4:17, Paul says, “This then I say and testify in the Lord, to walk no longer as the Gentiles walk in the folly of their thinking…”; And second, in 2Peter 2:18, “for uttering boasts of folly they enticed by sensual lusts of the flesh those who were indeed escaping those living in error…” So, what I think we have here is an emphasis on the folly, or error, of the object. For creation, it was subjected to folly in that that which was once perfect lost that perfect state. Thus, the curse of Genesis 3, “cursed is the ground because of you…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…” So, the subjection of the earth to futility (or folly) perhaps has something to do with the ground, and creation itself, no longer performing the function for which it was intended, thus it is futile. I think this can be further confirmed in Romans one, where one of the clear effects of the fall is exchanging the truth of God for a lie. This is the ultimate futility. So Paul can also say that the Gentiles walk in the “folly of their thinking” since they refuse to worship the true God. So in Peter, the boasts of folly are made by those who have turned to idolatry (v. 15).

Having said that, I do agree that their are events in time which from our perspective are meaningless. We simply cannot see and do not know enough for this not to be the case. Yet from God’s perspective all things are worked according to his will, even those things which are futile. So we grieve with those who grieve, and long for the day when the curse is removed and even creation’s subjection to folly is removed, along with all “death, mourning, crying and pain…for behold all things are new.”

As to your statement on providence, I think you should add or modify two things. It strikes me that much of your statement relies on God being outside time, atemporal. Is He? He certainly can’t be confined to time because He existed before time existed. But isn’t His relation to time the same as His relation to space? His omnipresence means He is everywhere in space as well as outside space. Couldn’t God be omnitemporal as well? I think that’s Bruce Ware‘s term. I wrote a paper for him on God’s relationship to time and came to a similar conclusion.

I certainly do think that God has entered into time. What I want to highlight is that God’s eternal decrees took place before he brought time into existence, thus his decrees even include his own actions within time. I suspect that since we cannot fully comprehend the relationship between time and eternity, then we will not fully comprehend the relationship between God’s eternal decrees, and thus his purpose for all things, and actions that take place within time, including those which are “futile.” I think omnitemporal is a great term to use! Tom, do you still have that paper you wrote?

I also think you should add something about God’s providence over human decisions. By quoting Joseph’s statement about his brothers’ decisions you obviously believe that providence encompasses acts of human will, but I’d try to add it to your statement of faith itself. (Hint: if you get stuck on these things it’s always helpful to see how the Westminster Confession of Faith handles it. I say that as a confirmed, intransigent Baptist  🙂

I do believe that God’s providence extends to the human will. And I think Acts 4 and Genesis 50, and many others, confirm that. I’ll revisit my statement in light of this discussion. Thanks for your comments, Tom.

Statement of Belief: Providence

I’m continuing the series on my statement of belief I turned in for the internship at Clifton Baptist Church. In my first post, I discussed God as sovereign creator, who is perfectly holy in each of his attributes. In his sovereignty he sustains the universe and brings about his perfect will. In my second post on the Trinity, I talked about God’s nature: one eternal essence, three eternally distinct persons. These two both are important precursers to my next statement on God’s providence:

God’s providence is his meticulous care over all of creation. He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). When God spoke the universe into existence, his sovereign decree included all things that would take place in time, including his own actions. God’s providence means that nothing can happen to any of his creatures that is not known and ordained by him, thus he can promise that “all things work together for good unto those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God’s providence not only includes every aspect of our lives, but everything in creation as well. The winds and the seas obey him (Matt. 8:27). He sends the rains, winds, snow, and sunlight. Thus, God guides all things, creatures and creation, unto his pre-appointed purposes, for the good of his people and for his eternal glory.

Something I left out (thanks to my small group leader, Josh Stephens, for pointing this out to me) was how I understand evil and tragedy to mesh with God’s providence. I could spend a lot of time on this issue, but I’ll save that for its own post. But I will say this: nothing that takes place in time is outside of God’s eternal decree and providential control. At the same time, however, human beings are wholly responsible for their actions. God is not the author of sin, we who sin bare the blame. How do these truths fit together? I suppose part of the answer has to do with the relationship between time and eternity. God, in eternity passed decreed all things when he spoke into existence the very fabric of time itself. He did so in such a way as to uphold his meticulous sovereignty, as well as his impeccable holiness and thus human responsibility for sin.  I’ll give two texts which make my point, thought there are countless others:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a]should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:19-20)

Here note that while the brothers’ intentions were clearly evil, and they are responsible for them; God’s intentions in the same act were for a good purpose. Did God or Joseph’s brothers send Joseph into Egypt? The answer is “yes!” One more text, a bit longer:

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:23-28)

In this prayer, notice that the disciples clearly hold those involved in Jesus Christ’s death responsible for such a sinful action, yet all involved did “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Who killed Jesus? Was it Herod, Pilot, the Romans and the Jews? or Did God kill Jesus? The answer is “Yes!” God’s hand and plan had predestined all that these sinful people did to Jesus. He is sovereign, yet they are responsible for the intentions of their hearts. Is your mind spinning? Mine too…yet the Word of God is clear, and it does no good to fashion a God in our own likeness. I’ll end with a quote from Charles Spurgeon which I think demonstrates how we should respond to what God has revealed in his Word, even if we cannot fully grasp it:

If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring. – C.H. Spurgeon

Free will debate: What does free will mean and how did it evolve?

Interesting discussion in the scientific world on whether or not humans have free will. I guess its not only a Calvinism vs. Arminianism thing! I found this section interesting:

Arguments about free will are mostly semantic arguments about definitions. Most experts who deny free will are arguing against peculiar, unscientific versions of the idea, such as that “free will” means that causality is not involved. As my longtime friend and colleague John Bargh put it once in a debate, “Free will means freedom from causation.” Other scientists who argue against free will say that it means that a soul or other supernatural entity causes behavior, and not surprisingly they consider such explanations unscientific.

These arguments leave untouched the meaning of free will that most people understand, which is consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions.

The definition of free will given, “consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions,” is one that certainly even the most ardent Calvinist would affirm. In other words, to exercise free will is to do what we desire at any given moment. Another interesting statement is that “Other scientists who argue against free will say that it means that a soul or other supernatural entity causes behavior…” So for some scientists, to say that a supernatural entity causes behavior is to actually affirm free will, as opposed to our choices being simply a byproduct of our chemical makeup and reactions within our bodies. Anyway, thought this was quite fascinating…you can read the entire article here:

Free will debate: What does free will mean and how did it evolve?.