Category Archives: Growth and Discipleship

Tough Stuff in the Bible and VBS curricula

So, yes, there is a lot of tough stuff in the scriptures… and in a sense, its a disservice to ignore that sort of thing and bury it as its too uncomfortable.

Then again, would it be appropriate to include in a VBS curricula?

  • David having Uriah killed to cover up his sleeping around with Bathsheba
  • The genocide of the Amalekites
  • The blessing of infanticide
  • Lot and his daughters
  • Judah and Tamar
  • The Daughter of Jephthah vs Abraham and Isaac

This sort of stuff would freak a lot of folks pretty fast… and the folks in charge of VBS would be run out on a rail.

And yet it seems perfectly fine by some to have young kids role play slaves, in combination with hijacking a language spoken in Africa.

I get that one can do the above, and spin it in such a way as to make it seem acceptable…. but deep down, is that really ok?

Is it an acceptable witness to ones community when the outcome is… our kid went to vacation Bible school and role played a slave, while the teacher kept telling them to work faster as they withheld supplies, and then tried to teach them some stuff about Africa and called Xhosa a click language.

Really… are us US Christian’s truly that tone deaf?

I think there are a few with an agenda, and I think there are a lot of well meaning Christian’s who find it hard to believe that someone wrote a curricula with a such an agenda. I think lots of eyebrows get raised a bit… but they see vast numbers of folks promoting it, lots of church folks working on it, and just by the masses of people involved, and seemingly widespread approval, it just has to be ok. Otoh, consider the following….

racist

 

liguistic racism

And the official spin

groupvbs

It smells really bad…

I think its perfectly fine to discuss the above in Sunday school, but as far as making it an integral theme of a VBS, role playing slavery and hijacking a language in a disrespectful way, its not cool at all.

The challenge this late in the game is a tough one… churches ordered the curricula in good faith, assuming it to be well vetted, age appropriate, and that it would make a positive difference in kids lives. Sadly, these seems to have been a major fail on all of the above. Fortunately there is some good news… but not from official channels.

fixes

Fixing it is a ton of extra work by a lot of volunteers…

And even if it can be fixed, part of the theme goes…. “When life is unfair, God is great” Ok, so how is that going to roll for the young kid who has been raped? Or what about the kid who lost both parents in a car crash? Or the kid whose parents died in Afghanistan, or returned home after multiple deployments with major PTSD? Will the teachings presented in this curricula help or hinder a child who has, or will experience severe trauma? Is theodicy really an appropriate topic for young kids, and is VBS an appropriate time to approach it?

Maybe the daugher of Jephthah would be more appropriate. Afterall, Sunday school keeps telling the story of Abraham and Isaac…

Sorry Single Folks, No Holiness for You

I came across the following in my twitter feed

no holiness

And I chuckled, thinking of the Seinfield show and “No Soup for You”

But in all seriousness, there are real issues that come about from the above tweets.

Marriage is designed to make us Holy, not happy? If we roll back to Genesis, I think its pretty clear that wasn’t the game plan. Granted, we have the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:25-28 and again in 1 Cor 7:9,14… but to take those verses out of the entirety of 1 Cor 7 which advocates remaining single seems quite a dis-service to scriptures.

Beyond this, the dangers of rushing to marriage in #marryorburn theology, or dishonoring marriage by encouraging an errant witness to the world really misses the mark. Granted, in some cases, marriage can be a holy witness, and it can also work to bring sanctification, but this is not a guaranteed thing. I think all of us have seen far too many Christian marriages turn into a toxic mess which does anything but the above… toss in the holiness bit above, and folks stay in toxic marriages in some cases up until abuse gets so bad, they end up hospitalized or dead.

There is the issue of idolizing marriage… I think of the many articles written by married young women that try to promote the “advantages” of being single. Ie, I’m married now, but when I was single, I was able to do abcdefg and focus on the Lord’s work. I don’t know, but those sort of writings come across weird. Ie, being totally dedicated to doing God’s work, advocating singleness as this great thing you seem to highly value, followed by how great being married is sort of rings sideways. it almost makes singleness as a path to marriage, rather than the unique destination in and of itself that it truly is.

That being said, I do want to dig into the marriage and sanctification bit, but first I want to ponder about my experiences in the boy scouts. I’d done a lot of fishing and hiking on my own over the years. I could navigate through the woods without any fear of getting lost, I could tie a few knots, I knew how to use a compass, how to cut firewood, build a fire etc… but these were all situations where in I chose the environment. Ie, I’d go around a swamp on its periphery, rather than going straight across it, knowing that even if the distance was shorter, the amount of energy and time to go straight across would be much greater. As my experiences in the woods grew, I exercised more and more discretion as to the level of environmental conditions I was comfortable with.

On boy scout excursions, those choices are made for you, and they can and do change… like the time a buddy broke a tree crossing a creek, which meant the rest of us had to figure out another way to get over it. Thus what scouting did for me, was brought me into situations that on my own I would have avoided. It taught me how valuable being able to tie 20 different knots were, how to navigate through woods, when your compass was useless due to hematite deposits, how to pitch a tent with missing parts that your buddy forgot to pack etc.

Marriage has parallels to this. Its all too easy to think you have your ducks in a row, when said ducks have never been under significant fire… and in marriage, you will find out very quickly how lacking one truly is when it comes to the fruits of the spirit. Life is easy when it can be compartmentalized, ie in the workplace, at church, hanging out with buddies, as its situational and time limited. Marriage otoh is like a search light that runs 24/7/365, and when you add in the massively increased workload of marriage as contrasted with the single life, ones fruits are tested / exercised by fire. Granted, some marriages do bring about a lower workload than one might have being single… but this cannot be predicted, and irrespective of workload, the search light is still there.

Related to this, is marriage will bring you to places and times which as a single, one would simply avoid. We have a saying in aviation, which says use a superior pilot uses superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of superior skill. The saying has kept many a pilot and aircraft safe over the years. Being single is a lot like that, but the temptation is to take this too far and never get out of ones comfort zone also occurs. Marriage otoh, often dispenses with this and while it is a much riskier situation, it also brings about much more growth than would have ever been possible going it alone.

And while one can develop a willingness to go beyond ones comfort zone as a single, and thus reap the potential of growth… there doesn’t seem to be any practical way to engage in the fruits of the spirit exercise / testing thing. This there are aspects of marriage which can lead to holiness which a single person doesn’t have access to. But then again, the ability to be totally focused on the work of God is something married folks no longer have access too.

There are just too many variables to make a blanket call one way or another on much of this… and its far from universal. That being said, there is much wisdom in the entirely of 1 Cor 7. Marriage is best honored when the entirely of the scriptures are considered, not just a few.

The Bizarre Nature of Marriage in Ephesians 5:25-33

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to honor marriage with respect to the Hebrews text @MrBryanLCarter brought up last week. As such, I’ve been poking at some scriptures here and there all week. Then, a day or two ago I saw in my twitter feed something from John Piper.

johnpiper

Really, is that what marriage is for?

I’ve known folks who ascribe to such a teaching, and for some it does work out ok, albeit with incredible pressures along the way. For others, the covenental focus turns their marriage from something that should have reflected well on Christianity, into a relationship so toxic, that who in their right mind would ever want to get married?

Its a good thing to want to honor the covenental aspects of marriage, but when ones witness of honoring the covenant also destroys the couple involved… it really doesn’t pass the smell test. Rather it sets up stumbling blocks, and does anything but honor marriage.

So, I go back to the scriptures from early in the week, and I come across Ephesians 5:25-33.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

I think there are 3 main ways to look at this text.

1. Live out your marriage in such a way as to demonstrate Christ’s love for the church which is the approach of @DesiringGod teachings. It fails some of the time for the reasons discussed above. It also puts a lot of pressure on a marriage to witness to something which truly doesn’t need witnessing. I mean really, is there any doubt that Jesus doesn’t love the body of Christ? Is that something that needs reinforcement somehow? I just don’t see the need for this.

2. Look to Christ’s love of the church for a model as to how your marriage should be. The power dynamics of that make it impossible, to say nothing of the problems of the church. Its way beyond a white knight with a heart of gold marrying the crazy party girl who keeps going off the path. If anything, this seems like a disaster in the making.

3. Only look to the aspects of marriage that are explicitly directed to husband and wife or only applicable to Christ and the church. Do not try to co-mingle them as a whole, as they are like apples and oranges, Rather,in making parallels, only look to things they explicitly could share, like love, respect, and oneness and anything beyond those, leave as a mystery.

As far as the other elephant in the room, the submission problem, there are a ton of issues, with the biggest thing being caving to the fallen nature of humanity. Genesis 2:18 sets up Eve to be a helper to the man, one of explicit equality. Paul in a similar vein says there is no male or female in Christ. Its only man’s fallen nature that the one sided submission thing comes into being…

Folks much smarter than I have dug deep on this, a few resources.

The first is Fr John Ricardo talking on Ephesians 5… and some might wonder, why I’d reference a Catholic priest on this. The reason, they hear confessions, the deepest, darkest depths of a person’s struggles. And in a lot of ways, a Catholic priest likely knows a whole lot more about a given marriage than the folks actually in the marriage. Beyond that, there is a great deal of depth in his podcast, things like pagan cultural aspects, language / translation issues, and equality. https://avemariaradio.net/audio-archive/christ-is-the-answer-may-21-2019/

To go even deeper than the podcast, here is a link to his dissertation. Warning, its 133 pages! https://www.olgcparish.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/themutualsubordinationofhusbandandwife.pdf

Rachel Held Evans also takes a look at this. She states. “I, (and many biblical scholars and fellow Christians), would argue the point of these passages is not that patriarchy is the best foundation for marriage, but rather that the humility and service of Jesus Christ is the best example for marriage…and any relationship.”

https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/absurd-legalism-gender-roles-submission-piper

Bottom line, if one sided submission works for your marriage, good for you, but keep watch for issues over time. Beyond that, one sided submission is unlikely to be fruitful for a lot of couples, and its by far not the only way to ascribe to the scriptures as well as to honor marriage.

Obsession with Puritanical Morality Makes for a Mess

With age, I get more and more aggravated with some folks hyper-focus on sexuality in Christianity, as there is a ton of important stuff that gets glossed over because of it. There is no need to bend the Greek to English translation of porneia into cultural morality, especially puritanical morality. It is better to let the scriptures stand with the power granted by the word of God, than it is to bend them to align with some imagined historical sexual ethic.

Apart from that, sexual moral failures among the married are explicitly covered by the words of Jesus, for the unmarried, by the greatest commandments. Consider that the greatest commandments also hit on consent, sexual harassment and assault irrespective of marriage status… thus sexual moral failure is a whole lot more encompassing than a mere violation of puritanical moral standards or modesty codes. One can argue that some errant forms of complementarian marriage practices, patriarchalism, and the idolatry of purity all fall far short of the greatest commandments.

I think of the tweet stream I came across today… its like ????

sexoutsideofmarriage

 

https://twitter.com/MattSmethurst/status/1026866187538522119

No wonder some sectors of Christianity have high levels of marital sexual dysfunction. When humanity is removed from sex and is replaced with objectification and monetary exchange and 1600 folks like it… something is seriously hosed up. Consider that the only difference between prositution and the above is monogamy within the confines of near perfect marriage behaviors (radical self giving and life long commitment), the model is in error. Even worse, when a person who ascribes to such experiences real marriage, rather than a projected idealized form, what happens then? My guess is there is a ton more sexual immorality in marriage than outside of it due to teachings like this.

In fairness to @TimKellerNYC, he presents a pretty decent model for “real life” marriage in the following article. https://relevantmagazine.com/life5/you-never-marry-the-right-person/ which includes a quote from Denis de Rougemont “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess.”

I think back to my younger days working with youth, and remembered I had a youngster ask ” am I going to hell for sleeping with my girlfriend?” Apart from being a bit flabbergasted at the kids age, it was if the prior years teaching on Ephesians 6:8-9 went clear out the window. Apparently some idiot youth pastor was having a field day cherrypicking 1 Cor 6:10…

And while it takes a great deal of effort to get messages past teenage or pragmatically, most any age hormones… we shouldn’t be throwing the scriptures under the bus to do so. We shouldn’t be creating errant sexual ethics which set the stage for future failed relationships and dysfunctional marriages. On the other side of the coin, its important to consider that many will try to bend the scriptures the other direction, in order to give them wiggle room or perhaps even an out to wildly follow their hormones wherever they may lead.

Addressing such is not a simple thing… and it really freaks folks out too. Consider the following from Sarah Moon in response to the Revelant magazine study where it was found that 80% of evangelicals engage in premarital sex..

So I started asking questions in the comments section …. In asking the questions, I learned that no one seemed to have the answers. Instead of answers, I either got harsh judgement or other people who admitted to being just as confused as I was.

But in every comment that told me I was “abusing grace,” that I “must not be very familiar with the Bible,” telling me to “get married earlier, genius!,” to just find a fraternity house where they can set me up with a goat if all I want to do is get laid (FOR REAL), or comments that just listed every verse in the Bible that mentions sexual immorality (while failing to define sexual immorality), all I heard was “I don’t know the answers, and your questions expose that. I don’t know, and that makes me afraid of you.”

As I was unable to find said comment stream to see how this played out… I searched out and found a parallel one. https://urbanfaith.com/2012/07/why-unmarried-christians-are-having-sex.html/

And thus honest conversations about Christians and sexuality hardly ever occur. I remember reading over an evangelical friends premarital counseling guidebook… and thinking, well, 80% of evangelicals have premarital sex… so why on earth are they devoting 3 chapters to abstinence teachings? I guess it might be why 1600 likes showed up on the above tweet. Perhaps Its a comfortable place and such makes it easy to compartmentalize abstinence to the 3 weeks of class, followed by ignoring it… but how does such truly help young couples get on the path to a healthy marriage? How does it help singles of any age develop good relationships irrespective of whether they lead to marriage or not? What about those who are perpetually single? What about married couples experiencing sexual dysfunction due to an errant ‘Christian’ sexual ethic?

These are the sort of things where candid discussions needs to occur… near exclusive focus on a puritanical sexual ethic is missing the point, no matter how comfortable it may be.

*****************************

Some reference sites:

https://relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/why-you-should-stop-searching–one-new

https://relevantmagazine.com/life/millennials-dont-want-your-sex-now-heres-why

https://religionnews.com/2016/07/21/sex-outside-of-marriage-can-be-holy-according-to-this-minister/

https://boards.weddingbee.com/topic/good-christian-pre-marital-sex-impossible/page/2

https://urbanfaith.com/2012/07/why-unmarried-christians-are-having-sex.html/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/evangelicals-sex-frank-talk_n_1443062.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/christianity-and-sex_us_56cb6dc1e4b0ec6725e371d5

http://thesaltcollective.org/4-reasons-to-have-premarital-sex-with-your-evangelical-college/

https://religionnews.com/2016/07/21/sex-outside-of-marriage-can-be-holy-according-to-this-minister/

http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/premarital-sex-is-it-a-sin-or-not

When theological constructs run afoul

I heard an interesting one today, namely that the Gentiles who do not have the law in Romans 2:14 actually were Christians. Apparently said individual held to a very strong form of exclusivism, such that even a plain text read of Romans 2:12-16 had to be tweaked in order for the theological construct of exclusivism to not be infringed.

For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

I’ve seen the similar things spin out amongst those who hold to forms of OSAS (once saved always saved) when they encounter a previously on fire hard core Christian who now no longer is. I think of atheist Bruce Gerencser, whose fruits of the spirit as a pastor were probably brighter than most every Christian I’ve met over the years… and because some hold to OSAS, their only recourse is to say Bruce was never a Christian in the first place. Granted, its impossible to truly judge anothers heart… but how an individual lives can serve as a pretty good indicator. Bottom line, I’m certain he was a Christian, and he will tell you with great certainty, he no longer is today… and I think some of the OSAS camp find that to be a really scary deal.

This is not to say that theological constructs are necessarily a bad thing. I think they can be helpful tools along the path of faith… but like many tools, they are not universal, and realistically, at some point in time they likely should be examined in depth. Perhaps to the point of deconstruction and reconstruction for some, perhaps especially so for those who wish to teach.

I think of the year I spent dissecting the Nicene Creed, to say nothing of digging deep into the filioque controversy. At the end, my beliefs did not change, but I had a greater appreciation for the Orthodox faith, and I also had an element of understanding as to why things were the way they were… and also why some would take issue with this or that.

Bottom line, faith and mystery are quite conjoined… when mystery is removed, and faith is bent to fill a need for certainty, sooner or later trouble is likely to be found.

Vomiting in Church

Being that I misread the RCL Lectionary for this Sunday and pondered about Ephesians 5:10-15 instead of 5:15-20… I got hyperfocused on Ephesians 5:11-12 as while 12 passes the common sense test, it seems totally out of whack with the rest of the chapter.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

Now, taken literally, verse 12 easily leads one to think we ought not to talk very explicitly about the evil perpetrated by some. From a common sense point of view, we’ve all said, egads, I didn’t need to see this, or I didn’t need to hear this, or from a biological point of view, I really didn’t need to smell this. One of the things I see cycling through the news cycle is the horrors of sexual abuse and the church… and some are saying illuminating evil is just too hard, its too scandalous, they don’t want to hear it… so just say evil was done in the church and let it lie at that. I even heard someone quoting James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I think such folks are totally missing the point. When evil is left in partial darkness or so sugarcoated to limit its impact, it will often continue, perhaps not in the same form, but when not fully illuminated, festering is a possibility.

I think there are some parallels with folks experiences during WWII. I remember a WWII vet telling me about stacking up dead bodies like cordwood. He told of his experiences with tears in his eyes. Another WWII vet friend got shot down over Germany and said he saw so much horror, it took years before he could leave the bottle alone. These men experienced the horrors of evil up front and personal and carried it the rest of their lives. They would not try to sugar coat it or limit the lights illumination, as it was more important to them that such horrors not happen again.

Granted no one wants to see sensitive folks vomiting in church, or having nightmares, so there needs to be some level of language discretion, but it should never go so far as to leave things in secret, or through vagueness reduce the impact of such when it comes to prevention.

Related to this is that not everyone is going to have a voice, some folks will be unable to speak and thats ok, as even a little light from others can go a very long way. Consider a handful of victims at Willow Creek which has now grown multifold due to the light they shone. Consider the findings of ~20 person grand jury in PA, whose actions have lit up the phones with even more victims calling in. Contrast this with the scandals of fifteen years ago, or the hidden nature of evil within small independent churches…. when illumination is covered over by well meaning folks so as to protect the church from scandal and/or folks constitutions.

I think Eph 5:12 is probably telling us how bad the evils were, ie that they are so evil, it is disgraceful to speak of them… and despite this, it is even more critical that they be fully illuminated and therefore exposed.

Do It Now Ephesians 5:16

In my first semester as an undergrad, I had a professor similar to Professor Kingsfield in the TV series Paperchase. You had to be prepared, you had to have your wits about you, and you had to be confident in your answers. If you blew it due to a minor mistake… he’d go off on a rant about his class being idiots, and would then give everyone more homework, or would decide it was quiz time right then and there. If you weren’t prepared, he’d chew you out, and then ask you to leave and only come back when you were caught up and prepared to learn.

He seemed to have a belief that the entire class should bare some level of responsibility for the errors and actions of its individual members. Part of that comes out of the socratic method… ie if a given student is not prepared to engage, the whole class suffers from their lack of participation. Another part of it was real life, as in the business world, a bad employee can required 3-5 more employees fix the problems created by the bad employee, do said employees work, plus do their own as well.

Granted, his class had pretty high attrition rates as a fair number of students couldn’t handle the stress levels. In today’s world, such an approach would be considered highly abusive. You’d have helicopter parents hovering all over the place, he’d have complaints, on ratemyprofessor.com, and he likely would have never gotten tenure. Then again, he was part of the greatest generation, he fought in WWII and had risen from Private to the rank of Major, he’d taught for decades, he knew a lot not only about the subject material, he knew a lot about life.

The amazing thing is, that despite the pressure cooker aspects of that class, the life skill taught have long exceeded the usefulness of the course content itself.

One of those skills was time management which often came across as:

DO IT NOW if you don’t do it now, its probably not going to get done…

The big quesion with this of course is do what now? And in the case of the professors class, it was pounding through the hard to understand material, he was very clear as to what he was referring to with his DO IT NOWs.

And just as he was clear, I think Paul was pretty clear too wrt to DO IT NOW in his letter to the Ephesians.

Eph 5:15-17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Youthful lusts, Its really not about sex

I came across 2 Timothy 2:22 in my previous writings on temptation, and wondered what Paul was talking about when he brings up youthful lusts. As such, I pulled up Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown to see what they had to say.

There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight (Ge 39:12). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy (1Ti 5:23) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men (1 John 2:14-16), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.

Which then prompted a further study on the matter. Like a lot of things contest is key… this verse is in the midst of a lot of context, none of which, even when pulled and stretched seems to connect with sexual morality, or as the commentators state animal indulgences.

It seems to be reasonably clear this section of scripture is about dysfunctions related to youthful exhuberance. Ie, jumping the gun, trying to teach before one is ready, or has earned the right to do so, being overconfident, or focusing on appearance rather than substance. Paul Penley seems to knock this out of the ballpark with his The “lust” all young people have, and how we missed it do to bad Bible interpretation. As an older guy looking back at his younger days, his post seems spot on.

Fortunately there were some exceedingly patient oldsters who pulled me aside and said hey, think about this. Had they not stepped up, I might well have become one of those Bible bashers, the ones who angrily say, the scripture clearly says…. except that the Greek to English translation is a whole lot more grey than black and white so say nothing about the bit where we see things dimly, even apart from translation issues.

Consider the ramifications of 1 Timothy 1:6 with respect to youthful lusts. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

Even beyond warning against such, 1 Tim 2:22 is also a very clear warning against lone rangering (to go it alone), rather than to study and practice Christianity in community. I think of the extreme out there conspiracy theories and strange theology types I used to run across when I co-led CF. Such folks often believe they have the absolute truth, and only theirs is the correct path even though, in most cases, such is a repeat of failed ancient beliefs or practices… Its as if the promoters of such never studied history, or perhaps worse, never had a person call them aside to say hey, you know XYZW taught something like that way back when and it didn’t work out too well.

I’ve seen related issues of overconfidence and lone-rangering play out in some deliverence ministries, where in folks get in very far over their head and get really jammed up. Its not just missing medical or psychological issues either, deliverence much less major exorcisms are nothing for the unprepared to mess around with . I even had a pastor friend who despite decades of education and experience in said arena ended up in a whole lot of hurt.

A unique aspect of studying and practice in community is challenge and engagement with failure. As a young long ranger, its pretty easy to coast along, and not get tested a whole lot. However when studying and practicing in community, ideas will get poked at prodded at. In such a model, errant theology is more likely to fall by the wayside, or at minimum, ideas will be highly scrutinized. Another aspect of study and practire in community is that its usually broken community. The temptation to power trip, to quarrel, or even to throw selected words of Jesus under the bus is a clear and present danger #churchtoo for example… but such is also where community can pick itself up and dust itself and its members off. Granted, there is a fair bit of idealism in that statement. Some communities can and do shred their must vulnerable members.

Lead us not into temptation, what gives with that?

In James, it says God doesn’t tempt man.

And yet, we also have the Lord’s prayer directly from Jesus where he directs us to pray “lead us not into temptation”

In a related vein, we have the spirit leading Jesus up to be tempted in Matthew 4.

We also have Paul stating that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can withstand in 1 Cor 10:13

We also have the book of Job where God allows Satan to nearly destroy him.

Is this one of those hard questions that might be left as something to be glossed over rather than one to be dug into? Many fear going in depth on this, as it is a hard thing to ponder. It’s perhaps all too easy to say its an issue of the precision of language. Ie, God doesn’t tempt us, he allows us to be tempted. Such an approach leaves us an out, and perhaps we should just take the bit about God not truly tempting us on a matter of faith. Ie, God is good, God would not tempt us… and we must not question God’s goodness or his sovereignty.

But, it sticks in my craw.

What is the ultimate difference between God doing the tempting vs God allowing the tempting. It still happens, and ultimately is not God responsible, even if he doesn’t do the actual tempting? It seems like the gamesmanship a lawyer or politician would try to use to pull a fast one. How does that square if God is truly good as the scriptures say he is? How are we to square this with the Jesus words about millstones and causing a little one to stumble? Is allowing Satan to do so vs doing it Himself really that much of an out?

I believe there are some times and places for leaving hard issues like this as a matter of faith… but I don’t believe such applies here. Rather, I think their might be a path to navigate through it, albeit the below is just my opinion

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I believe God does lead us to temptation as a means of testing and growth, but we must also remember that Satan can just do it (1 Peter 5:8) and (Ephesians 6:11-12), plus I think we might seek out temptation all on our own. The later is I believe what Paul is referring to in when he tells us to flee from idolatry in 1 Cor 10:14, flee from the temptation of riches in 1 Timothy 6, flee from youthful lusts in 1 Timothy 2:22, and flee from sexual temptations such as prostitution and adultery in 1 Cor 6:18

And for other matters, God gives us to the tools to overcome temptation via 1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The way of escape looks to be a couple things, standing firm on the one hand and pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness on the other.

Ephesians 6:15 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

1 Tim 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

It would do no good for God to keep us in bubblewrap, leaving us to our own devices to eventually wiggle out of it on our own, only to be swept up in evil as we have never exercised, or perhaps even been aware of the tools God gave us.

We grow when we learn how to overcome temptation as Peter talks about in 1 Peter 5:9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.