Archive for the ‘Theological Questions’ Category

This next Wednesday, November the 9th, FBC and Alethia Family Counseling will host two short seminars for adults – moms, dads, grandparents, teachers and others –

We will be in the Great Room at FBC South Campus (just south of the new loop) at 9:30am (hoping that is convenient for parents who drop off kids at school and can make it then) and again at 6:30 that evening in the same location.

Do not hesitate to reach out to either the church or Alethia.


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Now, here are some of my personal responses to these points.

My issue with the Calvinism branch of reformed theology is mostly based on the view that if one thing is true, others things cannot be… when often this is not the case biblically. If something appears to be paradoxical, it may be our error. The extreme views often held are either misunderstood or unnecessary.

I will also offer a percentage that expresses my own personal stance as compared to the full Calvinist view. A very strong Calvinist would score 100% on each one, many who would claim to be Calvinist… and especially “reformed” would not score 100%. I represent no one but myself here… these are my thoughts only.

I think this is a more accurate conversation, at least from my perspective, rather than referring to myself as a “four pointer” or something like that.

 Total Depravity: 80%

I believe that mankind and each man is depraved and plenty depraved… but not “totally” depraved according to the way I would use the word “total”. I typically like the “intensive” vs “extensive” clarification.

First, I think we are still created and still bear the image of God. That image itself is not depraved.  

Additionally, I am not as depraved as I could be – there are sins and perversions I have not ever engaged in. I think we represent (each) a cup of water with poison in them (which is poisoned enough) but not a cup of poison. If I use the word “total” to say “I colored a picture totally black,” I mean that there is nothing but black on the page.

Calvinists often say that mankind comes to God like a criminal comes to a policeman – in other words – runs in the other direction while hateful and resentful. I think this is accurate… but that even a criminal has some concept ofimages eternity in him (Eccl 3:11)… so I think it is plausible that we might seek God like a criminal seeks a policeman, when the criminal is falling off of a 1000 foot cliff and is Cop offers him a hand.

What I think is necessary to understand is that no one has the right righteousness, nor enough of it to cancel out our fallen-ness. 

Unconditional election: 60%, or depending on your definition of “unconditional”

The questions isn’t whether the Bible teaches election. It does (Eph 1:4). The questions are about what the term means and what, by existing, it cancels out.

There are things that God elects (Rom 9:10-13) but does He elect for Salvation unconditionally?

Could it be conditioned upon the works of man? No, passages like Eph 2:8-9 make that pretty clear that nothing man can do is what motivates God to save us.

My thoughts are that I can list out a dozen or maybe 100 passages that back the idea that God chooses with utter sovereignty (Rom 8:29, Rom 9:13, John 15:16, and Eph 1:3-11 just for a start) depends on no one but Himself to make that call.

I can also list out dozens of passages that defend the idea that man is responsible to freely believe in God (John 3:16-18, Rev 20:12, and even Eph 1:12-14!)

For this reason, I have come to the opinion that both are true. Man freely and honestly chooses. God sovereignly and freely (dependent on no one else). How is this logically coherent? There are several ways, but I like middle knowledge best.

Limited atonement: 10%, if that.

Verses in defense of the idea of limited atonement:

2 Tim 2:9-11. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Heb 5:9-11. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”  11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 

John 17:1-3… “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (ESV)

This passage might say that Jesus was only planning on dying for the flesh the Father had given him. It may not. It seems to be referencing the last phrase, which is about knowing the Father and the Christ…does that mean Jesus did not die for the other flesh too? It is not clear.

These, however, seem more clear:

2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The word “all” here is the same as Romans 5:12

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”

Romans 5:6. Look to Romans 5:6 – the Greek for “ungodly” is “without religion”  – I cannot believe that Paul MEANT to say “died for the ungodly elect” but left the word elect out.

John 3:16. Further, read John 3, Christ’s discussion with Nicodemus about how to be saved.  “For God so loved the ELECT that He gave His only begotten Son…?”  For God so loved the WORLD.

Acts 17:30, “All men to repent,” not just some men.  How could they repent unless their sins had been paid for? One problem with Calvinism is the quick leap to God calling upon people to do things they have no option of obeying as mystery.”

Romans 5:18.  “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

1 Tim 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle–I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying–a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (my underlinings)

1 Tim 4:10  “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (this one is the toughest one to me… it seems to actually delineate between believers and non and yet refers to Christ as savior of all)

Heb 9:11-12  “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Well, that oughta give some stuff to think about… now you can see why I do not accept the teaching of “limited atonement.” I understand the logic behind it, but I just think it is not scriptural.

Irresistable Grace: 60-80% depending on definitions.

To the degree that “irresistible grace” means “drawn,” I am on the same page.

I am not 100% on irresistible part, though.. can the Spirit not be quenched in regards to salvation? This is a problem, I know, sprung of the less than 100% agreement with UE.

However, I do think it is impossible for someone to come to Christ unless God draws them. Certainly, part of that is that the Image of God plays a role here, as does the eternity put in the hearts of all men.

Also, does the irresistible grace apply to every person who believes? Could it be that some are drawn irresistibly, and not others?

Also, I think this argument is greatly augmented by Middle Knowledge again. In many ways, this argument is so linked to Unconditional election that the same arguments and verses apply, since if the teaching here is that God, once electing someone, saves them. I agree with this principle, but not that man has no role in the saving part. See the quandary? If UE is not 100% true, then IG is limited in the exact same ways.

Here are some verses that make it clear that people can only come to God is He chooses and draws them. God is not a passive member of the salvation of any human being.

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Romans 11:5,6 – “a remnant chosen by grace”

John 15:16 – “you did not choose me”

Romans 11:7 – “others are hardened”

John 17:9 – “I do not pray for the world, but those you have given me.” {This is an interesting verse despite the issue of “prayer” not “die.”}

Eph 2: “made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved.”… verse 8: by grace through faith.”

John 3:18 – belief is the source of “not being condemned” – unbelief is the source for condemnation.

Perseverance of the Saints 100%

Since salvation is dependent on God’s work, its maintenance is also dependence upon His work… which is settled. As Jesus once said… “It is Finished.” Since I am on the same page here, that once Christ has set you free, you are free indeed, then I will leave this one at that.  This is not really “perseverance of the saints” since it isn’t the saints who are doing anything about it.  You could argue that it should be called “perseverance of the Savior.”  I like to change the term “security of the saints” to “security of the savior” and then I can agree.

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John Calvin (1509-1564) was a serious player in the reformation – the break of what is now known as the Protestant Church from the Roman Church. He had very strong opinions on the way that the Sovereignty of God trumps any freedom that mankind might have… which might be none.

Often today one misnomer for Calvinism is “reformed theology”. Actually there are many more who would share the theology of the reformers, but not the same theology as Calvin or his students.

Calvin was a serious player, but the reformation was not build around him. It was built around mainly 5 (ironically, what is it with that number in theology?) theological statements… the 5 soli (or sola) statements that were meant to distinguish the reformers from the Roman Catholic Church to which they were contemporary:

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)

Solus Christus (Christ alone)

Sola Gratia (Grace alone)

Sola Fide (Faith alone)

Soli Deo Gloria (To God’s glory alone)

These are the actual 5 tenets of reformed theology. Instead, what we think of as the 5 points of Calvinism sprung from a series of views of different people within the reformation.

arminius Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was    student of a student of Calvin.

His followers wrote the Five Articles of  Remonstrance in response to the  theology of Calvin:


  1.  God has decreed to save through  Jesus Christ those of the fallen  and sinful race who through the  grace of the Holy Spirit believe in him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving.
  2. Christ died for all men (not just for the elect), but no one except the believer has remission of sin.
  3. Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
  4. All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but his grace is not irresistible.
  5. Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith. But it is possible for a believer to fall from grace.

In 1618, followers of Calvin’s original teachings at created the Canons of Dort refuting these 5 articles. These have been (often to the chagrin of Calvinists) simplified to these 5 points (these are the passages that a Calvinist put with the tenets). These are often referred to as “TULIP” because of the first letter of each item. I will offer a super-simplified explanation of each one here:

Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. john-calvinSometimes, , though not always, when Calvinists speak of humans as “totally depraved,” they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality — his thinking, his emotions, and his will.

Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called “Total Inability.” The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God’s making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).

Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would “accept” the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).

This doctrine does not rule out, however, man’s responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God’s sovereignty in salvation, and man’s responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true — to deny man’s responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-Calvinism; to deny God’s sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.

The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God’s saving grace. This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his “calling” and “election” sure (2 Peter 1:10). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil.

Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28).

Matt 26:27-28

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. NASU

Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25).

This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ’s death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus’ death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ’s act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!

Irresistible Grace

The result of God’s Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

Next time, as requested, I will offer up my own personal thoughts on each one of them.  But, please d
on’t blame anyone else for my folly.

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The uncommon life

Popular historian and self proclaimed former Christian-turned-atheist, Dr. Bart Ehrman, in his debate with Dr. William Craig, clarified that a historian’s job is not to tell “what” happened, but what was “most likely” to have happened.

He goes on to explain why that makes it impossible for him to hold to the idea of a historical miracle.

If the historian is looking for what is most likely to have happened, then he could never accept a historical miracle since miracles are never the most likely thing to have happened… “by definition.”

I can totally see his point. Though not anywhere near as well trained in history as he is, I am very well trained and even more experienced in human lives.

In this, I have come to accept an oxymoron… and apparent (though not literal) paradox.

Everyone has an uncommon life.

Everyone’s lives are extraordinary.

Everyone’s lives are filled with coincidences that strain even the most credulous person’s sensibilities.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that maybe the most unifying factor in people’s lives is that we all have experiences… often defining experiences… that are extraordinarily unlikely.

In my experience most people who can stomach the concept of a miracle believe that they have experienced them.

It seems that everyone has experienced million-to-one odds… and been the one… in multiple experiences!

THE UNCOMMON LIFE This level of “oddity” is so “common” that it inspired Tom Clancy once said that “the difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

Mark Twain is given credit for “…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

So, at FBC Tyler, we are about to embark on a few weeks of looking at some of the “extraordinary” lives in the Bible… the likes of Paul, Jesus, Mary, Zacchaeus, David, and others… and at the same realizing that their lives are extraordinary…

Just like yours…  Just like ours.

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Is Barack Obama a Christian?

Much has been made in the last few days as to whether Barack Obama is a Christian.

As seems to almost always be the case, the media assumes (maybe rightly) that we have way too short an attention span to look at questions like these with any depth or intelligence.

I will risk it… though even this is a radical oversimplification.

The reason this debate is ongoing is essentially the same as the debate as to why Obama has said regularly that ISIS and other Muslim groups are NOT Muslims.

Here is the distinction that I think he is making is that he seems to distinguish between: people who have a real “faith”, as he understands it, and “radicals” – meaning people who think of god as a “God” (meaning the driving and ultimate purpose of their lives).

This is why he makes the distinction between Muslims and “radicals” or “extremists.”

Here is one of the great challenges for Evangelicals is that we seem to think that what we mean when we say “Christian” is the same thing as what other people mean.

Just last week, in Womenary (www.Womenary.com), in our study of Ecclesiology (the Study of the Church), we talked about this very topic.

In addition to conservative and other more traditional understandings of Christianity, there are a few other major segments of those who call themselves “Christian.”

One of the is under the heading of “Liberal” theology.

Before you connect that to the political stance of liberalism, remember that the “ “traditional” understanding of “liberal” is to move away from the “traditional” view or the status quo and toward something new-er. In politics, that is not really true anymore, but in theology, it still is.

For our conversation, we will look at the one that matters most here:

Liberation Theology.

The basic teaching of liberation theology is that the Christian life is defined by praxis (practice) over “Doxy”(praise).

ccIn this movement, what unites Christians is not our common belief in Christ, or our common confession or even our common creeds, but our common practice in trying to create social justice. In fact, this theological view is often referred to as a “Social Justice” movement.

Between their interpretations of the writings of the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets, and some of the teachings of Christ about the poor, this movement believes that the key tenets of Christianity are not about a personal relationship with a savior but about a movement that holds that social unrest is needed to make needed changes in societies and among peoples who have been mistreated under colonialism, slavery, and oppression. (How is that for a sentence, by the way?)

In the United States, a common version of this is what is called “Black Liberation Theology.” It has the same tenets, but while the movement originated in South and Central America, in the US, it is primarily about the social injustice African Americans have faced in the United States. There is also the “Feminist Liberation Theology” movement.

It seems evident to me that in this movement, social justice is not a result of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.   I hope that is a way of saying it that those within the movement would be able to approve of and hopefully, embrace.

Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ, where Barack Obama learned the version of Christianity that he claims, is a part of this movement.

Of course Barack Obama is a Christian, as he defines it.

What creates confusion is that many do not define it in a similar way.

Back to ISIS (and other terrorist groups), of course they are Muslim… in the way that they define Islam.

Others, like the President, would say that what they believe is not real Islam – though even conservative numbers would indicate approximately 19% of Muslims worldwide are “radicalized” and, it seems, would also not be “Muslim” by the President’s definition… but this is a side point I am making and I should get to it.


Some in the Christian world have labeled “Liberation Theology” as too different in its tenets to be considered Christian.

Richard Niebuhr (PhD Yale. Leading Christian theological ethicist) once described this theological stance as the view that “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the administrations of Christ without a cross.” The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959).

Obviously, Barack Obama and most within that movement might disagree.  I would assume they would prefer to distance themselves from what I would define as Christianity as well.

For all Christians, clearly, the work of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth involves the amazing work around the world of Christians taking care of “The least of these” (Matt 25), the good works cannot replace the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And these works do happen. Anywhere in the world, where people are hurting or in need, there are those ministering to them, often at great personal risk, in the Name of Jesus Christ.

However, Jesus did not die just to make us better people, or merely to live as an example, or to rescue us only from the sins of others against us, but to save us from the consequences of our own sin – righteous judgment and death… and that Jesus Christ is the only sure path of salvation.

I suspect that within a few years, this theological stance will also be seen as “radical” or “extreme” because of its exclusory nature.

Sorry, this has already gone longer than I intended.

I personally believe that what is common about Christianity is our confession and faith in the work of Jesus Christ… aka, the gospel. I do believe that typically, any removal of this as the central tenet of Christianity ceases to be Christianity as its founder, Jesus Christ, intended.

I could never and would never make a judgment on the personal relationship that any other individual has with Jesus Christ. I think it is clearly not my job to separate wheat and tares (Matt 13). I am comfortable saying that I believe that many of his actions and stated beliefs are at odds with Christian belief as I understand it.

As a pure opinion, I suspect that, as many in the Social Justice movement seem to, he most accurately would be obama-12-4-08-2described as a postmodern humanist who, to the degree he worships anything, worships hope and change as concepts… and maybe even as the gospel itself. However, even that is based on a view of him so greatly filtered through media that I am honestly hesitant.

What I do know is that I pray for him regularly, as all Christians, I believe, would be right to do. (I Timothy 2:1) May God guide and lead him. May God bless our country and our country learn to bless God.

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what does this mean?

The Five Loves


How wise of you to be researching love.

Few things in life are more important than true love (“except maybe for a nice MLT: mutton lettuce and tomato sandwich…”)…

I am no Greek scholar, but I am passing on what I have been taught and what I understand about these words and concepts.  I also wanted to make sure that this discussion allows you to get some insight into how to apply this understanding to your life.

So when someone says “I love you,” you can try to figure out what they mean!

Especially what it means that GOD loves you… and God does love you, by the way.

Language can tell you a great deal about a culture and that culture’s priorities – the Inuit (Eskimos) are said to have nearly thirty words for “ice” which describe various colors, textures, and uses, among other things (I don’t know if this is true or not, by the way).

Any group of adults in the U.S. can probably come up with that many words for money. However, we tend to use the same word to describe many different aspects of another concept: love.  We love our mothers, pizza, baseball, spouses and children, all the time using the same word to describe these relationships!  The one word:  love, cannot be meant the same way in all these situations.  To avoid confusion, let’s look at some Greek words that distinguished between some of the very different situations.

1.  Mania – Manic love is almost not a love at all.  The word “lust” is probably not strong enough – “obsession” is closer to the word.  This is the love of possession.  I “mania” that which I obsessively desire to own.

It is generally seen as taking over the “lover” like insanity – thus the connection to modern concepts of madness (kleptomania, pyromania).  It is like the opposite of a phobia (an obsessive need to avoid something). “Mania” is translated as “madness” and “beside yourself” in Acts 2.

2.  Eros – Eros is obviously the root word for “erotic,” but it does not describe sexual love only, it actually describes all emotional love; the feeling of love.  Eros love is that insatiable desire to be near the target of this love – the exciting, passionate, nervous feelings that sweep over people in the appropriate circumstances.

This is the love that says “I love how you make me feel.”  As an emotion, Eros changes, sometimes suddenly.  Remember that it is entirely based on circumstances, the interoperation of circumstances, and on the target of its emotion.  As an emotion, alone, it is morally neutral, however, it can just as easily lead to lust (sinful desire) as it can passion or romance.

It is also a good picture to think of Eros as the fruit and flowers of a new relationship.  Eros is not a bad thing, but it is also not a “good” thing. The word Eros does not appear in the Bible.  I have some more thoughts on the way “eros” thinking affects our interaction with sex and intimacy at eros and sexuality.

3.  Philos – Philos love, or brotherly/friendship love, is the next kind we will look at.  Philos describes the love between two people who have common interests and experiences, or a fondness for.

Hemophiliacs apparently seemed to ancient doctors to have a “fondness” to bleeding, for example.  Unlike Eros, which pulses up and down like waves on the ocean, Philos steadily grows, like a building being constructed stone by stone.  For this reason, when close friends are separated for a while and reunited, they will often say “it is like we picked up exactly where we left off.”

Philos is half about the circumstances, and half about the commitment of two people to one another; it says “I love who we are together,” or in case of a non person:  “I am fond of this food.”  Philos love generally grows over time except in the case of some kind of betrayal.  It is commonly used in the New Testament, as in Matt. 10:37, John 12:25, and Revelation 3:19.

4.  Storgy (or “storge“)– We will not spend much time here; storgy is the love one has for a dependent.  It is commonly called “motherly love.”  It is entirely based on the relationship between the “lover” and the “lovee.”

When the dependent is no longer dependent, this love remains only in its emotional remnants.  It is one of the stronger loves, because it involves a commitment that relies on only one trait of the receiver – that he or she is dependent.   This type of love is toxic to a marriage under normal circumstances.

Marriages that look more like a mother/son or father/daughter relationship is moving quickly downhill.

5.  Agapeo – Agape love is the final of the five loves we look at here.  Agape love is entirely about the lover and their virtue, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the one loved.

Agape love, in its purest form, requires no payment or favor in response.

The most common word for God’s love for us is Agape (I John, John 3:16) and the love we are commanded to have for one another (Matt. 5:44, I Cor. 13).  This lack of input from the recipient makes it possible for us to love our enemies even though we may not like them or the situation they have put us in – because Agape love is not in any way dependent on circumstances; it says “I love you because I choose/commit to.”

Unlike eros or philos, Agape creates a straight line that neither fades or grows (!) in its perfect form (which of course only exists from God outward)  Oddly enough, even though many people marry out of eros love alone, they make vows that speak of commitment despite any circumstance:  richer/poorer, better/worse, sickness/health.  This kind of love is about a commitment to the very best for another, no matter what emotions or feelings exist!

You can see why in the King James Version of the Bible, Agape was usually translated as “charity.”  It is a love freely given, and freely committed to.  For a more in depth look at its aspects, look at I Corinthians chapter 13.



I think in America, especially among Christian young people, when a couple talks about “loving” one another they may not really be talking about any of these!  It is an interesting phenomenon that Christian couples in particular are hesitant to say “I love you” in a relationship – even after months of dating.

Which love are they slow to express?

Eros? of course they feel it off and on;

Philos? If they have dated months they surely are loyal friends;

Agapeo? Since Christ calls us to Agape our enemies, surely a dating couple “desires God’s best” for one another.

I think the question is actually more “devotion” and less “love.”  What they are hesitating to say is “I devote my foreseeable future to you,” maybe even “I am not ready to separate you too far from the crowd in my Agape for you.”  Taking into account the admonition to “guard” our hearts in scripture, I think waiting to commit to this devotion is probably wise, but we may have unwittingly created yet another meaning! I also regularly hear from a spouse who is no longer “in love” with or has ceased to “love” their spouse.

What do they mean, exactly?  It is hard to tell.  It seems like most of the time they mean that they are not feeling eros love at the moment.

A great analogy is to think of these loves as similar to a garden (see the short article on marriage)… Agapeo is like the soil.  It can be tended, replaced, and remember, “tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.” – (A. Tennyson “In Memorium”).

For a fantastic and more in-depth discussion of this concept, please let me recommend  The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.

For more good news about God’s love for us, check also a very short and simple way of understanding the good news of Jesus

Chris Legg

If you like to read more about theological questions, there are quite a few articles on this website. Look in the “Theological Questions” section for much more about baptism , whether God allows us to face more than we can bear, and creationism … and more.

or therapy articles like: how much time should spouses send together?, a conversation on anxiety … and more.

Historical and opinion pieces like: religion halloween and I also answer questions of advice that get posed to me… like about marijuana and even tattoos There is also a search option over to your right to look for all kinds of stuff.


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A Progressive Creation theory:

Many in the Christian world view are unaware that it does not have to be in opposition to scientific discovery.

Here is an example of a “progressive creationistic” theory that uses the scriptural account as a foundation. I don’t blame anyone else for this theory – it is entirely mine. I enjoy thinking about this things – and honestly even musing over it…

I used to spend more time delving into the debate with my best friend, but since he died, I am less passionate about trying to uncover the right answer and now more enjoy just considering these questions of biblical insight and scientific thought. Since very often, this conversation leads to creation questions, I enjoy speculating on that topic.

And it is speculation… I am not trying to create doctrine or even a defense (though I would love feedback and criticism). I just enjoy the conversation. If you find it offensive, feel free to dismiss it and move on to some other article that won’t raise blood pressure.

I came up with it when I was more interested in answering this specific question was an attempt to use the findings of biologists and geologists to explain some of the questions left open in scripture – so let me pose these are questions to you:

  1. Could the origin in the dust (or “soil,” or “earth” Gen 2:7) to man been a lengthy (m/ billions of years) process? If so, could this not reflect the secular thought of the “primordial soup” from which sprang the first single celled organisms? God seems to like recapitulating His ways – maybe He started the first person with a single cell and started it on His loving cultivation path toward humanity.
  1. Could Adam have been the first physical Homo Erectus, Sapiens, whatever, in the sense that he was the first with an eternal “Spirit.” In the Hebrew phrase (Gen 2:7) “breathed the breath of life,” two different words are used for breath. The first one means “blow or puff;” the second is:

neshamah (nesh-aw-maw’)a puff, i.e. wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect. or (concretely) an animal:

KJV – blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

Could it be that the breath of life that God breathed into Him made him human, rather than being the first thing to look human? (aka was the final step to true humanity internal rather than external or spiritual rather than physical?)

The idea would be that God crafted humans starting with the dirt of creating man and then spent millennia moving this life through the stages of development through a process like evolution… which would explain the stages of development of the human fetus as well as the stages of creation in Genesis 1.

The idea of “after their own kind” would represent the genetic changes that God was working into their generations.

The world would have been populated with many different animals and creatures… and over the time, many would have gone extinct, evolved into other species, etc.

I am of the opinion that the “death” described in Genesis 1-3 and Romans 5 is the spiritual death of Eph 2. It is not physical death that was ushered in for the first time at the fall of man (after all, neither Adam nor Eve died immediately) but a spiritual death. It was not the first breath (see above) that stopped for the first time, but the second.

Thus, at the time of Adam, the world would have been populated by many different creatures that looked earlymanrelatively human. Perhaps Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, or Cro-Magnon… maybe something like “Omo1” type creatures would have been around.

If this were the case, it would answer the question of Cain’s concern: Cain could have feared all of these other “people” (animal/humans – “humans” without the breathe of divinity in them) who could kill him without God’s divine protection. Basically, before Adam, humans were morally no different from animals (is the theory).

This could also answer where Cain’s and Seth’s wives came from, as well as explain why God passed all of the animal by Adam for him to name, but through the naming process, Adam discovered “there was no suitable helpmeet for Adam.” In other words, all the animals did not mean just dogs and lions, but things that looked quite a bit like a person as well. It was not the physical differences that made them “unsuitable,” it was also the spiritual intimacy.

In time, or perhaps after the flood incident, animal/humans would have died out or been competed out by these humans with self-knowledge and a two-way relationship with God, as well as the cultivation He had taught Adam?

I see no scriptural problem with man evolving from single celled organisms – we each were single celled organisms at one point – perhaps the process of growth in the womb is a picture of the original plan? (phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny).issue636

There is an inappropriate emotional response by many Christians to the word “evolution.” This is as inappropriate as the initial response by us to the concept of “The Big Bang.” As mentioned before, both are merely an effort by scientists to describe a process. There should be no moral implications connected (granted there often are, as many “scientists” now treat these processes as a form of religion).

However, we should not be offended by the idea of God making use of a process, like evolution, to create and change His creation any more than of Him using the water cycle to create rain, gravitational pull to create a day, the light spectrum to create a rainbow, or even the process of statistics to guide the rolling of dice! Understanding a process does not steal away anything Divine, but only the superstitious version of religion. These in depth and complicated processes should do nothing more than prove a designer! The more complex a process, the better the proof!

In fact, to dismiss a designer for no better reason than understanding the process makes little logical sense… if I understand the process for how an airplane is built, does that dismiss Boeing from existence? To me, this has seemed similar to finding a murder scene and deciding the more I learn about the murder process, the more I become convinced that there was no murderer. I think investigation should move us in the opposite direction.

I do have a problem with the secular view that man is essentially no different that animals, and the view that evolution is random – precisely because of what I wrote above, and just from the statistical issues involved. This seems unlikely from a statistical view and from a final outcome view.

But, could their be a designer involved?

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