Free Will or Destiny

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

James 4:13-15 NASB

Modern Christianity, for the most part, has accepted the notion that God maintains a laissez-faire policy towards His creation. Those of us who have been raised in the U.S. were taught from young that we can have it our way; and that we can be whatever we want to be. In our churches we are taught that God wants to be in charge of our lives, but only if we, first, allow Him to take charge. This attitude paints a picture of a God on the sidelines, only interceding in our lives when called upon to either provide us with our wants and desires or to rescue us from our problems.

I’m sure you’ve also heard many sermons and teachings about being in the “center of God’s will.” I wasn’t aware that God’s will had a center. God’s will is God’s will. These same church leaders will also try to tell you that you can miss God’s will for your life. That being true, then it places man’s will above God’s. However, if God truly does have a will for your life then you do, in fact, have a destiny. As it is, free will adherents place themselves in the position of trying to contradict God’s will by believing they can alter their destiny by the choices they make.

How do you ascertain what God’s will is for your life? The free will advocates will tell you that you need to ask God to show you His will and then wait for His answer. There are several problems with this approach. The two most obvious are how long should you wait and how do you know that you’ve been given an answer. The Bible gives all the information you need in order for you to know how to live your life but it doesn’t tell you what day-to-day decisions you should make. For example, it won’t tell you which career you should choose, where you should live, where you should work, or where you should go on vacation, etc.

Even so, the Bible clearly teaches that God knows the thoughts and intents of each man’s heart. (Gen. 6:5) (Deut. 31:21) (1 Chron. 28:9) (Dan. 11:27) Since man is able to make decisions, does it necessarily have to follow that he also has free will? And, if each person has free will, then how can it be that God is able to declare prophecies concerning specific individuals, cities, and nations hundreds of years in advance in many cases? Not only that, almost the entire book of Revelation in the Bible is full of end time prophecies. God doesn’t know the future, He creates the future.

Every person is born with God given talents and abilities. Anyone with the financial resources and high enough GPA can study at Julliard and aspire to be an opera singer but that won’t make them a Pavarotti. Likewise, anyone can take a few guitar lessons from the School of Rock and learn some chords but that won’t make them a Hendrix. The point is that people may make choices based on their wants and desires, but the outcomes are decided by their God given abilities. These abilities are given to each person in varying degrees along with unique personality traits thereby creating the diversity and apparent randomness that we observe every day in the world. Everyone making choices based on their abilities, wants and desires, yet all within the framework of God’s design.

If God has a will for everyone’s life, then He must also has a plan for everyone’s life. And if He has a plan for everyone’s life, then He also has a purpose for everyone’s life. God’s plan is for everyone to use the talents and abilities they were given in order to fulfill His ordained purpose. For some, His will is revealed early in life and for others, later in life. However, for most of us, His will is revealed progressively over time.

Movie Analysis: Drag Me To Hell

Film Credits

Raimi, Sam, Ivan Raimi. Drag Me To Hell. Unrated Director’s Cut, DVD. Directed by: Sam Raimi. Universal City: Universal, 2009.

Cast Overview

Alison Lohman as Christine Brown

Justin Long as Clay Dalton

Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush

Dileep Rao as Rham Jas

David Paymer as Mr. Jacks

Adriana Barraza as Shaun San Dena

Reggie Lee as Stu Rubin

Bojana Novakovic as Ilenka Ganush

Spoiler Warning

Caution! Many aspects of the plot are divulged in this writing which could ruin the experience for first time viewers.

Plot Summary

The story centers on Christine Brown, a young and up-and-coming bank loan officer who through unforeseen circumstances becomes the victim of a powerful demonic curse.


Christine Brown is a young woman who is trying to do everything right. Despite her humble background, she has worked her way into a good job as a loan officer at Wilshire Pacific Bank—a far cry from the farm where she was raised. She is very into self-improvement, so in order to overcome the country twang in her speech, she listens to self-help tapes and practices in her car on the way to work. After all, there’s no room for country bumpkins in sophisticated LA. She has flashbacks in her mind to the time when she struggled with her weight all through childhood, so she bypasses the pastry shop for breakfast on the way to the bank. She maintains her self-discipline; she has no desire to go back to the fat girl she once was. Above all, she constantly needs to suppress her feelings of inadequacy.

You could say that Christine is just a normal person trying to survive in the world. But it’s not easy to achieve success when you’ve been marginalized and ignored for most of your life, particularly your adolescent years. But Christine is trying hard to put all that behind her. She now has decent looks and a promising career. Not only that, she is involved in a serious relationship with her boyfriend Clay.

The day starts out like any other day. After helping a young couple with their loan request, she glances at the vacant assistant manager’s cube. Christine has been anxiously awaiting the bank’s decision on who will be awarded the position. She approaches her boss Mr. Jacks and asks if a decision has been made on the assistant manager’s position. Her boss tells her that both she and a co-worker, the new guy Stu, are being considered for the position. Mr. Jacks tells Christine that Stu is aggressive and is able to make the “tough decisions.” That last comment from her boss immediately puts Christine on the defensive. She anxiously rises to her defense by saying, “I’m perfectly capable of making the tough decisions.” But Mr. Jacks ends the conversation by suggesting that she take lunch and asks her to bring him back a turkey club. Stu chimes in and asks her to bring him one also. While probably not intentional, her boss succeeds in humiliating her. Stu, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to see Christine’s self-esteem take a nose dive, after all she is competing with him for the assistant manager’s job. By this time, Christine is disheartened and disappointed that her boss seems to be favoring Stu and not her for the promotion. But for now, she looks forward to having lunch with her professor boyfriend Clay.

At this point in her life what Christine needs is to be accepted and Clay not only accepts her, he admires and respects her. Christine’s spirits really get an uplift while having lunch with Clay. To celebrate Clay becoming a professor, Christine gives Clay a rare coin she found at the bank. Clay collects coins so he immediately puts the coin in an envelope and seals it for safe keeping. She then follows up her gift by impressing Clay again by fixing his printer problem by removing a paper clip from the mechanism. Clay complements her by saying that she is cocky, sexy, and unbelievable. Not bad for an ex-farm girl. Now Christine is really feeling good about herself. Unfortunately, not everyone shares Clay’s feelings. The phone rings while Christine is making her way out of Clay’s office and it turns out to be Clay’s mother. Clay puts the phone on speaker. Clay’s mother sharply asks what he is doing and he responds by saying that Christine stopped by and brought over some lunch. Clay’s mother responds with “Oh, the one from the farm.” Clay’s parents, particularly his mother, don’t approve of Christine. Christine overhears the conversation while she pauses to take a drink from the water fountain. Instead of returning to work on an up note, she feels worse than before. Sad and dejected, Christine returns to her office at Wilshire Pacific Bank.

You can never really change who you are inside. No matter what you try to do, you will always be that person you hate. Christine was once the fat farm girl, now she is a thin attractive woman. But somehow she is always reminded of her past. The past she would like to forget. The past she has worked so hard to put behind her.

As it is with many of us, Christine seems to have a lot of things going for her. Even though she can’t control what others may think of her, she would like to think that she is, for the most part, in control of her own life. Little does she realize that she is about to be proven very wrong.

After Christine returns to the bank from her lunch with Clay, she is distracted when she hears Stu offering Mr. Jacks tickets to a Lakers game—Mr. Jacks happens to be a big Lakers fan. She now feels like she doesn’t have a chance at that promotion. However, she is brought back to reality by the impatient tapping of finger nails on her desk, specifically, Mrs. Ganush’s ugly, split and yellowing finger nails. Mrs. Ganush happens to have her mortgage with Wilshire Pacific Bank and is in default. Mrs. Ganush has come to the bank to request an extension on her loan since she has been given notice that the bank intends to repossess her home. At first, Christine seems to empathize with Mrs. Ganush’s circumstances and offers to try and help resolve Mrs. Ganush’s predicament. Christine takes Mrs. Ganush’s paperwork into Mr. Jacks’ office and asks if the bank would extend Mrs. Ganush more credit. Mr. Jacks reminds Christine that the bank has already given Mrs. Ganush two extensions on her loan already and says that the bank stands to make a lot of money in fees from the foreclosure. Mr. Jacks leaves the decision to Christine, “Your call.” As Christine walks out of her boss’ office, she looks over at the empty assistance manager’s cubicle, and then looks over at Stu and remembers all those years of struggling to raise herself up from the farm. Christine turns to Mr. Jacks and says, “I’ll take care of it.” Christine returns to her desk and informs Mrs. Ganush that the bank will not extend her additional credit. Mrs. Ganush then begs Christine to reconsider. Christine refuses causing Mrs. Ganush to make an awful scene. Finally, security removes Mrs. Ganush from the bank. Mr. Jacks endorses Christine’s actions by saying, “You handled that just right you know.” Later, while the bank is getting ready to close, Mr. Jacks approaches Christine and tells her how impressed he is with her work and that she is at the top of the list for the assistant manager’s position. Christine is elated, convinced that she made the right call.

Christine’s life has been a series of ups and downs, of mountain tops and valleys. She’s weary of living in the valleys; she longs for a mountain top experience. Her current circumstances and the memories of all her past experiences and disappointments have come together like a perfect storm so that the only decision she could make was the one she did make. Was it chance that caused all these events to perfectly converge like the alignment of the planets? Or, was Christine simply unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Was her decision an act of free will or was it her fate? If fate, then a curse is fate’s nearest relative.

What happens in the parking garage after Christine leaves the bank for the evening is an over-the-top confrontation between Christine and Mrs. Ganush—one of the most intense I’ve ever seen. It turns out that Mrs. Ganush is not the weak, sickly old lady she appears to be, but a vicious, evil woman who seems to possess inhuman strength. Mrs. Ganush is not about to let Christine get off easily. She pulls a button off Christine’s coat and proceeds to recite an incantation over the button. The spell is sealed when she gives the button back to Christine by placing it in her hand and closing her fingers around it.

Later that evening with Clay, Christine expresses second thoughts about her decision to deny Mrs. Ganush’s loan extension request. Clay tries to convince her that she made the right decision, but Christine still feels that something is wrong. So, while passing a spiritual advisor’s storefront, Christine decides to have her fortune told. Clay tries to discourage her, but Christine is dead serious about having it done. After entering the establishment, Christine is greeting by Rham Jas, the seer, and she asks if she could have her fortune read. During the reading, Rham tells Christine that something has been taken from her. Christine responds that it was a button from her coat. Then, while gazing into Christine’s face, Rham sees a terrifying apparition and is immediately taken aback and tries to end the session. Christine insists that he tell her what he saw. Rham says, “A dark spirit has come upon you.” Rham follows up by questioning Christine as to whether she had any involvement with the occult. Christine responds that she hasn’t. Rham then says, “Perhaps someone has cursed you.” Clay drives Christine home and sees her to her door. Christine assures him that she will be okay; but she will not be okay, not at all.

Christine wasn’t exactly accurate when she said a button was taken from her. Mrs. Ganush only borrowed the button long enough to pronounce a curse upon the owner of it. What was really taken from her was something much more; what was taken was her hopes and dreams. A curse is personal in that it torments the victim by exposing their deepest fears and by exploiting their weaknesses. What a curse imparts to the one cursed is torment, humiliation, disappointment, and regret. For Christine, her curse will only last three days, but for others it could be lifetime.

The dark spirit torments Christine day and night. She hears strange noises and sees disturbing images her first night alone at home. Sleep provides no relief—she has horrible nightmares.

While at work the next day, she suddenly develops a nose bleed. There’s something humiliating about bleeding in public—more than mere embarrassment.

Now convinced of the curse upon her, she visits Mrs. Ganush’s home with the intention of promising her she will reverse the loan decision. Christine is met at the door by Ilenka Ganush who isn’t at all happy to see her. Christine says that she tried to help Mrs. Ganush and that she wants to make things right. Ilenka accuses Christine of lying and then mocks her by telling her that she must have been a real fat girl. Anyway, Christine is too late; Mrs. Ganush has died.

Christine’s dinner engagement with Clay and his parents doesn’t go well either. While eating dinner, Christine again sees visions and hears strange noises causing her to have a violent outburst. She decides to leave and Clay’s mother tries to convince Clay to just let her go.

Clay however, has no intention of letting Christine go. He remains steadfast through all her trials and tribulations even though he is skeptical of fortune telling, curses, mediums, and the like. You could say that Clay is the real hero in the movie.

Christine, now becoming more desperate, agrees to follow Ram’s suggestion to try to communicate with the dark spirit through a séance. Ram makes the arrangements with spiritualist Shaun San Dena, who is probably also a Santera. Shaun San Dena unsuccessfully tried to help another person afflicted by the dark spirit many years before. The séance doesn’t go well; the evil spirit is powerful and isn’t deterred by Shaun San Dena’s rituals and as a result, she dies in her attempt to undo the curse.

While Christine and Ram are leaving Shaun San Dena’s residence, Ram informs Christine that the curse was not lifted and that in order to avoid the inevitable consequences, Christine must gift the button to another person. Christine gives Ram the accursed button and Ram puts it in an envelope, seals it and returns it to Christine.

While driving home that night in Clay’s car, Christine screams aloud after seeing another vision of Mrs. Ganush causing Clay to hit the brakes. Christine’s envelope and all of Clay’s papers get scattered all over the front of the car. As they are parked in front of Christine’s home, she scrambles to find her envelope before getting out of the car. She is relieved when she locates it and reassures Clay that she is alright. Christine insists that they both meet at the train station the next morning for a trip they had planned earlier.

At a diner later that evening, Christine looks around at the various patrons trying to decide who she should give the button to. She then decides to give it to Stu, but after he shows up at the diner and begs her not to expose his theft of the McPherson loan file to Mr. Jacks, she feels compassion on him and tells him to leave.

After consulting again with Ram, Christine decides to make a gift of the button to the deceased Mrs. Ganush. What follows is an outrageous attempt by Christine to dig up Mrs. Ganush’s grave and give the button to her as a gift. Finally, after a long night at the graveyard, Christine succeeds in gifting her envelope to Mrs. Ganush’s corpse.

That morning while Christine is cleaning up and getting ready to meet Clay at the train station, she gets a message on her answering machine from Mr. Jacks informing her that he discovered Stu’s theft of the McPherson file and that Stu made a full confession after Mr. Jacks exposed holes in his story. Mr. Jacks congratulates Christine on being awarded the assistant manager’s position.

It’s a bright and sunny morning and Christine is now feeling on top of the world. She has defeated the curse that was put upon her and has finally achieved the promotion she so desperately wanted. She is now on her way to meet her boyfriend for a weekend getaway. On her way to the platform, she stops to buy a new coat. Her buying the new coat is symbolic of her putting off the old life and putting on the new. Christine believes she has succeeded in working out her own salvation. She is now a new person; she even confesses to Clay that she made the wrong decision in denying Mrs. Ganush’s loan extension. True repentance?

But fate and circumstances have a way of derailing our best laid plans. On this day Clay planned to give Christine an engagement ring, but instead he gave her an envelope… Drag Me To Hell.

The Fall: God’s Response

We’re continuing our study on the fall of man with God’s response to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Since Adam was our federal head or representative, God first asked him to explain why he hid himself and how he knew that he was naked. (Gen. 3:11 NASB) Adam answered by making a subtle accusation towards God by saying: “‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’“ (Gen. 3:12) In the same sentence Adam implicating both God and Eve in the conspiracy.  God then inquired of Eve and she implicated the serpent. The serpent however, didn’t get a chance to defend himself.

If you read the account in Genesis you will notice that God doesn’t debate the offenders’ answers; God already knew the facts. Furthermore, God didn’t offer up any explanation or defense as to why he created Eve. Apparently, God wasn’t angered by Adam’s accusation that he wouldn’t have eaten if it weren’t for the fact that God gave him Eve as a companion. Could it be that all these events were part of God’s plan from the beginning?

Nevertheless, God pronounced a series of judgments as well as curses beginning with the serpent. First, God cursed the serpent by taking away his ability to stand upright. (Gen. 3:14) He then caused a rift to exist between the serpent and his descendants and Eve and her descendants. (Gen. 3:15) As a result— even to this day—people have an inherent loathing of snakes, even the non-poisonous ones. Of course the scientific community would like us to believe that our deep-seated aversion to snakes is a result of evolution;1 but who am I to argue?

I believe the best way to interpret Genesis 3:15 is literally. That is, God was describing the consequences of His newly instituted hostile relationship between serpents and humans.  Interpreted literally, you might say that men will kill snakes by crushing their heads and snakes will attack humans by striking at their lower extremities. This would follow logically because of the serpent’s cursed physical characteristic of having to travel around on his belly. And to further support this argument, isn’t it true that most human snake bites occur below the knee2 and the only reliable way to kill a snake is to crush or cut off its head?3

I’ve heard many pastors preach sermons where Romans 16:20 is used to defend Genesis 3:15 as being the first prophecy in the Bible concerning Jesus. Taking this approach, Genesis 3:15 is interpreted allegorically where the serpent is a metaphor for Satan and the man is a metaphor for Jesus. I would go so far as to say that all persons of Godhead as well as Satan witnessed the events in the garden. I would even concede that it is also possible that God was speaking indirectly to Satan through the serpent. However, I don’t think that’s the case; I think it’s more likely that Romans 16:20 actually alludes back to Genesis 3:15 where Satan will be dealt a similar punishment, but in a figurative sense. At the time Romans was written this reference back to Genesis most likely would have been readily understood by the Christian community since many other Scripture verses correlate the serpent’s behavior patterns to Satan’s activities such as: Genesis 49:17, Numbers 21:8-9, Psalm 91:13, Psalm 140:3, Proverbs 23:32, and others.

Eve’s punishment described in Genesis 3:16 is probably one of the most contested and debated in all the Bible. No one debates that fact women endure severe pain during childbirth, but many women do debate their position of having to obey or subject themselves to their husbands. Likewise, you won’t hear many sermons preached from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 either, unless the pastor wants to thin out his congregation.

Eve’s punishment concerned her relationship to Adam and the family; but Adam’s punishment was directed at his occupation or work. Interesting that the established order of things was the result of a curse, not a blessing. Whether we like it or not, God ordained the woman for the home and the man for hard labor or work. Although women’s primary purpose, in God’s economy, is the home, He does allow for women to engage in entrepreneurship, teaching and charitable work. (Prov. 3:10-31) I have no doubt that my last statement will be argued and debated until the Second Coming. But if we are honest with ourselves we will soon realize that it is true. For example, in the period 2007-2008 76% of the public school teachers and 74% of private school teachers were women.4 In addition, other studies find that some women view charitable giving as a vocation.5 And according to a Forbes article, many successful women entrepreneurs started their businesses out of their own homes.6

God’s final judgment concerning Adam was physical death as declared in Genesis 3:19:

By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.

Obviously, retirement wasn’t in the cards for men since Genesis 3:19 carries with it the notion of working until death. This is not a popular teaching since most men look forward to their retirement. As a matter of fact, retirement may not be as desirable as many believe since studies have shown that early retirement doesn’t necessarily translate into a longer life expectancy.7

The story of the fall of man is full of what ifs. What if Eve hadn’t listen to the serpent? What if Adam hadn’t listened to Eve? What if Adam or Eve ate from the tree of life? If Adam hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit then there would be no need for a savior; Jesus wouldn’t need to have become a man and die on the cross; there would be no need for the Bible; this blog wouldn’t exist. If Adam ate from the tree of life first, then what would have happened if he later ate from the forbidden tree? Would God have allowed this to happen? If Adam hadn’t eaten when he did, how long would God have allowed the prohibition to continue? Indefinitely? If Adam passed the test, then we would be singing the praises of Adam and not Jesus. God definitely had a plan when He placed Adam in the garden. Everything was leading up to Jesus from the beginning.

The Bible tells us that Adam was 130 years old when his son Seth was born (Gen. 5:3) and that Adam lived a total of 930 years. (Gen. 5:5) So, Adam didn’t die on the day he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was the serpent really telling the truth? Not entirely, because on the day that Adam ate the forbidden fruit the spiritual man died and the natural man was born.

  1. “Why We Fear Snakes,” Clara Moskowitz,, March 03, 2008,

  2. “How To Prevent Snake Bites? Wear Snake Boots.” Keith McCafferty, Field & Stream, uploaded March 02, 2010,

  3. “What is the Best Way To Kill A Snake,” 24/7 Wildlife, accessed December 24, 2013,

  4. “Fast Facts: Teacher trends,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 28, 2013,

  5. “Charity Gender Study: Older Women Donate 89 Percent More Than Men,” Jessica Prois, Huffington Post, updated August 24, 2012,

  6. “The World’s Most Powerful Female Entrepreneurs, 2013,” Meghan Casserly, Forbes, May 22, 2013,

  7. “Early Retirement, Early Death?” Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD, October 20, 2005,

The Fall: Adam’s Folly

Our story of the fall of man left off with Eve eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve believed the serpent’s deceptive arguments on why she should eat in spite of the clear, unambiguous command from God against it. She argued that the tree was good for food, it was visually appealing, and it would make her wise. (Gen 3:6 NASB) So Eve must have thought to herself, why not! How bad could it be? Unfortunately, she would later find out. People are good at rationalizing things and Eve was no exception. Where did she acquire this ability? Remember, all this was before she ate the forbidden fruit.

We would expect more from Adam since he was created first and God communicated with him directly. But Adam performed no better than Eve on this test of obedience since he gave in without even offering an ounce of resistance; at least Eve made an attempt to obey. But Adam, he just took the fruit from Eve and ate. (Gen 3:6)

What was Adam’s excuse? He really didn’t have any. Eve might have been deceived, but Adam willfully disobeyed. Would he have been so quick to disobey if he knew he was representing all of his future descendants?

The notion of Adam being mankind’s representative is referred to in theology as “federal headship”1 (Even though this teaching may be unpopular with some believers, it is essential for understanding the consequences of Adam’s sin and the reason for salvation.) The doctrine of Adam as our federal head is derived from Romans 5:12-19.2 3 Those who would object to this teaching on federalism would, by necessity, be denying Scripture. In Romans 5:12-19 the same theme is repeated over and over which is that sin entered into the world thorough one man and that all men are condemned through that one transgression—Scripture emphasizes important teachings through repetition. And, if Romans 5:12-19 is discarded based on objections to Adam’s sin being imputed to us then you would also be objecting to the teaching that righteousness is imputed to us through Jesus since this is also taught in these verses.

Another subtle point from Scripture related to Adam as our federal head concerns knowing good and evil as the first consequence of eating from the forbidden tree. As mentioned previously, Eve ate first but it wasn’t until Adam also ate that their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. (Gen. 3:7) Eve’s disobedience didn’t bring about the penalty pronounced by God in Genesis 2:17, the penalty wasn’t realized until after Adam disobeyed.

If we are to agree that Adam acted as our representative or federal head, then it must logically follow that his sin was imputed to us. In theology there is a debate as to whether the imputation was mediate or immediate. Mediate imputation implies that people are born without actually being guilty of Adam’s sin,4 instead, they only inherit the propensity to sin from Adam. Immediate imputation says that we are all guilty of Adam’s sin because Adam was our representative and we are all descendants of Adam. Again, according to Murray, Romans 5:12 leaves no room to consider any other means by which death passed to all except through the one sin committed by Adam.5

I believe there is a correlation between the nature of the imputation and the following two commonly known sayings:

Immediate imputation => We sin because we are sinners.
Mediate imputation => We are sinners because we sin.

If you accept the latter, then you may be inclined to believe that people are basically good—an indefensible position even by man’s standards. However, if you believe the former, then you are sure to believe that people are inherently evil—a defensible position by God’s standards. (Isa. 64:6) Nevertheless, whichever of these sayings you believe to be true says a lot about your theology.

God promised that Adam would die on the day he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:17) But the penalty both Adam and Eve endured on that day was not physical death, that was to come much later; they died in a way that neither of them could have imagined.

  1. “Our First Federal Head,” Ligonier Ministries, accessed December 07, 2013,

  2. Ibid. 

  3. John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1992), 64. 

  4. Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, 42-43. 

  5. Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, 66. 

The Fall: Eve and the Serpent

The biblical story surrounding the events that took place in the Garden of Eden concerning Adam and Eve is fairly well known by everyone. However, everyone’s understanding of the details may not be completely accurate according to the Scriptures. For example, it’s commonly believed that the fruit Eve ate was an apple. This may serve to embellish the story somewhat, but the Bible doesn’t specify which type of fruit was produced by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Bible only says that it was fruit. (Gen. 3:2-3 NASB) Although this may be a detail that one could dwell on, it will not be the focus of our discussion on the fall of man. There are many other details that are much more interesting and certainly more controversial.

The story, as told in the Bible, has a strong resemblance to a fairy tale. (Or is it really the other way around?)1 In the story we have a naked woman having a theological debate with a snake under a fruit tree. Pretty fantastic! It’s common for folks to take all of this at face value without considering the implications, but the story raises a lot of serious questions. The Scripture clearly states that the serpent in the story was a beast created by God, and that he was craftier than all other beasts. (Gen. 3:1) Were other beasts also capable of speech? If only the serpent, then why was the serpent singled out for this ability? The scientific community likes to criticize the Bible as being unscientific, yet as far back as Genesis 3 we are told that animals were obviously created with a high-level of intelligence! Has evolution been going in the wrong direction? It’s also interesting to note that the word “crafty” in Genesis 3:1 is the transliterated word “arum” (Hebrew NASB Number: 6175) which is also defined as sensible and shrewd…sensible? In Genesis 2:18-20, we are told that God created the animals to be helpers or companions for Adam. Why would God create any kind of animal to be a helper for man if He didn’t also give the animal intelligence along with the ability to communicate? I believe we can infer from these verses that animals were in fact capable of speech, otherwise wouldn’t Eve have been apprehensive of a talking snake?

It’s also interesting to theorize about what the snake actually looked like. I would tend to say that the serpent resembled man, at least to the degree that he stood upright. Unlike Thulsa Doom,2 he most likely didn’t appear fierce or threatening in any way. Of course, this is all speculation.

Even if you accept the notion that the serpent was devious and cunning, what was his motivation for trying to get Eve to eat the forbidden fruit? Put another way, what was in it for him? What caused him to turn against God? Was he inherently evil, or was there some external force at work? It’s clear from Genesis 3:1 that the serpent wasn’t some kind of supernatural being. So, was the serpent, in this case, an incarnation of Satan? Or can we say that Satan was only speaking through the serpent? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t provide full disclosure. However, I believe it’s possible to derive a position based on the events that occurred after Adam’s transgression which I’ll provide in a future posting.

Does anyone find it strange that God would place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil directly in the middle of the garden, so that it couldn’t be overlooked? (Gen. 3:3) Also, based on Genesis 2:9, the tree of life was most likely nearby. Why didn’t Eve eat from the tree of life? The Scriptures tell us that both trees were appealing and that their fruit was editable. (Gen. 2:9) Can it be as simple as that which is forbidden is always the most attractive?

I’ve heard many sermons preached where Eve is criticized for her response to the serpent’s accusations. Specifically where she adds the phrase “or touch it” (Gen. 3:3) when quoting God’s command prohibiting them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe Eve should be given the benefit of the doubt. Eve did not receive the command directly from God—Adam did. God gave the command to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 when He first placed him in the garden before Eve was created later on in Genesis 2:22. The Scriptures don’t say, but I would expect that it was Adam who informed Eve about which trees they were allowed to eat from. It’s possible that Adam added the “don’t touch” restriction to God’s command. If so, was he just being overcautious? Or was it Eve who was being overcautious by adding the innocuous “don’t touch” restriction to the “don’t eat” command. We don’t know. And, why didn’t Eve mention the tree by name? Either way, wouldn’t touching be the first step towards eating? (Gen. 3:3)

It would be an understatement to say the serpent was shrewd; he was a master at rhetoric. As any good politician would do today, he presented his half-truths with conviction while at the same time mocking the opposition with false accusations. “’You surely will not die!’” (Gen. 3:4) was his first pitch to Eve. His accusation was that God didn’t really mean what He said, it was only an idle threat. After all, why would God deny someone the wisdom that they were entitled to have?

On a different note, it would be interesting to know what Eve knew about death since at that time death, physical death, was at best a concept and not a reality. Again, on this subject the Bible is silent. On the other hand, I believe we can infer from the story that she had already acquired some knowledge of evil as a result of being informed of the command not to eat from a specific tree. (Rom. 3:20)

For the most part, this is academic. The serpent successfully convinced Eve that it was really okay to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve believed the serpent’s clever arguments and ate the forbidden fruit. If only she would have stopped right there…but that’s not the end of the story.

 Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

  1. Kate Woolford, “Garden of Eden and Fairy Tales,” Diamonds & Toads (blog), December 22, 2009 (6:19 a.m.),

  2. Conan the Barbarian, directed by John Milius (1982; Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 2000), DVD. 

Salvation: Prelude

It is my firm belief that unless one acquires a firm grasp on the concept of biblical salvation, all other teachings in the Bible are subject to misinterpretation. And in order to understand biblical salvation, one needs to understand what it is that one needs to be saved from.

We need to be saved from the damage caused by Adam, in the Garden of Eden, when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The damage caused by Adam was to bring death upon himself and to his descendants. (Rom. 5:12 NASB) Consequently, in order to be saved, we need to become alive again; that is, to return to that state of innocence as was sung about in a popular song, “…we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”1  However, the only way to be saved, to return to life, to return to the garden, is to be born again.

Being born again is the key to salvation. Every Sunday, pastors in evangelical leaning churches across the U.S. will be admonishing their congregations on the need to be born again. It was considered important enough that the world’s leading evangelist wrote an entire book on the subject, How To Be Born Again.  While I won’t be writing anywhere near as much as a book, I do plan to elaborate on John 3:3-8 since these verses are key in understanding the consequences of Adam’s sin on the entire human race.

Along with the notion of being born again, I plan to answer some controversial questions such as:

  • Are people basically good? Are they sinners simply because they sin?
  • Is it God’s will that everyone should be saved?
  • Do people receive salvation simply by an exercise of their own free will?

By attempting to answer these and other questions, I will need to touch on many other theological and philosophical topics such as: free will, predestination, election, universal salvation, judgment, Hell, suffering, and sin. My goal is examine these topics from a biblical perspective—putting aside denominational biases.

Salvation is something I have been wanting to write about for quite some time. For me, it all seemed to come together after I heard a series of radio broadcasts during my daily commute in 1996 by R. C. Sproul on the story of Joseph. It all came together in that I finally understood the role played by the Holy Spirit and the real meaning of the verse “…that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) I have come to the belief that salvation is entirely of God and not by man’s initiative. I have stopped being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine concerning salvation. My desire is that you will too.

  1. Joni Mitchell, Woodstock (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC),

God Is a Tester: Part 2

In God Is a Tester: Part 1, we established a framework for understanding the differences between test and temptation; now in Part 2, let’s look at some familiar examples from throughout the Bible. Our first example takes place in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve

We all know the story. God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17 NASB) and how Eve was tempted to eat by the serpent. (Gen. 3:1-6) So how did it start, with a test or temptation? God gave Adam a command not to eat of a certain tree. Since Adam was provided with a clear and direct command from God, his proper response was to carry out the command and not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; this was a test. On the other hand, Eve was tempted. Why? Because she was enticed to disobey God’s command by the serpent who gave her incorrect and incomplete information. In hindsight, Eve’s correct response was obvious, she was to reject the faulty information and not act upon it. We all know how it ended, Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Adam, on the other hand, blatantly disobeyed God by following his wife’s lead without as much as a struggle. Test: FAIL.

Lot’s Wife

The story of Lot’s wife is interesting not only in the events surrounding Sodom, but also in that it provides a key to interpreting other verses in the Bible as well.

Lot was Abraham’s nephew and after he split up with Abraham, he settled in Sodom. (Gen. 14:12) As it turned out, two angels were sent from God to destroy Sodom because the people in the city were exceedingly wicked. (Gen. 14:12) (Gen. 19:2) However, before the angels could destroy Sodom, they had to make sure Lot and all his relatives were safely out of the city. (Gen. 19:22) As the Bible tells us, Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t believe the angel’s warning and Lot himself hesitated so the angles had to drag Lot, his wife, and his daughters out of Sodom. (Gen. 19:14-16)

After Lot and his relatives were led out of Sodom, the angels warned them to escape to the mountains and not to look back. (Gen. 19:17) As we all remember, Lot’s wife did look back. (Gen. 19:26) The test was to see if anyone still had a desire or longing to go back to their former life in Sodom. In essence it was a subtle rejection of God’s deliverance. Interestingly, this is the same sin that would be committed again by the Israelites in the wilderness after having been led out of Egypt by Moses. (Exod. 14:11-12) For the Israelites, the consequences took some time to manifest, (Num. 32:13) but for Lot’s wife, the consequences were harsh and immediate, she was turned into a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19:26) Test: FAIL.

Abraham and Isaac

The story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac is not only a familiar one but somewhat bizarre and certainly unexpected. That God would command someone to sacrifice one of their children, or only child in this case, strikes the western mind as being very cruel and blood thirsty as told in the following verses:

1  Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2  He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Gen. 22:1-2)

Why would God issue such a command? Was Abraham expected to carry out the request without question—a test, or was he expected to refuse—a temptation? In Genesis 22:1, the word “tested” is derived from the Greek word nasah (Hebrew NASB Number: 5254) and is defined as: to test, try:–. This word has also been translated “tempted” three other times in the Scripture. Since the definitions still leave some doubt as to whether this was a test or temptation; the answer lies in understanding what behavior the command was trying to elicit.

As the story unfolds the objective becomes clear; God’s intent wasn’t for Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac, but to determine if Abraham would obey Him no matter what the request. (Gen. 22:12) Abraham made the right choice to obey God implicitly; this was Abraham’s test. Abraham obeyed right up until the angel of the LORD intervened and stopped him from sacrificing Isaac. (Gen. 22:12) God designs His tests with a perfect knowledge of each person’s strengths and weaknesses—never too easy and never too hard. Abraham exhibited the proper response. Test: PASS.


The Book of Job is one of my favorite books in the Bible; I even read from it at my father’s memorial service. It’s a story that chronicles a confrontation between God and Satan over the righteousness of one man, Job. Satan’s challenge was that Job’s obedience to God was not because of who God is but because of what God has given him. The story of Job is a health and wealth gospel preacher’s worst nightmare. The prosperity gospel leaves no room for the notion of God subjecting His followers to various trials and tribulations. On the other hand, I find it impossible to come away from reading the account without a firm conviction of that very fact. This must be why you rarely, if ever, hear any sermons preached from the Book of Job.

Job can be a difficult book to understand at times, particularly the verses dealing with Job’s theological debates with his three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. (Job 2:11) In order to help get an understanding of what is going on, I suggest reading the account using a paraphrased Bible, such as the Living Bible, initially; and afterwards, try reading the book again using a translation such as the NASB, NIV, or King James Version—if you’re adventurous.

Job’s trials were progressive in severity. At first, God allowed Satan to take away Job’s possessions, but did not allow Satan to harm Job physically.1 In one day, Job lost all his livestock, sons and daughters, and servants. (Job 1:13-19) Since Job passed his first test, (Job 1:22) God then allowed Satan to strike Job with a severe but nonfatal illness. (Job 2:6) The pressure was even too great for Job’s wife and she caved in, (Job 2:9) but Job remained steadfast. (Job 2:10)

The story continues with a series of exchanges between Job and his three friends and later ends with a rather long dissertation by Elihu, a representative of the younger generation. (Job 32:6) Finally, God intervenes and settles the debate; Eliphaz and his two friends are rebuked, but Job is exonerated. (Job 42:7) Final Test: PASS.


As I’ve stated earlier, God always prepares His servants for the work He wants them to do. He prepares them by testing them. Obviously, Jesus was not exempt from this process. The Scripture is clear; God ordained that Jesus should be tempted by the devil as written: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt. 4:1)

The temptation of Jesus parallels that of Eve in many ways. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by an outside agent, the serpent; in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the devil himself. As with Job, Eve’s temptation and Jesus’ temptation were both progressive in scope and severity. Their temptations were also adaptive since they were specifically tailored to each individual’s circumstances and abilities.

In the garden, the serpent first twisted and then outright contradicted God’s instructions in order to lure Eve into disobedience. In the wilderness, the devil’s fist two attempts were to lure Jesus into proving that He was the Son of God by quoting Scripture verses out of context—a powerful weapon. However, having failed at his first two attempts, the devil then dropped all pretense and flat out asked Jesus for His worship. Jesus brought His temptation to a close by ordering the devil to leave along with a quote from Deuteronomy. (Matt. 4:3-10) While the devil’s intention was to tempt Jesus into committing a sin, God’s intention was for it to be a test to demonstrate Jesus’ readiness for service. Test: PASS.

Concluding Thoughts

This story of Adam and Eve in the garden impels us to ask many questions. Did Eve understand the concept of death? Why didn’t she desire to eat from the tree of life which was also in the midst of the garden? Since sin had not yet entered into the world, did she even understand the concept of evil and why did she consider its knowledge so desirable?

As with Eve, the temptation of Jesus presents us with some serious theological questions. The first question one could ask is, if Jesus is God and God cannot be tempted by evil, as taught in James 1:14, then was Jesus’ temptation really valid? A temptation would not be a temptation if the person being tempted were incapable of being tempted. Likewise, how could Eve be enticed by her own lust or desire for forbidden knowledge, as stated in Genesis 2:25, before sin had yet entered into the world? For now, I’ll leave these questions unanswered, but I plan to revisit them in future postings on salvation.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

  1. Job 1:11 

God Is a Tester: Part 1


Tester is not a name or title that one normally associates with God. Everyone is familiar with the more common names for God such as: Creator, Defender, Deliverer, Healer, Helper, Redeemer, Ruler, Sanctifier, Savior, and Teacher; but never Tester. Likewise, we never hear of God being called a Designer even though God created man using His own likeness (Gen. 1:27 NASB) as a blueprint or design if you will. And isn’t it correct to say that God, in fact, first designed the classes (Gen. 1:24) upon which all other living things were instantiated, that is, brought into existence? Clearly, we can see that design was an integral part of the creation process. In the same way, we never hear of God being called a tester even though we can find evidence of God testing His creation throughout the Bible.

In the natural world, we would consider it irresponsible, and in some cases criminal, for companies to release untested products on the market. Would you be willing to take any kind of drug that hadn’t passed clinical trials? Likewise, would anyone want to travel in an airliner that hadn’t been previously subjected to all the rigors of flight testing? The answer is a resounding no! In the software world, we consider untested software as “not ready for prime time.” Likewise, in the spiritual realm, since God is perfect in all His ways, (Deut. 32:4) (Matt. 5:48) He will always test His servants before sending them out into the world to perform the work they are being called to do.

I’m sure there are some readers who will object to my assertion that God is a tester based on James 1:13. However, I intend to show that there is a key difference between the notion of a temptation and a test; even though, at first glance, they appear to be the same thing. Now, let’s try to understand what James is really saying by examining verse 1:13 in context:

12  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
14  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:12-14)

In verse 12, James describes how a person is to respond when he or she finds themselves in the middle of a trial and that is to persist. The word “trial” is derived from the Greek word peirasmos (Greek NASB Number: 3986) and is defined as: an experiment, a trial, or temptation. On the other hand, in verse 14, James tells us that the proper response to temptation is to resist. Interestingly, in verse 13, the word “tempted” has a very similar definition which is: to make proof of, to attempt, test, or tempt; and is derived from the Greek word peirazô (Greek NASB Number: 3985). It appears from the definitions that trial and temptation are somehow two sides of the same coin. That statement would be true if we were to remove the moral dimension from the verses. But clearly, James makes a distinction in how a person is to respond; either to endure or escape. To further illustrate, I’d like to draw an analogy from the world of software testing.

Put simply, a software tester compares the behavior of a software application or system to its specification. A test consists of sending test data or stimuli to the system (input). The system manipulates the data according to its internal programming (processing). The test passes or fails based on expected results (output). Of course, good testers use both valid and invalid data in building their test suites. Testers refer to tests that contain valid data as “sunny day” tests and tests that contain invalid data as “negative” tests. The difference between the two types of tests is in how the system handles each type of input. It’s expected that the system accept and process the valid input and produce the expected results. For invalid input, it’s expected that the system reject the input and not perform any processing. (Technically, the system should display an error message and/or write an entry to an exception log.) Software testers would never say they were tempting the system to behave in an unexpected way, they would merely say they were performing a negative test.

People are not software. While software is tested by comparing its programming to a specification; people are tested or evaluated based on what they have been taught.1 Whereas software needs some sort of external stimuli, temptation originates from within a person not from without as James points out in verse 14. Software is amoral, but man has the sin nature.

In summary, a test is something a person has to endure or work through, as in our sunny day scenario; and a temptation is something a person is to avoid or escape from, as in our negative scenario.  While the purpose of a spiritual test is to confirm proper behavior in the person being tested; the purpose of a temptation is to entice or lure a person into performing improper or unlawful behavior.

Since we now see that God does not tempt anyone; what role, if any, does He have in our temptations? As illustrated in the following verses, He is actively involved:

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. (1 Cor. 10:13)

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] (Matt. 6:13)

God places limits on our temptations and He also provides help for those being tempted. (1 Cor. 10:13) Here we can see the theme of rejecting or escaping from temptation. However, until the way of escape is provided, the person tempted needs to endure the temptation and not to succumb to it. I propose the following paraphrase of the second clause in 1 Corinthians 10:13, in modern English usage, which may help illustrate the meaning of the verse:

…since God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can stand, Even so, you need to deal with it until He reveals a way for you to break loose.

As God imposes limits on our temptations, He also leads us away from temptation as Jesus prayed during the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 6:13) The implication in Matthew 6:13 is that while God does lead people out of temptation; He can also allow them to be lead into temptation. (Ps. 81:12) (Rom. 1:28)

The important point to remember is that to partake in the temptation is to succumb to evil. (James 1:15)

Test or temptation? It depends on the objective; either to prove obedience or to entice to sin. God doesn’t tempt but He does test. Man is fully capable of sin in and of himself. Now, can God also use our temptations as a test? Stay tuned. I’ll attempt to answer this question in Part 2.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

  1. “The Humble Programmer,” Edsger W. Dijkstra, ACM Turing Lecture 1972,

Study Method

In this posting, I’ll discuss the method I use for studying the Bible including some ground rules. First of all, I take a holistic approach to studying the Bible; that is, I look at the Bible as a single document, from Genesis to Revelation. As I see it, God’s revelation, as given in the Bible, is both iterative and incremental—you can’t discard any verse, book, or section without altering the message. As a result, we can safely make the presumption that the Bible isn’t going to contradict itself. That being the case, when confronted with an apparent contradiction, we need to take the verse or verses in question and try to square it or them with what the rest of the Bible has to say. This method requires one to do some heavy lifting.

Now that we’ve established an approach, let’s take a look at some ground rules. First, we need to settle on which translation to use. So, unless one is proficient in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek a translation will be needed. There are three types of translations: word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrase.

Popular word-for-word translations:

  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  • King James Version (KJV)

Popular thought-for-thought translations:

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • New Living Translation (NLT)

Popular paraphrase translation:

  • The Living Bible (TLB)

Does it seem strange that I’ve only listed one paraphrase? Well, based on a little research, I concluded that The Living Bible is the only clear paraphrase, if one defines paraphrase as not being translated from the original languages. Since The Living Bible translator, Kenneth Taylor, used the American Standard Bible (ASV) for his paraphrase, it fits our definition. Some websites list the Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) and The Message as paraphrases but they don’t fit our definition. Remember, a paraphrase represents a second level of abstraction. The first level of abstraction is the translation from the original languages. In addition, the Good News Bible is not doctrinally sound,1 rendering it an unreliable translation for serious Bible study.

I imagine there are a lot of folks out there who would immediately say that the King James Version is the best and only version to use. It just so happens that the first Bible I ever purchased was a King James Version. It was a Zondervan Red Letter Edition, containing maps and illustrations, which I picked up in 1973 and still have today.  Along with the features just mentioned, the Bible’s front matter contains a title page which declares: “Authorized King James Bible” which sounds very official. But who authorized it? As it turns out, there is no record of anyone officially authorizing it;2 and by no means should anyone consider it to be divinely authorized.3

It’s ironic that many churches in the United States still hang on to the KJV even though King James himself “was a firm believer in the Divine Right of Kings and in the right of his bishops to run the Scottish Church”4 which flies in the face of the separation of church from control by the state as established in the U.S. Constitution. According to 1 Samuel 8:1-18, when Israel demanded a king, God considered their request as a rejection of His kingship over them. God also predicted that the king would become abusive and impose heavy demands on them. Unfortunately, kings and presidents are sometimes hard to distinguish.

The King James Only movement, and many churches and other religious organizations take the stance that a future one-world government will be headquartered in Rome or more specifically, the Vatican. Again, The Epistle Dedicatory in the front matter of my KJV, contains some anti-Catholic language that seems to provide some encouragement for their position:

So that if, one the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God’s holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness…

Many King James only adherents claim that the language used in the KJV is somehow more reverent and respectful than the language used in modern translations. What is overlooked is the fact that the 1611 KJV was written in the common or vulgar language of its day.5 It only sounds reverent to us today because the only time we hear this type of language is in church settings; hence the acquired association.

As a final note, the KJV is no longer the most accurate translation6 and it has been revised many times since 1611.

In past years I’ve used the New International Version and the New King James Version but now I’ve settled on the New American Standard Bible (1995 Update). I use QuickVerse and Biblesoft PC Study Bible software in addition to a number of other references. QuickVerse provides a nice feature in that you can double-click on a word and the corresponding Strong’s Number appears along with the Hebrew or Greek word, translation, root, definition and list of English words and number of times used. Knuth relied heavily on Strong’s Numbers for the translations he provided in his 3:16 book.7

Finally, I interpret the Bible literally unless the context dictates otherwise. For example, in John 10:9 Jesus says: “I am the door;” which is a figure of speech. No one, I hope, would think that Jesus is a literal door like the wooden ones you may have in your home. This verse would have to be interpreted figuratively. Other verses may not be as obvious.

Although I have some Study Bibles in my library, I do not recommend their use. When one wants to study the Bible, one should focus on what the Bible says, not necessarily on what any given commentator has said. Besides, there is a tendency on the reader’s part to hold the commentators’ notes to the same authority as Scripture.

In closing, I’ve recently acquired a Jewish Bible or Tanakh for my studies. Since Christianity is of Jewish origin, I thought it a good idea to read the Scriptures from a Jewish perspective. I have The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) version.

  1. “Good News Bible (Today’s English Version),” Michael D. Marlowe, accessed August 25, 2013,

  2. Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 35. 

  3. Ibid., 36. 

  4. “James VI and I (r. 1567-1625),” The Official Website of the British Monarchy,

  5. Lewis, The English Bible, 40. 

  6. Ibid. 

  7. Donald E. Knuth, Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About, (Stanford: CSLI Publications, 2001), 59-60. 


As stated in my “About Me” page, I’m a professional software tester. Software testers by nature don’t like gray areas; gray areas are where bugs live. We, as testers, tend to see things only in black and white. It either works or it doesn’t; it fulfills requirements or it doesn’t. Gray areas only exist because there is insufficient information preventing us from seeing the complete picture.

Christianity has been around for some two thousand years but we still struggle to see the complete picture—this is by design. God hasn’t revealed all the pieces of the puzzle; but He has given us enough information to see the big picture. Many of the details remain hidden and probably will be forever. However, He has given us enough detail so that we don’t get lost in a sea of contradiction and error. The only way to stay on course is to follow the spec; the spec in this case is the Bible and in order to stay on course you need to understand what it says.

But what does the Bible really say? Obviously, it’s not a simple answer since according to various postings on the Web, and if it’s on the Web it must be true, there are some 40,000 different Christian denominations who all interpret the spec in different ways. So then, which denominational teachings should you follow, or should you follow any?

It’s no secret that denominations exist because of doctrinal differences and they continue to exist because of tradition. You know the saying: “We’ve always done it that way.” If you factor out the doctrinal differences, what should be left is biblical truth in its lowest common denominator. The Bible refers to this simplicity as being the milk of the Word, whereas, the deep things of God are referred to as the meat of the Word. Congregations fed mostly milk get lazy and can easily get caught up in the ways of the world. Whereas, congregations fed the deep things of God develop a firm biblical belief system and are less likely to be tossed to and fro on those seas of contradiction and error.

So how does one get to the meat? Well, first you have to be willing to go beyond the simple gospel message. You need to take the initiative and go further. I believe it’s unwise to rely of your pastor, Sunday school teacher, televangelist, or anyone else to do it for you. God will enable you to understand, but first you have to be engaged. Can you see the parallel between many contemporary Christians and the doctors of the Law whom Jesus once criticized for not knowing what was in the Law?

It is my intention to use this blog as a forum for those who would rather have the meat not just the milk; and where the deep things of God can be studied and discussed. That is not to say this will be a platform for proposing a new gospel—far be it, but many things posted here may sound new to a lot of believers. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to find many non-Christians reading and commenting on this blog. In fact, I welcome readers of all religious persuasions.

For those IT professionals out there, you may or may not be aware that Donald Knuth, Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University, has written two books on Christian theology: 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated and Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About. In his book 3:16, he provided his own Bible translations for the 59 verses he examined. He did this without knowing any Greek or Hebrew! How did he do it? I’ll discuss this subject in an upcoming post. My point here is that, while Knuth wasn’t the first, a precedent has been established for scientists, including mathematicians and computer scientists, to venture out of their areas of expertise in order to dabble in theology. While I’m not in the same league as Knuth or the others, I believe my views on theology are interesting also.

Since the following core doctrinal areas are essential for anyone interested in establishing their own biblical belief system, I plan to cover these areas in depth.

  • Sin and The Fall
  • Salvation
  • Free will
  • Godhead or Trinity
  • God’s Image
  • God and the gods
  • Heaven and Hell
  • The Tribulation and Rapture
  • The Antichrist

All posts will be listed under the Theology and/or Politics categories. At present, my posting routine is indeterminate. However, I’ll try to post as frequently as my schedule allows.

So, I trust that by now you have some idea of where I’m coming from. If so, then enough with the introduction; let’s get on with the ruminations!

Gerard Sczepura
Yalaha, Florida
August 22, 2013