Humanity

God & Sexuality

God & Sexuality

There are moments for Christians to decry rebellion against Christian sexual ethics, but we should also celebrate and talk about God’s original plan for sexuality too.

Christians too often express what has been called a “Puritanical”view of sex in which it is seen as something that is dirty and an abasement of human morality. However, God made humans inherently sexual beings, both in terms of their biological natures as male and female and in terms of their desires to use their bodies in the context of marriage for pleasure and procreation.

According to Stanley Grenz, “the assertion that sexuality belongs to the essential nature of the human person arises from two Christian doctrines, creation and resurrection. God created us as embodied beings, and in the resurrection recreates us in like fashion. Together the two doctrines confirm a basically holistic anthropology that includes our sexuality.”

In the Bible, human sexuality begins in the garden of Eden, where God created all things good, including the male and female and their sexuality, and commanded humans to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Sex was God’s idea and an expression of shalom, peace, love, and unity.

It is after this original goodness when sins enters the world and all good things are distorted and everything goes haywire, including sex. About God, sex, creation, and sin, Robert Gagnon writes: “Scripture regards the urge to gratify intensely pleasurable sexual desires as part of God’s good creation. Nevertheless, given their often-insatiable quality, Scripture also recognizes a constant threat to the Creator’s norms.”

Thus, from the biblical perspective, there is one conclusion. The proper context for sex isthe “permanent, monogamous relationship called marriage. This perspective is the basic teaching of the Bible in both Old and New Testaments.” At the same time, there is much more in the Bible regarding sex, shalom, sin, grace, and hope.

Here is a slightly longer version of the Bible’s story about sex.

In the Beginning, In God’s Image

The Bible begins with God, the sovereign, good Creator of all things and the One who rules the universe. His creative handiwork—everything from light to land to living creatures—is called “good.”But the crown of God’s good creation is humanity. We are made in the very image of God. And God declared: “behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31). As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature as we were created like God (Gen 1:26), by God (Gen 1:2), for God (Gen 2:15), and to be with God (Gen 2:15).

In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image.” The fact that our Creator gave us a remarkable title—“the image of God”—speaks of the inherent dignity of all human beings. The expression “image of God” designated human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe.

Multiply and Have Dominion

Immediately after making the man and woman, God granted them a special commission: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’”(Gen 1:28).This verse contains five commands:  “be fruitful,” “multiply,” “fill,” “subdue,” and “have dominion.”  These decrees reveal our most basic human responsibilities.

With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve’s job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God’s behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture.

Multiplication and dominion are deeply connected to our being the image of God. To be sure, God had no problem filling the earth with his presence, but God chose to establish His authority on earth in ways that humans could understand. God commanded His images to populate the landscape of His creation. In the command to “multiply,” God wanted His images spread to the ends of the earth. His command to “have dominion” is God giving humans authority to represent Him in His world. Marital sex is one of the means by which we fulfill our calling of multiplying and taking dominion.

Shalom

God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with His image bearers, who were to glorify Him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and His wise rule, is called shalom. Cornelius Plantinga writes, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give you peace (shalom) in the land, and none shall make you afraid”(Lev 26:6).Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good.  Shalom means harmonious and responsible relationship with God, other human beings, and nature. In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended.

In shalom, sex was also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one. God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy building in marriage.

Sin

Sin distorts this beautiful act of union, pleasure, calling, and worship. God intended humankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), spreading divine image-bearers throughout his good world. This multiplying of offspring and exercising of dominion was to happen through the God-ordained sexual union between man and woman, husband and wife, in the context of marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:24-25).

This peaceful, loving relationship was shattered by the entrance of sin into the world. Sin has distorted this beautiful act of union, pleasure, calling, and worship. Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. One scholarcalls sin “the vandalism of shalom.” Instead of unashamed intimacy and trust, there is shame and mistrust. Instead of grace, there is disgrace.

A foundational element of paradise—sexual innocence in community—has been spoiled by the treachery of sin. Sex—the very expression of human union, intimacy, and peace—became a tool for pain, suffering, and destruction after the Fall.

Grace

But sin is not the last word on the world or us. God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). By dealing with sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.

The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. God’s redemption imparts grace and brings peace. The effects of grace include our sexual past, present, and future. There is healing, hope, cleansing, and forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus.

God does not leave things broken, and is always at work redeeming the sin, wounds, and brokenness involved in human sexuality. Where sin does its damage, God brings forgiveness and healing, which are part of God’s larger plan of restoring shalom.

Hope

Redemption removes and rectifies the alienation introduced by the fall, restoring humankind to fellowship with God (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-22) and with itself (Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-7). Further, Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit offer hope even now to grow and become more sexually whole in Christ.

In Christ there is also great hope for human sexuality. Lewis Smedes writes:

“Jesus did not have to talk about sexuality to affirm it. Sexuality is affirmed by the route that God took for the redemption of humanity. The Resurrection, as well as the Incarnation, carries the body-life of humankind in a deep divine embrace. Redemption is not the promise of escape from the demands or appetites of the body. To confess that Jesus Christ arose from the grave bodily is to reiterate God’s good feelings about his own creation of human beings as body-persons; to celebrate the Resurrection includes a celebration of human sexuality. God did not become man to show us how to get out of our body by means of spiritual exercises. He created a community of resurrection hope and invites us to bring our total sexuality into it. Christ’s resurrection makes permanent God’s union with the whole of humanity, and it thus affirms sexuality as part of our hope for ultimate happiness and freedom.”

God and God’s People

In the New Testament we also learn that human sexuality paints one of the most moving pictures of God’s relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is repeatedly portrayed as a wayward lover of God, who had redeemed her. In the New Testament, the church is referred to as Christ’s bride (e.g., Rev 19:7), and Paul explains that the one-flesh union of man and woman mentioned in Genesis is a picture of Christ and his church (Eph 5:28-33).

Jesus seems to imply that sex will not exist in heaven as it has on earth (Matt 22:30). Likely this is because the sexual union ultimately points to the relationship that Christ has with His people, which will be consummated upon His return. As we are the beloved of God, He promises always to satisfy all of our deepest longings and desires, allowing us to “drink from the river of Your delights” (Psalm 36:8; cf. Rev 22:1-2), now and forever in the age to come.

Conclusion

In the Bible, we find a divinely created pattern for sex, but in the Bible we also find it violated frequently and these violations are repeated throughout human history. God does not leave things broken, however, and is always at work redeeming the sin, wounds, and brokenness involved in human sexuality. God redeems and restores. He reestablishes the original peace and goodness that was violated by the Fall. God’s recreation is not simply a repair job so thing work a bit better than before. Rather, in his creative loving power God finds a way to restore his creation in such a way that everything is even better than it was before sin mucked everything up.

Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Nature

Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Nature

Only the biblical understanding of human nature can account for both the evil of the Holocaust and the compassionate response of the world community after the fact.

“What a freak, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a marvel! Judge of all things, and imbecile earthworm; possessor of the truth, and sink of uncertainty and error; glory and rubbish of the universe.”

Blaise Pascal

Selections from The Thoughts

 

As Blaise Pascal recognized, human beings are a paradox, capable of both great nobility and horrendous evil. Today, April 8, 2013, a day designated as a day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust, we come face to face with one of the starkest reminders in our time of the human capacity for great evil.

A recent New York Times article reveals new research that only heightens the reality of the shocking levels of violence and oppression of which humans are capable. The new findings show that during the Holocaust there were some 42,500 Nazi camps and ghettos throughout Europe, including 30,000 slave-labor camps, 1,150 Jewish ghettos, 980 concentration camps, 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps, 500 brothels containing sex slaves, and numerous other camps for euthanizing the weak and elderly, performing forced abortions, or shipping victims from camp to camp.

It can be difficult to comprehend how human beings could possibly descend to the depths of evil that we see in the Holocaust. Faced with this uncomfortable reality, many attempt to rationalize genocide as somehow deriving from outside forces. Thinkers as diverse as Gustav Le Bon, Sigmund Freud, and Reinhold Niebuhr explained genocide as a result of the evilness of the collective, believing that while individuals are capable of goodness and morality, groups are inherently selfish and uncaring. Others attempt to explain genocide on the basis of ideology alone or as resulting from leaders with an authoritarian personality type. However, none of these explanations can fully account for the existence of genocide and mass killing.

The most realistic conclusion is that reached by leading genocide scholar James Waller in his book Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, which concludes that all people share a human nature that includes the capacity for both extraordinary good and extraordinary evil under the right circumstances.

The Bible on Human Nature

As uncomfortable as it is, this diagnosis fits with what the Bible teaches about human nature. The Bible begins with God, the sovereign, good Creator of all things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God’s creative handiwork, everything from light to land to living creatures, is called “good.” Humanity, being the image of God, is the crown of God’s good creation—“behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature—as they were created to be like God, by God, for God, and to be with God (Gen. 1:26–27; 2:15).

In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image.” In the very beginning, our Creator gave us a remarkable title: “in the image of God.” This expression reveals the inherent dignity of all human beings, because it designates human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe. As God’s image-bearers, human beings are imbued with dignity and worth beyond that of animals. Speaking to Noah after the flood, God emphasizes that human life is to be highly valued, and that violence against any human being is to be rigorously punished (Gen. 9:5–6).

But Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and the peace God intended was violated. In a moment of cosmic treason, Adam and Eve violated their relationship with God by rebelling against his command. Instead of trusting in God’s wise and good word, they trusted in the crafty and deceitful words of the serpent. In response, the Creator placed a curse on our parents that cast the whole human race into futility and death. The royal image of God fell into the severe ignobility we all experience. The Bible sums up the bleak condition of human nature after the Fall in Genesis 6:5, as “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Human evil is described as being characterized by intensity (“great in the earth”), inwardness (“thoughts of his heart”), pervasiveness (“only evil”), and constancy (“continually”).

As fallen human beings, all kinds of evil now comes out of the human heart: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, false testimony, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly (Matt. 15:17–20; Mark 7:20–22). As Jesus tells us, “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23). In Galatians 5:17–21, Paul follows Jesus’ lead and tells us that inherent within us is sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

The Hope Amid the Evil

The only explanation that can account for both the evil of the Holocaust and the compassionate response of the world community after the fact is the biblical understanding of human nature. The reason we react with horror to the Nazi atrocities is because we are made in the image of God, which includes the conscience that God has given us and our capacity for compassion and love. Yet the ultimate reason such atrocities could be carried out is the same reason every one of us is capable of evil: human nature is fallen under the curse of sin.

Because of sin, human beings do evil, but we are not as bad as we could be. In his mercy, God restrains human evil from always reaching the depths that it could. Yet our true hope for change is ultimately in God’s power.

The Holocaust is a sobering reminder of the capacity for evil present in the human heart. It should lead us to look to God for deliverance not only from the evil of others, but from the evil in our own hearts. It should remind us that we need rescue and that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

The Ethics of Personhood

The Ethics of Personhood

Human history is tragically full of examples of the persecution and oppression that arise when those in power create their own definitions of human personhood and rights so as to exclude and misuse certain groups of people. However, Scripture is clear that all human beings have dignity, personhood, and rights given to them by God. The biblical understanding of personhood provides the essential foundation for ethical decisions about how to treat other people.

 

The Biblical View of Personhood

The Bible begins with God, the sovereign, good creator of all things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God’s creative handiwork, everything from light to land to living creatures, is called “good.” But humanity, being the very image of God, is the crown of God’s good creation—“behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature—as they were created to be like God, by God, for God, and to be with God (Gen. 1:26–27; 2:15).

In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image.” In the very beginning, our Creator gave us a remarkable title: he called us the image of God. This reveals the inherent dignity of all human beings, because the expression “image of God” designates human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe. As the image of God, humans, both male and female, are given special dignity and dominion and are commissioned to care for God’s good creation (Gen. 1:28–30).

 

Consequences of the Biblical View of Personhood

As God’s image-bearers, human beings are imbued with dignity and worth beyond that of animals. Speaking to Noah after the flood, God emphasizes that human life is to be highly valued, and that violence against any human being is to be rigorously punished (Gen. 9:5–6).

In Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with his image-bearers, who were to glorify him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and his wise rule, is called shalom. As Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., writes, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give peace (shalom) in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid” (Lev. 26:6). Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good. Nicholas Wolterstorff argues that shalom means harmonious and responsible relationships with God, other human beings, and nature. In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended, in which all human beings enjoy freedom, security, and peace.

 

Unbiblical views of personhood

Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Adam and Eve violated their relationship with God by rebelling against his command. This was a moment of cosmic treason. Instead of trusting in God’s wise and good word, they trusted in the crafty and deceitful words of the Serpent. In response, the Creator placed a curse on our parents that cast the whole human race into futility and death. The royal image of God fell into the severe ignobility we all experience.

This tragic fall plunged humanity into a relational abyss. Paul Tripp writes, “What seemed once unthinkably wrong and out of character for the world that God had made now became a daily experience … For the first time, the harmony between people was broken.” God’s image-bearers were created to worship and obey him and to reflect his glory to his good creation. After the fall, humanity was enslaved to idolatry (hatred for God) and violence (hatred for each other). Sin inverts love for God, which in turn becomes idolatry, and inverts love for neighbor, which becomes exploitation of others.

As Ashley Null points out, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” The fallen human heart finds ways to justify its hatred of other people and its desire to exploit them. The result is the multitude of unbiblical views of personhood found throughout human history which dehumanize and exclude people who are made in the image of God. Greg Bahnsen examines several major non-Christian views of the nature of humanity, such as the rationalistic dualism of Plato, the materialist economic determinism of Marx, the psychic determinism of Freud, and the environmental conditioning determinism of B.F. Skinner. Myriad other unbiblical ideologies of personhood have existed, such as tribalism, Social Darwinism, racism, Nazism, and views of superior personhood based on religion, wealth, gender, age, intellect, heredity, and so on.

Arguably, all unbiblical views of personhood can be divided into two sorts: (1) views that are reductionistic, that is, they reduce people to merely material beings, not made in the image of God; and (2), views that are gnostic, that is, they downplay the material aspect of people, so that suffering is seen as no more than an illusion. Both paths open the way to dehumanization, violence, and exploitation.

 

Consequences of unbiblical views of personhood

Without the biblical understanding of human personhood and dignity as image-bearers of God, society is free to degenerate into violence, oppression, and exploitation of the weak by the strong. The Old Testament clearly depicts the cruelty and violence that results from the Fall: cannibalism (2 Kings 6:28–29), violence against children (Ps. 137:9), women (Amos 1:13), and the unborn (2 Kings 15:16), rape (Judges 19:22–30), massacres (1 Sam. 22:18–19), and enslavement (Amos 4:2).

Throughout human history, we see again and again how unbiblical views of personhood are used to exploit and oppress people. The strong eat the weak, and there is injustice against disliked and lesser-valued groups, from the unborn to the elderly. There is abortion, infanticide, child abuse, and child labor. There is slavery, gender violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, racism, genocide, and ethnic warfare. There is class warfare, disenfranchisement, age discrimination, oppression of the poor, and discrimination against the disliked, the disabled, the uneducated, the weak, and the powerless. That which should be held sacred is commodified, bought, and sold. The examples of injustice and exploitation that occurs when human personhood is redefined are innumerable and heart-breaking.

 

The Biblical call to justice and mercy

Though it does not hesitate to depict the harsh reality of violence and oppression, the Bible clearly calls us to fight for justice and mercy for all people as God intended.

The prophet Zechariah portrays a God-given role for God’s people as a nation that practices justice & mercy in their society: “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” (Zech. 7:9–10). When Israel fails and continues to rebel against God’s law, God threatens judgment, but then pours out grace and restores them. Zechariah envisions God’s grace leading to true repentance and a people who fervently pursue justice and mercy for all people. The result is that the nations of unbelievers will come asking about the Lord (Zech. 8:20–23). God’s people thankful, worshiping God, and working for justice and mercy will be a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6), a hope which culminates in the coming of the Messiah.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and declared that these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in him: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17).

In making this declaration and in his ministry, Jesus showed that bringing freedom for captives and relief to the poor and oppressed is at the very center of his divine mission. His ultimate act of liberation was his substitutionary death and victorious resurrection, which set his people free from slavery to sin and death. Yet his teachings and his example show us that the proclamation of the good news of Christ’s saving work should be accompanied by tangible acts of love, service, and mercy toward our neighbors if the gospel message is to be recognized in its full power.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus’ actions contradicted the dehumanizing assumptions of his culture. Jesus spent significant amounts of time with children, women, the poor, the diseased, Samaritans, and other outcast and disliked groups, valuing and loving those considered less valuable by the culture of his day. This paradoxical approach to the value-systems of the world is echoed by Paul when he writes, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

The Christian church has, at its best, been known for exemplary love and sacrificial service to “the least of these”—the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. Such service has provided a powerful apologetic for the gospel. By upholding the dignity of all human life as the image of God and tangibly expressing the biblical ethic of personhood that flows from it, the church has the opportunity to be a light to the nations and to participate in God’s mission by welcoming the weak and powerless to find grace, mercy, and rest in Jesus Christ.

What is Happening? Where Is God?

What is Happening? Where Is God?

Senseless and horrific tragedies, like the shooting early this morning in an Orlando nightclub, cause us to ask important questions.

Here are some I’ve heard frequently already:

  • “What in the world is going on?”
  • “How are we to think and feel about violence?”
  • “Does the Bible say anything about violence?”

The Bible begins with God, the sovereign, good Creator of all things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God’s creative handiwork—everything from light to land to living creatures—is called “good.” But humanity, being the very image of God, is the crown of God’s good creation: “behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature—as they were created to be like God, by God, for God, and to be with God (Gen. 1:26–27, 2:15)

In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image.” In the very beginning, our Creator gave us a remarkable title: he called us the image of God. This reveals the inherent dignity of all human beings.

Peace . . .

In Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with his image bearers, who were to glorify him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and his wise rule, is called shalom (the Hebrew word for “peace”). As the scholar Cornelius Plantinga Jr. writes

In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give peace (shalom) in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid” (Lev. 26:6). Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good. Biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended (Isa. 32:14–20).

. . . and Violence

Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Adam and Eve violated their relationship with God by rebelling against his command. This was a moment of cosmic treason. Instead of trusting in God’s wise and good word, they trusted in the crafty and deceitful words of the serpent. In response, the Creator placed a curse on our parents that cast the whole human race into futility and death. The royal image of God fell into the severe ignobility we all experience.

This tragic fall from grace into disgrace plunged humankind into a relational abyss. Paul Tripp writes:

What seemed once unthinkably wrong and out of character for the world that God had made now became a daily experience. Words like falsehood, enemy, danger, sin, destruction, war, murder, sickness, fear, and hatred became regular parts of the fallen-world vocabulary. For the first time, the harmony between people was broken. Shame, fear, guilt, blame, greed, envy, conflict, and hurt made relationships a minefield they were never intended to be. People looked at other people as obstacles to getting what they wanted or as dangers to be avoided. Even families were unable to coexist in any kind of lasting and peaceful union. Violence became a common response to problems that had never before existed. Conflict existed in the human community as an experience more regular than peace. Marriage became a battle for control, and children’s rebellion became a more natural response than willing submission. Things became more valuable than people, and they willingly competed with others in order to acquire more. The human community was more divided by love for self than united by love of neighbor. The words of people, meant to express truth and love, became weapons of anger and instruments of deceit. In an instant, the sweet music of human harmony had become the mournful dirge of human war.

God’s good creation is now cursed because of the entrance of sin (Gen. 3:14–24). The world is simply not the way it’s supposed to be. The entrance of sin into God’s good world leads to the shattering of shalom. Sin, in other words, is “culpable shalom-breaking.

Evil is an intrusion upon shalom. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. Sin is the “vandalism of shalom.” Plantinga writes:

God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be. God is for shalom and therefore against sin. In fact, we may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically, morally, spiritually, or otherwise.

Regarding this dimension of sin, Plantinga writes:

All sin has first and finally a Godward force. Let us say that a sin is any act—any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed—or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame. Let us add that the disposition to commit sins also displeases God and deserves blame, and let us therefore use the word sin to refer to such instances of both act and disposition. Sin is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God.

God’s image-bearers were created to worship and obey him and to reflect his glory to his good creation. According to G. K. Beale:

God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.

After the fall, humankind was enslaved to idolatry (hatred for God) and violence (hatred for each other). Sin inverts love for God, which in turn becomes idolatry, and inverts love for neighbor, which becomes exploitation of others. Instead of worshiping God, our inclination is to worship anything else but God. Idolatry is not the ceasing of worship. Rather, it is misdirected worship, and at the core of idolatry is self-worship.

Instead of loving one another as God originally intended, fallen humanity expresses hatred and violence toward their neighbors. Sigmund Freud serves unexpectedly as a theologian of original sin. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud writes:

Men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbor is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without recompense, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus [“man is a wolf to his fellow man”]; who has the courage to dispute it in the face of all the evidence in his own life and in history?

Both the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with God’s image-bearers are fractured by the fall. Evil is anti-creation, anti-life, and the force that seeks to oppose, deface, and destroy God, his good world, and his image-bearers. Simply put, when someone defaces a human being—God’s image bearer—ultimately an attack is being waged against God himself.

The foundational premise of the Bible after Genesis 3, therefore, is that this fallen world, particularly fallen humanity, is violent. The cosmic war begun by the serpent in Eden, described in Genesis 3, produces collateral damage in the very next chapter. Immediately after the fall, there is a radical shift from shalom to violence, as the first murder takes place in Genesis 4. After God shows regard to Abel’s worshipful offering, Cain responds by raging against God and murdering his brother (Gen. 4:4–5, 8). The downward spiral of humankind and the constant spread of sin continued as God’s blessing are replaced by God’s curse.

Violence is sin against both God and his image-bearers. In our hatred for God, we hoard worship for self and strike against those who reflect God’s glory. Plantinga explains:

Godlessness is anti-shalom. Godlessness spoils the proper relation between human beings and their Maker and Savior. Sin offends God not only because it bereaves or assaults God directly, as in impiety or blasphemy, but also because it bereaves and assaults what God has made.

A portion of the Old Testament is a catalog of cruelty. Widespread violence and the appalling evil of fallen humanity are recorded in detail on nearly every page of the Hebrew Bible:

Acts of reprobate violence explode from the pages of the Old Testament as evil people perform unspeakable acts: Children are cannibalized (2 Kings 6:28–29; Ezek. 5:10; Lam. 2:20), boiled (Lam. 4:10), and dashed against a rock (Ps. 137:9). During the Babylonian invasion, Zedekiah is forced to watch his sons slaughtered, after which his own eyes are gouged out (Jer. 52:10–11). Pregnant women are ripped open (2 Kings 15:16; Amos 1:13). Other women are raped (Gen. 34:1–5; 1 Sam. 13:1–15; Ezek. 22:11); one of them is gang raped to the point of death (Judg. 19:22–30). Military atrocities are equally shocking. We read about stabbings (Judg. 3:12–20; 2 Sam. 2:23; 20:10) and beheadings (1 Sam. 17:54; 2 Sam. 4:7–9). These are normal military atrocities. More extraordinary cases involve torture and mutilation: limbs are cut off (Judg. 1:6–7), bodies hewed in pieces (1 Sam. 15:33), eyes gouged out (Judg. 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7), skulls punctured (Judg. 4:12–23; 5:26–27) or crushed by a millstone pushed from a city wall (Judg. 9:53). Two hundred foreskins are collected (1 Sam. 18:27), seventy heads gathered (2 Kings 10:7–8), thirty men killed for their clothing (Judg. 14:19). Bodies are hanged (Josh. 8:29), mutilated and displayed as trophies (1 Sam. 31:9–10), trampled beyond recognition (2 Kings 9:30–37), destroyed by wild beasts (Josh. 13:8; 2 Kings 2:23–24) or flailed with briers (Judg. 8:16). Entire groups are massacred (1 Sam. 22:18–19; 1 Kings 16:8–14) or led into captivity strung together with hooks through their lips (Amos 4:2).

Grieve with Hope

Violence is a bitter fruit of the fall and is, without question, a “vandalism of shalom.” God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation. Evil and violence are not the final word. They are not capable of creating or defining reality. That is God’s prerogative alone. However, evil and violence can pervert, distort, and destroy. They are parasitic on the original good of God’s creation.

The cross is both the consequence of evil and God’s method of accomplishing redemption. Jesus proves, by the resurrection, that God redeems and heals. And when Jesus returns, he will make all things new.

Until Jesus returns, we groan (Rom. 8:23) and we grieve (1 Thess. 4:13). Grief is not a sinful emotion but is the result of sin. God and his people have legitimate grief because of sin and the pain it brings. Because of God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ, he will wipe away all of your tears (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). We look forward to the day when grief will be banished. Therefore, you can have hope, which invites you to grieve, but not to grieve as one who does not have hope (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:55–57). We grieve with hope because Jesus’ resurrection is proof to us that God is about healing, redeeming, and making all things new.

What Jesus’ resurrection began will find its completion in the new creation. The new heavens and the new earth described in Revelation 21:3–5 is a picture of perfection:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. . . . Behold, I am making all things new.

Parts of this post are adapted from our book Rid of My Disgrace.

Love-Making

Love-Making

Everyone agrees that love is a good thing. Love is often a very feel-good topic. But if we look at Scripture, we find something disturbing: love is actually a big problem for us humans.

Our Problem with Love

The Bible tells us that God doesn’t just want us to love each other—he actually requires that we love each other:

  • “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Rom. 13:9)
  • “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal. 5:14)
  • “. . . Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
  • “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . . [You] must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:44, 48)
  • “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37–40)

As we read through these verses, it should become apparent that every one of us has failed and does fail to love as God intends and commands us to, with all our hearts.

Jesus has some bad news regarding what naturally comes out of the human heart: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, false testimony, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly (Matt. 15:17–20; Mark 7:20–22). He concludes, “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23). In Galatians 5:17–21, Paul follows Jesus’ lead and tells us that inherent within us are works of the flesh like “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

After Paul makes his list of sinful desires, he follows it with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is not inherent in us but worked into us by the Holy Spirit. The natural human heart produces one kind of desires, and the Spirit produces another kind by giving us a new heart. And they are opposed to one another. Thorn bushes do not produce oranges. Weeds do not produce apples. And the human heart does not naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Love is our problem. Moreover, the command to love doesn’t generate in us the ability to fulfill it. We can be told over and over that we ought to love, but being told to do so doesn’t make it possible for us to accomplish it. The command to love actually condemns us, because we all fail.

Freed from Condemnation

God provides the answer for our love problem in Jesus Christ. Through faith we trust in Christ, and we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Through faith in Christ’s finished work, we are freed from condemnation for our failure to love.

But it gets even better.

Freed to Love

We have been freed to love. When God makes us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), he produces in us new passions and desires so love and good works are actually possible (Phil. 2:13).

God has loved us in a way that has given us life. The atoning death of Jesus provides the means by which we enter a relationship in which love is received and expressed. With that as the context of the commands to love, the commands are viewed not as the “ought” of compulsion but the “transformation” of internal constraint. To those who encountered the source of love, the commandment to love can be read with hope and joy, because love is not alien to our experience.

We have been given an overabundance of love.

1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s gracious, generous love toward us changes our hearts and makes us able to love.

Abundance of Love

The more we bask in God’s affection, the more the reality of God’s acceptance of us seeps into our hearts, the more we might love others as ourselves. This seems to be the logic behind Jesus’ statement: love one another as God has loved you. We have been given an overabundance—a surplus—of love. And out of that love, we can love others out of the overflow of God’s affection for us. God’s love is a love-making love.

We Are Not God: Machen On Humanity

We Are Not God: Machen On Humanity

This is the third installment in our seven-part series based on J. Gresham Machen’s seminal work, Christianity and Liberalism (1923). In the book, still relevant almost a century later, Machen contrasts the modernist theological liberalism of his day with biblical Christianity. He argues that liberalism is actually a completely separate religion from Christianity, and shows how the two differed on doctrine, God and humanity, the Bible, Jesus, salvation, and the church. 

This post covers Chapter 3, which explains how liberalism diverges from Christianity in its view of God and humanity.

Christianity and theological liberalism disagree radically in their understanding of the knowledge of God and of humanity. Christian liberalism asserts a kind of knowledge of God that is rooted in the human feeling of the presence of God, while Christianity asserts that human feeling depends upon the prior knowledge of God.

Jesus Is Personal

Liberal religion sees Jesus as the highest example of a person who exhibited constant God-consciousness and had a truly practical knowledge of the divine. But Jesus claimed to be in an intimate personal relationship with his Father, the living God—not just conscious of a sense of deity within all of us. Jesus believed in a personal God, and there is no true Christianity apart from, as Machen writes, “the belief in the real existence of a personal God.”

Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion. (p. 55)

Liberal religion struggles with the reality of a personal God, but talks a lot about “the universal fatherhood of God.” The Bible does teach that, as Creator, God is in a sense the Father of all. But the main message of the Bible is that God is only in a personal relationship as Father with those whom he has redeemed from sin.

God the Father, Not Jesus the Father

Though liberalism appeals to Jesus as the source of the doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God, this doctrine is not ever found in Jesus’ teachings. In fact one particular passage reveals that Jesus believed God cared for all, but that he was not Father to all (Matt. 5:44–45). The good news that Jesus gave to a world full of sinful enemies of God was that those who trust him could then be called sons of God and relate to God as Abba Father.

The problems with theological liberalism go even further. It removes the Creator-creature distinction and the reality of a transcendent God. In liberalism, there is no major distinction between God and humanity. Instead of a distinction, there is a pantheistic idea of the entire world and humanity as one with God.

Essential Goodness vs. Sinful Nature

In addition, liberalism does not hold to the doctrine of the sinfulness of humanity and has retreated to a pagan understanding of humankind as essentially good. Machen explains, “Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.”

In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of “Woe is me.” Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea. (pp. 65–66)

This Is a Greater Humanism

This is the amazing message of Christianity: we are deeply broken, but God’s grace is deeper still and he has rescued us from our sinful brokenness through faith in the person and work of Jesus. Because of the grace of God, we can own up to our sin, be completely forgiven, be declared righteous, and live in freedom and joy. This is a greater humanism than what paganism offers, as it is “founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace.”

Liberalism offers a Jesus that inherently good people should consider imitating, while Christianity proclaims the perfectly righteous Christ, who died in the place of sinful people worthy of condemnation and declares them righteous.

Next up, we’ll see how Machen explained how Christianity and liberalism have completely different approaches to the Bible.

Can’t wait? Read the book for free online or listen to it as a free audiobook.

Sin, Sex, and Shalom

Sin, Sex, and Shalom

IN THE BEGINNING, IN HIS IMAGE

The Bible begins with God, the Sovereign Lord and good Creator of all things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God’s creative handiwork, everything from light to land to living creatures, is called “good.” But humanity, being the very image of God, is the crown of God’s good creation (“behold it was very good”).

In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image.” In the very beginning, our Creator gave us a remarkable title: he called us the image of God. This reveals the inherent dignity of all human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe.

As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature as they were created like God, by God, for God, and to be with God.

MULTIPLY AND HAVE DOMINION

Immediately after making the man and woman, God granted them a special commission: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve’s job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then, God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God’s behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture.

Multiplication and dominion are deeply connected to our being the image of God. To be sure, God had no problem filling the earth with his presence, but he chose to establish his authority on earth in ways that humans could understand. God commanded his images to populate the landscape of his creation. In the command to “multiply,” God wanted his images spread to the ends of the earth. His command to “have dominion” is God giving humans authority to represent him in his world. Marital sex is the means by which we fulfill our calling of multiplying and taking dominion.

SHALOM

God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with his image bearers, who were to glorify him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and his wise rule, is called shalom. As one scholar writes:

In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight‚ a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Shalom means fullness of peace, and harmonious and responsible relationship with God, other human beings, and nature, as God intended. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give you peace (shalom) in the land, and none shall make you afraid” (Leviticus 26:6).

In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended. In shalom, sex is also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one in marriage.

SIN

This peaceful, loving relationship was shattered by the entrance of sin into the world. Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and violated shalom. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. Instead of unashamed intimacy and trust, there is shame and mistrust. Instead of grace, there is disgrace.

A foundational element of paradise, sexual innocence in community, has been spoiled by the treachery of sin. Sex, the very expression of human union, intimacy, and peace, becomes a tool for pain, suffering, and destruction after the fall.

GRACE

Sin is not the last word on the world or us. God reconciled the world to himself through Jesus Christ. By dealing with sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.

The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. God’s redemption imparts grace and brings peace, including our sexual past, present, and future. There is healing, hope, cleansing, and forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus.

The Councils of Carthage and Orange

The Councils of Carthage and Orange

Theological Anthropology

Theological anthropology refers to the doctrine of humanity, how humans relate to God, and the human condition before and after the Fall. Secular anthropologies root the evil in the world in oppressive social structures, inherited situations, or psychological disorders. Christian anthropology is very different as it deals with the contrast that exists between Adam’s created state before the Fall and the mess of the human condition after sin.

History and Content

In the fifth and early sixth-centuries, theological anthropology was a major topic of debate. The church articulated its doctrines of the Trinity, God, Christ, and Holy Spirit in the first four centuries after Jesus Christ. The Council of Carthage (418) outlawed Pelagianism in unambiguous terms.

Pelagius asserted (against Augustine) that humans were not born corrupt but gradually made corrupt after repeatedly sinning. Though the Council of Carthage ruled against this, affirming that humans had inherited a fallen nature from Adam, many disliked the rulings. Those who questioned Carthage thought that the idea that fallen humans were unable to freely choose good in their unredeemed state was contrary to the teaching of the Bible and led to fatalism. In the seventeenth century these “dissenters” were labeled “Semi-Pelagians,” which links them much closer to the Pelagian heresy than they actually were.

After the Council of Carthage, the Council of Orange (529) was the next to deal significantly with theological anthropology. The Council insisted that death was not essential to human nature but a contingent effect of Adam’s sin, that original sin was passed from Adam to every man, that baptism was the way in which this sin was to be cleansed, and that grace was not merely an add-on to assist our own free-will but a catalyst through which we were able to do that which we could not do on our own. In addition, the Council ruled that any conception of predestination to evil (i.e., reprobation) was heretical.

Some argue that the Councils were so concerned with Pelagianism that they ruled out legitimate understandings of the grace of God and human salvation.

Some today question how firmly we must hold the rulings at Orange and Carthage. For one, the Councils of Orange and Carthage were not ecumenical councils. This means that they were not universally-affirmed by the Eastern and Western branches of the church. In addition, some argue that the Councils were so concerned with Pelagianism that they ruled out legitimate understandings of the grace of God and human salvation.

Contemporary Relevance

There are several common threads that unite both those who side with Augustine and those who wanted to avoid the heresy of Pelagius without sacrificing legitimate expressions of human freedom. Both sides absolutely affirms “that humanity’s present condition does not correspond to God’s ultimate purpose and original intention in its creation.” Moreover, they agreed that humans are responsible for their sinful condition, and that God is ultimately responsible for reversing the curse and restoring that which had been broken. Put differently, salvation is by grace alone and nothing that humans can do could warrant their acceptance before a holy God. This is an offense to most contemporary secular anthropologies. Christians believe that the problem with humanity is not something imposed upon us over which we had no control. Instead, we understand that it is we who are the problem—we choose sin over obedience—death over life.

 

Pelagius: Know Your Heretics

Pelagius: Know Your Heretics

 

Historical Background

In the early 5th century a debate arose between Pelagius, a British monk, and Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. They disagreed over the relationship between human nature after the Fall and saving, divine grace in Jesus Christ. When Pelagius arrived in Rome and saw the city’s dim view of morality, he developed a reputation for being a spiritual director who urged people to reform their behavior and live lives as upstanding, moral citizens.

Pelagius’ View of Sin

Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith. Pelagius emphasized unconditional free will and the ability to better oneself spiritually without grace. This was in direct contrast to Augustine, who believed that humanity was completely helpless in Adam’s sin and in desperate need of grace. Specifically, Pelagius took issue with Augustine’s prayer in his Confessions, which asked God to grant humans grace to act in accordance with his divine commands: “Grant what you command and command what you will.” (Confessions, X. 40).

Pelagius rejected the teaching of “original sin,” the results of the Fall upon humanity. According to him, Adam’s sin in no way made humans corrupt, but instead “over the years our sin gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.” (Letter to Demetrias, VIII). Humans by nature have a clean slate, and it is only through voluntary sin that humans are made wicked. Potentially, then, one could live a sinless life and merit heaven. Pelagius thought that God commanding a person to do something that he lacked the ability to do would be useless: “To call a person to something he considers impossible does him no good.” (Letter to Demetrias, I). If God called humans to live moral lives, Pelagius thought, it should be within their power to carry out such commands.

Orthodox Response

Pelagius’ error was deemed heretical in 416 by the Council of Carthage. Originally Adam, Augustine said, possessed freedom—the ability not to sin. After the Fall, all human beings participate in Adam’s sin, which renders them not able not to sin. After the mediation of divine grace in Jesus Christ humans are once again given the ability not to sin. Augustine replied to Pelagius’ views in two treatises: On the Grace of Christ and On Original Sin. Augustine writes: “We must realize that Pelagius believes that neither our will nor our action is helped by divine aid…he believes that God does not help us to will, that he does not help us to act, that he helps us only to be able to will and to act.”(On the Grace of Christ, V.6). Augustine saw Pelagius’ teaching to be a clear denial of Philippians 2:12-13, because Pelagius located the capacity “to will and to do” what pleases God in human nature rather than in God’s grace.”(On the Grace of Christ, V.6 and VI.7).

Why Does All This Matter?

Ignoring the consequences the Fall has on everyone leads to a diminishment of the multifaceted work of Christ. In his ministry Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, but lived a perfect life in obedience to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit—the life that Adam failed to live—in order to restore fallen humans to their original state of grace. It is not only through the grace of God that humans are initially saved but also through this grace that they are sustained. As Augustine put it, God “guards the weak so that by his gift the saints unfailingly choose the good and unfailingly refuse to abandon it.”(On Rebuke and Grace, 38). Without understanding the magnitude of sin and the plight of humanity, the gracious work of Jesus for us and our salvation seems superfluous. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” Because of sin, humans are not naturally good—that’s why we need Jesus.