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    "You are really cool you are married to an European!! How cooler can you be??"
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    "Oh, you did not ask for Bonhoeffer's opinion did you? You wanted mine..."
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    Dyspraxic Fundamentalist

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Gospel in the Garden

Part of a series of articles by Dr. Jim Reitman

It used to bother me that we have to suffer the death penalty because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden (Rom 5:12-13). He “should have known better,” and he didn’t even have a sin nature before he chose to disobey…it kind of reminds me of Marlon Brando’s classic line in A Streetcar Named Desire: “I coulda’ been a contenda’.” But I had to remind myself that God’s plan for Creation and Redemption wasn’t “Plan B” (just because Adam sinned)—it was his foreordained “decree” (“And God said…”). How does all this relate to John 3?

To Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews used to reading the Septuagint (LXX) version of the Old Testament (OT), it seems that the allusion to the “snake” or “serpent” in John 3:14 would very likely “call back” not only the events in Numbers 21 and Exodus 4 but also the original account of the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1). Although there are several possible names for “snake,” the Hebrew nāhaš occurs in each of these OT citations, and the LXX Greek translation is the same as “serpent” in John 3:14: ophis. I am convinced that Jesus—the consummate Rabbi—would have expected Nicodemus to recall the entire setting of Genesis 3 as the backdrop for his teaching in John 3:16-21.

From a “Rabbinic” perspective, the account of the Fall in the Garden is brilliant in setting the stage for the Gospel. The original hearers of the account would have been schooled in Torah. Since the names of everyone and everything in Genesis are key to understanding the intended referents for these names in Torah, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:9) are not just a fairy-tale curiosities, like the props and characters in Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass. They set the stage for the story.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Law, Conscience, & Guilt)
In a classic move characteristic of narrative genre, God’s instructions to Adam in 2:17 provide the first sense of foreboding that should lead the hearer—Genesis has been oral tradition for most of human history—to ask not if but when the breech would surely occur. Moses is far more explicit by the end of Torah when he actually predicts Israel’s disobedience (Deut 28-30), but the intended sense of foreboding is no different in Genesis 2:17.

From this Torah-oriented perspective, then, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a transparent allusion to Torah itself. The stipulations of the three iterations of the Law in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are nothing less than God’s formalizing of “the knowledge of good and evil” for his chosen people as his intended ambassadors to the nations. The purpose of Law was that they might know when they were “doing righteousness and justice” to reflect God’s character to the surrounding nations (see Christopher Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, IVP, 2005). Hence, the Law was intended as a “compass” that would guide their behavior as his representatives. The problem with this “picture” is that indwelling sin precluded the effective demonstration of this righteousness, and the account in the Garden explained for them why.

Adam was given the choice of eating of any tree in the Garden (Gen 2:16), including the Tree of Life, but with the serpent’s insinuation that the benefits of self-sufficiency were superior to those of obedience, Adam ate of the one tree that God had proscribed (3:1-6). In the same bold stroke, the first Adam---“who knew no sin”---thus became aware (3:7) of good and evil (i.e., conscious of Law, cf. 3:5) and of the reality that they were naked (i.e., “ashamed” or guilty of sin, cf. 2:25). This is nothing less than the birth of conscience, such that all who are “snake-bitten” in Adam—just like the originals—are intuitively aware of their own sin the moment they become aware of “good and evil.” This is exactly the same sequence that Paul describes in the first person the moment his conscience matures in Romans 7:7-12, just as for all people in Romans 2:14-16 (cf. also Eccl 7:20-22).
Conclusion: Conscience is instilled by God in all humanity from Adam on as an “internal repository” for their intuitive awareness of Law, sin, and guilt, exemplified by awareness of their nakedness (Gen 3:7). This in turn provides the foundation for our first Gospel tenet in The Basic Thesis on the introductory post to this series: God has projected into human conscience that we are dead in trespasses and sin.

Fast forward to John 3: This “guilty conscience” was precisely the situation for corporate Israel when John the Baptist arrived on the scene, and it is perfectly exemplified in John 3 by “Nic at night”; hence, his need for baptism by “water and spirit” (John 3:5). However, a “seared” conscience is “dulled” to this awareness by habitual disobedience, so that humans can falsely convince themselves they are conforming to the standard of “good and evil.” The imagery of “darkness” in John 3 is therefore representative of a seared conscience that resists the Light and can no longer understand either Torah or the Word that incarnated Torah (1:14), the same One who had been with God and was God (1:1-3).

The Tree of Life (“Eternity in Their Hearts”)
The sure result of Adam’s disobedience of Genesis 2:17—just as in Deuteronomy 28-30 for disobedience of Torah—was death. This is confirmed in Gen 3:16-19, which addresses Adam and the woman as representative of all humanity. However, this “death” is not immediately physical; in essence it is a three-dimensional alienation from God and from each other. It starts with shame and condemnation (3:7-13), afflicts our entire physical lives (3:16-19), and then culminates in eternal separation from God in the Garden, with barred access to the Tree of Life (3:22-24). What we need, therefore, is restored access to this Tree—a three-dimensional life that can reverse this three-dimensional alienation that is death for humanity.

If we examine what has been called the “proto-evangelium” (i.e., the “first version of the Gospel”) in Genesis 3:15 for this same audience, there is an implicit promise of life in the “seed of the woman.” Adam’s faith that the curse will be reversed and result in life is attested by the name he gives the woman, “because she was the mother of all living” (3:20). However, that “life” depended on the “seed of the woman” overcoming evil and restoring access to the Tree of Life. So when Eve gives birth to her first son, Cain, she believes that her son will be their savior (4:1)—the verse literally reads “I have gotten [acquired] a man, the LORD,” implying that she expected he would “reopen” the way to the Tree of Life. In effect, then, the same conscience that became the “repository” of Law, guilt, and condemnation is now also seen to house an “intuitive awareness” of the promise of life. That this intuitive awareness extends to all humanity is exactly the contextual sense of Eccl 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time; he has even set eternity in their hearts….” (my translation, emphasis added).
Conclusion: The Tree of Life in the Garden represents the promise of eternal life. Consequently, humans have an inborn awareness of something eternal that is beyond their ability to secure it. Belief in the promised seed of the woman as the source of this life “seals” the promise, “putting it on layaway” (as it were) until the advent of the seed who would accomplish the requisite blood atonement (see below, cf. Rom 3:25-26). This provides the foundation for our second Gospel tenet in The Basic Thesis on the introductory post: God has promised life after death forever to those who believe Him for it.

Fast forward to John 3: This sets the stage for Jesus’ promise of eternal life that restores access to the Tree of Life and is available to anyone who believes him as the specified one-of-a-kind “seed of the woman” God “gave” (3:14-16). This “eternal life” will reverse death with a three-dimensional quality that transcends mere justification or imputation.

God Provides a “Covering” (Blood Atonement for Sin)
It may at first surprise us that the Lord God made the promise in Genesis 3:15 to the serpent rather than to Adam. But the serpent is addressed in 3:14-15, because the primary intent is to affirm that God will deal decisively with the “author” of sin on man’s behalf. Few in this discussion would fail to recognize the promise of Messiah in the “seed of the woman,” whose “heel the serpent will bruise” but thereby crush the serpent’s head (at the Cross, cf. John 3:14-15; 16:11). However, the initial hearers certainly would not have known the Cross or the specific identity of the “Seed”; thus the Gospel in the Garden is not “complete” in 3:15 alone, because Adam has not yet been informed of the means by which the “seed of the woman” will destroy sin in order for mankind to have life after death.

Enter the animal skins (warning: some Hebrew grammar ahead): Genesis 3:20-21 may seem at first to be a series of unrelated events following the curse in 3:16-19; however, while each of the verbs in 3:15-19 is in the imperfect (i.e., future) tense, each of the verbs in 3:20-21 is in the preterite tense and thus has “consequential” significance. IOW, Adam’s naming of the woman—believing that she would be “the mother of all life”—was a direct result of knowing the predictions in 3:15-19 of both the consequences of sin and a future “seed” who would reverse those consequences. Similarly, God’s provision of coverings was a direct result of Adam’s act of faith in naming Eve. We could thus paraphrase 3:15-21 as follows: “God promised that sin would be defeated through a future ‘seed’; meanwhile, humans would eek out a miserable existence and then would die, so then Adam named his wife Eve, because God said she would bear the ‘seed’ that gives life, so then God made them skins to cover them.” This implies that God replaced their worthless self-made coverings for their “nakedness” (metonymy for sin) with efficacious coverings from animals that had to be killed and skinned to supply them. Again, the initial audience was fully aware of the requisites for animal sacrifice in Torah and would have understood implicitly that blood would have to be shed and the gift of skins accepted in order to furnish these coverings.
Conclusion: The means by which God would cover sin would be through a ransom by shed blood offered to and accepted by those who need it to escape the final consequence of death for sin. This provides the foundation for our third Gospel tenet in The Basic Thesis on the introductory post: God has provided a human ransom that will “buy us back” from death to life.

Fast forward to John 3:16: When Jesus tells Nicodemus that God gave his one-of-a-kind son, the connection between the imagery of John 3:14-16 and Genesis 3:15-21 entails God’s implicit provision of a ransom by shed blood (the unique promised “seed” of Gen 3:15) to cover sin. Hence, the gift of a ransom is implied by the phrase “God gave,” and rational people should at least be intuitively aware of this implication in the message of John 3:16.


Blogger Pia said...

just want to say hi, papu! (((HUGS)))

10/27/2009 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Hi Sweet Pia! Mamu and Papu love you! ;-)

10/27/2009 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hi KC and Jim!
BTW,We love you too KC.

I wanted to keep my powder dry, to or better, turn it into baking powder, But I have always read John 3:3,5,6 as parallelisms, or rather Jesus defines terms of v.3 by 5 and 6 and repeats 3 in 7 as a bookend.
"Ye must be born again implies an initial birth.
Nicodemus asks Him to define terms: How can one be reborn long after his physical birth?
Jesus answers him with this order:Verily Verily I say unto you except a man (any man, every man) be born of water (physical birth) and the Spirit he can not see the kingdom of God.
The third time Jesus restates this, but thanks to Augustine we have water on the brain: THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE FLESH IS FLESH.(PERIOD) THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT (REGENERATION) IS SPIRIT!
[Nicodemus and everyman] Marvel not that I say unto you, that you must be born AGAIN.

All this time, Jesus does not tell How this is to be accomplished, only that it is absolutely indispensably required of everyman.
In verse 16 He fires the shot through Nicodemus' heart that will convert him and convict (one way or the other) everyman henceforth:
God so Loved [everyman, woman, child] that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever BELIEVETH on HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life.

IN keeping with your narrative theme, the need for Jesus to reiterate born AGAIN (Regenerated) may be because the 1st c. Jew might have considered himself "in" by virtue of being Born as a Jew.
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is done outwardly, in the flesh. Romans 2:29

I trust this: that I will either be convinced otherwise, or I will be strengthened in this conviction.

Either way,

God's Peace!
Your Brother,

10/27/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

Good morning, KC!


Ah - the narrative! You are speaking my language, bro, which is literature. With my schooling behind me, I'm far more comfortable here than in theology.

I have a deep love for what you are doing here because the "Good News" implies a story, does it not? You are laying the background for a story with your three tenets and the supporting literature. I cannot pick this apart on a theological level any more than I can on a literary one - because it's beautifully speculative. And it could be absolutely right. :)

We develop relationships with literature based on our own perceptions and experiences (as you described, the "rabbinic" perspective). So if you think about it, the entirety of this Story of Christ (not "Plan B" but the center of the story) is to know Christ and have a relationship with Him - The Word.

I'm excited to see where you go from here...

10/27/2009 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Thanks, Missy. I agree it's speculative, especially from a 21st Century, linear mindset. I'm not sure how speculative it would have been to a first century Jew. The beauty of this is that we can have little doubt that the cross and resurrection are in view in John 3:16 as we look back on it and then point others to the one-of-a-kind Jesus with the same verse.


I hope you don't mind that I answered your post above on the previous comment thread, because it fit better there. :-)

10/27/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...

Well done, and I think I may have more to add later, but I've gotta let it "bake" a bit.

Jim and Missy,
As Jim Jordan is fond of pointing out, the people who came up with the custom in Gen.32:32 clearly operate on a concrete/symbolic reasoning scheme. The same sort of thing is in operation in Galatians, where at the very height of his argument, Paul resorts to allegory, or in 1 Peter 3 where to make his soteriological point, Peter resorts to typology. What you're doing here, Jim, is similar -- for lack of a better term, it 'rhymes' with the biblical instances.

As we get past modernist exegesis, we're going to need to develop the 'poetic' eyes to see and ears to hear such things, because this is the way the biblical writers thought and communicated.

10/27/2009 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Well said, my friend.

When we grind our teeth insisting on "propositional purity" to "lock and load" the gospel, it is we who will be the worse for it, when the non-propositional truth of poetics accuses us of "murdering" the text: "Thou art the man."

(With apologies for my hyperbole to the [very poetic] prophet Nathan, 2 Sam 12:7.)

10/27/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...

What I was baking: There's a set of problems that arises when you begin to 'get' the symbolism that runs consistently through the Bible, and you understand that God doesn't do these things at random. John 3 presents one of them: Why a serpent on a pole? "'cause there were serpents in the camp" isn't a satisfying answer -- God could have sent some other plague, or used some other means of deliverance, as He so often has. So why a serpent on a pole, and not, say, a lamb, slain and displayed in the center of the camp? "Look to the lamb and live" -- like that? Or "Eat the peace offering and live" -- what a communion image that would have made!

Commentators on Col.2:14-15 often mention Paul's delightful inversion of the cross. To all outward appearances it was Jesus condemned on the cross, but in reality it was the rulers and authorities who were being openly shamed in public display.

As, I would like to add, was their father, the Serpent of old. 1Jn.3:8 and Heb.2:14 talk about the cross in these terms: through it Christ destroyed the devil. When Christ is lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, he obtains the definitive victory over the Serpent, and it is the Serpent who is put on public display, with all his minions.
And the God of peace will shortly crush that old snake under the feet of Christ's body (Rom.16:20).

10/27/2009 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...


Spot on, as usual. I was going to say this in my snake-on-a-stick post, that if I were a betting man, that bronze serpent had a crushed head.

10/27/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...

Interesting, Jim.

This is starting to remind me of my canonical critical training in school (of the John Sailhamer/Ray Lubeck [my prof] camp). Most of my Bible profs liked to call this kind of stuff experimental exegesis ;-). The challenge, as you know, is to make the substantial literary/grammatical/syntactical links . . . and this is hard work (i.e. while avoiding 'figuring' too much).

I'm enjoying your stuff, I look forward to seeing how you'll round it off. I think the interesting thing about narrative is that its primary function is to describe; I think your challenge will be to provide your exegesis with prescriptive force. IOW, I could easily, at this point, plug all that you've said into Covenant Theologies' framework (in fact O. Palmer Robertson's work [Christ and the Covenants] is similar to yours here). Anyway, I'm enjoying this . . .

10/28/2009 04:05:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...


I don't know if you have read my commentary on Job and Ecclesiastes or my piece on the epilogue to Ecclesiastes, "Words of Truth", but this is my basic template for doing the kind of exegesis you are talking about. I don't see "speculative exegesis" as anything "less" than riding the turns of the so-called hermeneutical spiral, as we all progressively "fine tune" our ingrained "preunderstandings" to match the author's meaning as "embedded" in the text. In fact one could say that's all we're doing on these comment threads.

If I could borrow from Tim's earlier comment (above), my exegetical approach to the text tries to "respect" the human author(s) in a way that "rhymes" the text with the heart of the "God who speaks" in both written and incarnate Word. This "methodology" in turn orients readers/interpreters to "rhyme" their lives with the text thus exegeted, which then issues in works of righteousness that God intends to do through us.

I think that's where all this is headed, but I myself am learning a bunch as I go through this exercise; it has been very helpful to have all you who are interested in what's going on here ask their questions and express their concerns. I think God's purposes in Scripture are honored when people are encouraged to return to the text in a way that thus respects the A/author(s). :-)

10/28/2009 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

I agree, Bobby. I've always read scripture similar to Jim's style of exegesis, and pressed to decisively conform to a theological framework I have to admit I could use them all at some point.

10/28/2009 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

Jim, I hope you know when I referred to this as "speculative" that I am not implying any lack in truth, but rather it's a truth without some of the concrete evidentary facts we often rely on. I prefer to call that kind of truth "wisdom." :)

10/28/2009 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...


It may be that all this is compatible with your Covenantal understanding because here, the differences just don't much matter.

A few years ago some friends and I were working on a statement of faith for a ministry in which Covenant and Dispensational folk were going to have to work in theological endeavor under the same roof. It didn't come off, but for lack of $$, not because of theological conflict. I still work well with my opposite number in the enterprise, despite the theological differences.

The key to us getting along, theologically, was scrapping the traditional categories and taking a chronological, narrative approach. What we found, and you may find the same, is that while the differences between systems are real enough (systematically considered), biblical emphasis and biblical priorities make many of those differences unimportant. (And other issues, like a literal creation week, become absolutely vital.)

In a number of cases we found that a statement could be "spun" toward one system or the other, but if one was merely trying to state the content of the passage before us, live it out, and thus love, honor and serve Christ, there was just no need to involve either system. We concluded that our respective systems had elevated a number of points to unbiblical prominence, and then had proceeded to divide Christ's body over it.

Wonder if that's not the case here as well.

10/28/2009 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...


We're too accustomed to proof being something in a test tube, or something that Euclid would be comfortable with. Those modes of proof are valuable, but they only work in a very narrow band of experience.

Part of the task confronting Christians now is to recover the other sorts of proof, and some of those can't be checked by a computer or a mechanical process. For some things, it takes eyes to see and ears to hear, and therefore it matters very much who's doing the looking and listening.

10/28/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Couldn't agree with Tim more.

On the issue of convergence between Covenant/Disp., I have found Russell Moore's The Kingdom of Christ quite helpful.

10/28/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


I'm not Covenantal, in fact I'm quite Progressive Dispy, I was just saying that what Jim has done so far hasn't undercut or reframed the FG controversy on salvation --- per se. I was under the impression that this work was intended to do that by reframing the issues; and I suppose in a sense it has reframed, but what is of concern to me is that even when doing narrative exegesis we still have "theological" assumptions undergirding and thus informing "our spiral." And thus, the reapproach here doesn't really change much (it's exciting, it's awesome to see the unity and intentionality of the text . . . BUT . . .).

I think we have to ground truth in the WORD/person/Jesus (which the Word of scripture bears witness to Jn 5.39); there is someone who holds all of "this narrative" together --- Jesus --- and I think we want to make this explicit through scripture.


I appreciate what you're doing here, I like it! I haven't read your commentary yet; I will someday. I'm just saying that narrative exegesis has some tenuous linkage made at points; sometimes we just have to take the exegetes word for the linkage (almost as intuitive) . . . which makes some of it "experimental" ;-).

Anyway, I'll keep reading.

10/28/2009 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...


It sounds like you might be dichotomizing narrative analysis and exegesis. I think in these genres the former is necessarily entailed in the latter, but it also entails linguistic analysis. I have tried to show a few unobtrusive examples of the latter in the series so far. You will see far more representative exegesis in the book.

Thanks for the vote of confidence; I wouldn't expect anything else from a fellow PD. :-)

10/28/2009 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...

Sorry about misreading you for a Covenant guy; my mistake.

From where I'm standing, the present Free Grace Food Fight doesn't need to be reframed; it needs to be rebuked and avoided as one of those foolish disputes Paul warned Titus about, and the divisive men who promote it need to be rejected after the first and second admonition. More than a few of our nationally known figures ought to have been excommunicated by their local assemblies long before now, and it is to the great shame of their pastors and elders that they have not been.

The needs of the hour are first, for men to rebuke the whole mess and refuse to shut up about it, and second, for God-honoring discussion of the gospel to avoid the fashionable foolishness and go to the meat of the matter.

My emphasis has been the former, because of where I've been providentially placed; I read Jim here as doing the latter, saying what ought to have been said rather than trying to reframe what has been.

But I could be misreading, and I'm open to correction.

10/28/2009 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


I said "narrative exegesis," I don't know how that is dichotomizing the two. Indeed 'speech-act' is also at play; no dispute there. I'm just taking what you were saying over at Fred's --- i.e. narrative approach --- and trying to correlate that to what you're doing here (as if this is what you were intending to do there).

I thought you were going to offer a via media; but now I realize its a supra-media ;-). Which is why I first said here I don't think you'll have much of an audience with any FG'rs (because what you're doing here is beyond what any FG'rs that I've seen 'able' or 'willing' to consider). Maybe you're starting a third camp within FG --- Progressive-FG ;-).


Hey, from what I've seen with this whole FG thing I totally agree (rebuke is called for). I agree with your assessment of what Jim is doing . . . I just wonder who his FG audience (besides you) might be?

10/28/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Brothers (and "Sistren"),

I'm really being blessed in the conversation but I'd like to propose that we setup a separate thread for the FG discussion. I'll let everyone weigh in before acting.

10/28/2009 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


No problem. But one point of clarification; wasn't this whole thing supposed to be a continuation of what didn't happen over at Fred's?

And if so, isn't FG and its biblical interp. under consideration here; even if implicitly so? I want to stick with the exegesis, but like you know, there is no "naked" exegesis; and I want to see how this reifies or starts afresh a new trajectory for FG. This is what I've always understood Jim's intentions to be in the sphere; and so I was assuming that that what was going on here --- a fresh approach to articulating the FG Gospel.

10/28/2009 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Bobby, thanks and I can appreciate your point. I can only speak for myself but if someone who claimed to be LS were teaching the things I've heard from Jim over the past few months then I'd be after that person to start their own blog! ;-)

10/28/2009 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

KC, Bobby,

That's right, my stint at Fred's was never intended to develop a via media, as I hoped I made clear from the start. I think Bobby's tracking with me pretty well here, so I certainly appreciate his reflections on the implications for FG. Actually, I like the sound of progressive FG, but I still have to convert Tim. :-)

10/28/2009 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD! At the cost of one more key tap you could have typed "Middle Way" instead making me google "via media".
Jim you wrote:It sounds like you might be dichotomizing narrative analysis and exegesis. I think in these genres the former is necessarily entailed in the latter, but it also entails linguistic analysis. I have tried to show a few unobtrusive examples of the latter in the series so far. You will see far more representative exegesis in the book.


Youse guys are gonna hafta pay an esquire to mediate Roberts Rules before you get any further.
No wonder I saw the episode of Sponge Bob the other day where Sponge calls Patrick Star "Professer Patrick" and Patrick corrects him with something like "That's 'Dr Professer Patrick' to you buddy".

"If you can't play with the big kids...."
It's o.k., I'll keep googling
(he he he)

Larry Lobster

10/28/2009 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Okay, Bobby and Jim. Progressive FG or "New and Improved" FG. I'm sticking with "The old, old story" and that's that. ;-)

10/28/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

OK, Duane, we are properly chastised.

(Sponge, Bobby??)

10/28/2009 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hey Jim!
Are you kidding me? Between here and Rose's this is the most fun I've had since I started blogging!

I have to collect myself and borrow from Woody:
Arlo, Theology is serious!

Larry the Lobster,

Peace Out!

10/28/2009 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Glad to be of service, Duane. As you know from Rose's, blogging has been pretty depressing until recently.

10/28/2009 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...

Sponge Bobby, has the makings of another blog title and blog for me . . . thanks for the idea, be on the look-out! ;-)

Kc, I'll keep my comments post-specific; I can appreciate what you're trying to foster here.

I'm just going to call Jim a "PFG" from now on ;-) . . . sorry Kc. In fact I think that would be a great title for Jim's new blog that he's going to start ;-).

Okay, back to the scriptures . . .

10/29/2009 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Bobby, you well know your thoughts here are highly valued no matter what topic you address. ;-) Keep it coming brother!

I really do only want to discourage any association with what Jim is offering here to any of the “CliffsNotes” versions of the Gospel being circulated these days.

BTW I just found Behind The Back. Did I miss the announcement?

10/29/2009 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Thanks for the tip, KC.

Sponge B: Whoa!!!!! You've got the makings of a thesis there, Bro. I will have to spend a little more time on that latest post, but I did pick out the makings of a rudimentary "theology of intuitive awareness" in your comments on TFT :-)

10/29/2009 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Whoops....my apology, Bobby. I just realized that latest post on Behind the Back was a guest post.

10/29/2009 06:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...

Jim and Bobby,

Progressive Free Grace.


10/29/2009 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...


Infelicitous title, perhaps....

But try it, you might like it. (Besides, it's good for you.)

10/29/2009 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


Yeah, that was Myk ;-).

10/29/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...


And what, exactly, would PFG entail?

10/29/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


Thank you! Yeah, you must've missed the "announcement" :-).


I was just playin' with that moniker; I don't think Jim is trying to construct a new version of FG, are you Jim? But maybe he should; and from what I've heard you say, Tim, this is what you think should happen too, isn't it?

10/29/2009 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Hmmm, now you guys have got me thinking. My heart, as you both know, is to flesh out the implications of FG in a robust theology of---for lack of a better term---applied righteousness. Evey time I do any research at all in the NT, all I seem to be able to see is OT notions of righteousness and justice being played out in the narratives and epistolary injunctions.

The parallel track that Tim knows about is my developing notions of the "Kingdom of God." Progressives are all over the map in many areas of theology, but one thing they share is the notion that the Kingdom of God has not only been "ratified" (as Steve Lewis will be speaking on at ETS this fall), but also in some form inaugurated by Christ's shed blood. I'm going through Matthew in our Saturday AM men's group, and I am convinced that the most natural reading of "Kingdom of God" in Matthew---with ample support from the "New Covenant" exposition in Hebrews---seems to be the "already-not yet" view that PD's share, almost by definition, over against both CD's and "moderns."

My personal conviction is that if we understand that if in fact we have been invited to participate right now in the Kingdom, then a "progressive" FG theology would flesh out in a more full-bodied ecclesiology, in which current iterations of FG are woefully weak. And that's just for starters.

Along these lines, Tim, you and I still have some unfinished business regarding the parables of Matt 13, but I know you have plans for the near future, so there is no urgency, Bro. Just keep chewing on Matt 11:12.

10/29/2009 08:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...


I see a number of threads converging for this Reborn Free Grace theology.

1. Insistence that theology must be lived before it can be proclaimed. People who aren't walking with God can't be trusted to describe Him. This is the minimum criterion for entry into the discussion.

2. A strong cultural engagement, whether it springs from your 'inaugurated kingdom' theology or the 'dominion dispensationalism' I articulated here or N. T. Wright's realized eschatology.

3. Narratival structure. It's not a magic bullet, but it whips the pants off systematic theology, which--let's just admit it--has no precedent whatsoever in Scripture (although quite a bit in Enlightenment philosophy and science...)

4. In keeping with the three above, a strong discipleship/spiritual formation component.

5. Strong view of the unity of Christ's body, actually applied to inter-church relationships.

6. Maybe just my wishful thinking here, but I see a need for substantial liturgical reform, and to be blunt, I don't see the other five things happening apart from it. Corporate worship is the center of the world--anything that doesn't get fixed there first, won't get fixed.

7. A high view of sovereignty that will enable a cogent response to open theism while avoiding the errors of the Cal-minian paradigm.

So what am I missing?

(ps. Jim -- Yes, I know we have unfinished business. you said some things I just couldn't/can't buy, but I'm in a state of flux on some of this myself, so all I was in a position to do was whine. Decided to wait until I had something productive to add. Daniel 4 is giving me second thoughts on the mustard seed; that's all I got.)

10/30/2009 03:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...


an aside (sorry Kc):

You do know that we've met face-to-face, right? It was way back in the summer of 2003, and it was at Chafer theological seminary. I was actually considering a ThM there; and so I sat down with you, George Meisinger, and John Niemela. I decided not to go ahead with that program, but I just wanted you to know that we've met :-).

10/30/2009 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...


Is your middle name "Nathaniel"?---

Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile (John 1:47). Besides GOE, there is no one in FG who has given me more encouragement by their willingness to strip away layers of "pre-understanding" and re-examine their convictions than you. As to your suggestions, I agree wholeheartedly; I see "6" as folded into "5" by tapping into the imagery of John 17: The unity of the Body of Christ expressed in sacrificial love ends up worshiping the "unity" of our Trinitarian God by reflecting His glory, just as Jesus did when he finished his earthly work and ascended back to the Father.

Re: your PS---
Daniel 4 rocks with Kingdom imagery; in fact The Kingdom of God is IMO the main theme of Daniel. Keep them wheels turnin', baby. You have the gift of "60,000 foot intuition."

10/30/2009 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...

Hate to say it, but I didn't recall. Probably would if I met you in person again...

Ha! I am, alas, neither Israelite nor guileless.

I see the relationship between 5 and 6 that you're articulating. I press 6 as a point in itself because one of the signal goofs of FG has been its liturgical and musical poverty. Past reformations and controversies, from the Arian controversy to the Reformation, made full use of liturgy and music to drive home the truth. We've done very little of that. No good FG songs. No attempt to move away from the pietistic altar-call liturgical structure that teaches so many people to doubt their salvation in the first place. And so on. No, we write journal articles--no wonder we're losing.

10/30/2009 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Well, Tim, if you were a decent supersessionist, you would be an Israelite. ;-) And I suppose "guile" is all relative anyway in the FG movement.

Sooooo....yeah. I suppose we ought to look at the near future as a true experiment in FG ecclesiology.

10/30/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nichols said...


Son of Abraham, yes, definitely. Israelite? Hmmm.

10/30/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...


There is some interesting fallout on The Gospel in the Garden post here.

I thought you all might want to see the take on this post by a very disillusioned person who's been a devout mainline evangelical in the past but is now reacting to what she sees as all the hypocrisy in that movement. I think she represents millions, literally; we need to understand the gospel very well indeed, and I am convinced this includes how we picture God.

11/06/2009 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...

...forgot to say where on that post: Scroll down to comment #7 on that thread and then on from there.

11/06/2009 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hi Jim,

This exchange with this woman was deeply thought provoking. Sometimes I wish communication was faster here. But maybe that's the beauty of it: we have time to formulate our responses and then we have to wait and wait for a reaction.

I thought for a couple of hours, and then formulated a long response, in regards to that dialogue but changing the paradigm to determinism. I even dreamt up a two character, three line drama to postulate. But I am afraid of what I wrote, (too close to what she wrote). So I'm sitting on it.

Not Intrepid,


11/06/2009 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Hey, Bro. I thought that the best thing for her at this point might be CS Lewis' allegory of heaven and hell entitled The Great Divorce. I'm going back over there to see how much damage I did; I've been working on the next post for KC's all day, so haven't had a chance to check.

Thanks, Bro!

11/06/2009 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

HI Again!
It's late, (not really but I haveta get up really early & cold for a 12 hour shift).
Alright, a little before my prime, Buffalo Springfield Did a song,
"For What it's worth". It's the song with the chorus:
It's time we stop! Hey what's that sound...
I think it was about the craziness at the 1968 Democratic Nat'l convention in Chicago. One phrase in the song says:
"Singin songs that they carry inside. Mostly say, 'hurray for our side.'"
Hurray for our side could just about typify any political party in this country. You have some principled actors, but most were raised D or R, and that is where their power base is. Different Christian Theologies can become the same type of power center, or just what we've vested ourselves in, and we do not wish to lose our investment. One more way "hurray for our side" can play out:
Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said "of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (attribute), But in every nation he that fears HIM and works righteousness is accepted by HIM."
If election of the saints be true:
Now we know that no man works righteousness outside of the regeneration. Then God is no respecter of persons, HE only repects those HE has chosen to regenerate. "Jacob Have I loved..."

Now here is my point: All of us alike are condemned to death for our sin. Everyone! No-one is capable of or inclined to believe God, even if we're only doing so to save ourselves. So out of 15 or 20 billion souls to date, He before time, picked out maybe a billion to bestow saving grace upon. up to 19 billion not including me and you plplplpsh!
I'm suppoosed to say "hurray for our side?" All of those billions that are in no way different than me except that I'm one of the lucky ones, God chose me, I'm supposed to be happy about that and extol the great god?

Now you see why I am afraid to post these thoughts: Because if I'm wrong, then this is blasphemy and rebellion.

O.k. I do have a scenario:


[CREATOR, behind the curtain]"The devil is tempting MY children to believe a doctrine of partyship:

[Augustine] 'if you were born into the club, you are in. If not, God will forever punish you and we may as well get a headstart by warning you what's in store for you.'

[CREATOR, still cloaked]Let us stand by to test which of My children really understands My Righteous justice, and which will go along with this party spirit."

It's hairbrained maybe.
If I'm wrong, I may as well go to the 1968 DNC in Chicago and picket god.(I'm toast)

Not Intrepid


Good night, rest well

11/06/2009 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hi Brothers and Sisters!

Weeping lasts for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Like I said, I am a coward, I will not rebel. Besides, been there done that, got the T-shirt. If you ever consider rebelling or know someone who is considering it, compare it to this:
Stand 10 feet from a brick wall, face the wall, bend to a 90 degree angle at the hips, put your fingers on your head to mimic the bulls horns, and run headlong into the wall repeatedly.
3 reasons not to:
1) It hurts.
2) There are long lasting negative re-percussions.
3) Believe it or not, it is not
nearly as fun as it sounds.

This is the consequence of believing a controversial doctrine you've learned, without studying it out and seeking God's Peace. I guess that's why I did not go a-searching for other opinions on the net last night. Opinions are like some ice cream stores, you can find any flavor you want.

So, by the Grace of God, I had a talk with the Lord, and a little bit of a break at work today so that I could begin organizing my thoughts. It came down between my God given empathy for the lost, and God's Justice.
Having limited resources and time at work, I decided a hop through my NT might be fruitless. And a hunt and pick wouldn't bear real fruit. I felt led to go back where I had been studying anyhow (Romans), thus avoiding a search and destroy mission. Surprising, how the lower region of Romans gave me enough ordinance to level the argument that the doctrine of predestination is everywhere. Just enough to satisfy myself, that GOD Is Just, that HE is no respecter of persons: Not Greek not Jew, not male, nor female, not brown eyed or blue eyed.
Neither is there an invisible race of people with a birth right to be regenerated, while the others get locked out, but all get the same opportunity.
I'm satisfied for myself; none-the-less, if GOD WILLS, I will continue studying, and put a study together for your review. It will take some time, but I feel like I'm on a God given roll, but I'll let you know.
Thanks for your prayers!


Your Brother,


11/07/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jim, this article is just plain great! ;-) I only have one super slight contention that has enormous implications. You wrote, “God has promised life after death forever to those who believe Him for it". It’s those last two words that trouble me to no end. The implication is that the only valid or “saving” reason for believing God is for “life after death”, which we all know few believers understand at all, let alone those who don’t yet know Life/Christ. This would effectively condemn the vast majority of Christians.

11/14/2009 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...


That's the beauty of a 3-D gospel!!!

"for it" is a life in three full dimensions. Everyone---all humans with a mature conscience---viscerally or intuitively understand that they have already died in some sense (just look at Romans 7:7-13). The reason they accept the promise of life after death is because it gives them freedom from slavery to sin and death right now. You can see it instantly in the face of a person who receives Christ! The rest of the understanding of the "for it" only comes with edification in the Body of Christ, in which we are sadly lacking. That's why I have taken such pains throughout the series to repeatedly affirm that eternal life is a "quality" of existence with a positional, progressive, and prospective reality to it. Of course no one can possibly understand all this at first, but new believers can certainly feel it in their now "cleansed" consciences, even if bad teaching subsequently leads them back into the slavery of lack of assurance of their salvation.

11/14/2009 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jim, it’s true, you did but you know we have seen this exact phrase used to condemn every single Arminian believer to hell. Is there any inherent problem in using the more common translation, “God has promised life after death forever to those who believe in Him”?

11/14/2009 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

No, no problem, of course---that's what Scripture says!

I'm just a little clueless on the Arminian thing, though...you mean the phrase "for it" caused all that trouble?

11/14/2009 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

I think there are several instances on-line and I'll try to find a few.

Basically (to those who condemn) using "for it" means that if you fail to have an eternal perspective or to understand that faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ "assures" eternal life then you're not saved.

11/14/2009 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jim, this example is not explicit to your statement but is revealed in the comments.

11/14/2009 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...


I skimmed that string...wow. I'm not sure people were really listening to one another.

Assurance/eternal security have been debated ad infinitem on FG blogs for the last couple of years, but I believe it quickly becomes a moot point when even the most dogmatic FG proponents of "assurance is of the essence of saving faith" will concede that one can lose that assurance in an instant after "punctiliar" salvation and still be saved.

There are many (myself included) who cannot point to a single "point" when they were saved, for the work of conscience that I have been speaking of in this post may in fact occur over some time and be difficult to pin down chronologically. I think it is potentially enslaving to try to reassure people of their salvation by simply "doing it again just to be sure," because as Bro. David has so well pointed out, doubts can come creeping insidiously back into our consciences at any time when through the flesh we are not acting or "feeling" very saved in union with Christ.

My contention from the Garden scenario is that as soon as one has "intuitively" or "viscerally" or even "propositionally" entrusted their lives to Jesus---being intuitively or viscerally confident that they will die; that God has provided a ransom; and that it gives them life after death---they are saved. But "assurance" of that "transaction" may not be "propositional," as I tried to argue on Fred's until blue in the face.

I am not contending that "for it" includes a propositional confession of eternal security or assurance, or even that they are "going to heaven," even when they are saved in a punctiliar fashion. But if someone still affirms that they still aren't sure they are saved, this has devastating consequences to the confidence that First John says we should have to be bold in risk-taking for the truth of the gospel and to love the "unlovable" as Jesus' abiding representatives in this life. That's why I think the Arminian position is ultimately incompatible with Scripture. But then I don't believe that anyone who trusts in Christ in the Biblical sense is an Arminian until they are taught that after the fact. I think the same is true for 5-pt Calvinists.

Now the other huge discussion that is derivative from a 3-D gospel in this regard is whether some aspects of that 3-D salvation can be "lost" by certain choices in life, and that would certainly be a logical follow-on to this series, where I potentially could have a fair amount of rapprochement with Arminians and even RCs, IMHO (not as likely with 5 pt Calvinists).

Perhaps I have missed what you are implying by your concern about "for it," KC. If so, I am open to further clarification.

11/15/2009 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jim you did address my concerns. With the exception of some of the semantics (will die vs. are dead, etc…), which I’m sure we agree in, it seems clear we agree that it is through our faith in Jesus Christ the Savior (Messiah, the One-and-Only) that God saves us and not through our understanding of how He saves us.

I hope I’m not being too critical of the wording but I think you can understand my concern and preference for the more common translation, “believe in Him”.

11/17/2009 01:22:00 AM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hi Jim & KC!
I read that antichrist thread. Yeah, that's where I disagree with the GES school, "you must believe in Christ for eternal life beginning now, and you must believe nothing doubting".
It is possible that I escaped doubting for one instant of my life; even probable, but what does the sin of doubt have to do with CHRIST?
AS I wrote before, it smacks of esoteric knowledge (not intuitive, or visceral knowledge), and Only the SPIRIT gives esoteric knowledge, and that is not normative, except for snake handlers and the reformed (those who believe that saving faith can only occur after one is regenerated.)
I liked the quote the writer asserting that he doubts that anyone will be lost at the foot of the cross.

Thanks for sharing!


11/17/2009 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Amen Duane! Well said.

11/17/2009 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Hi KC & Jim & Missy & Bobby and & Tim & all!

I just restudied the whole "Gospel in the Garden" post with commentry. It was well over a month ago I razzed you guys about using big words. Re-reading this now, I understand almost everything! You all needed ribbing anyhow, just for the fun of it ;0}.

Jim, on Nov. 6 you linked to another forum where a woman reacted to the "Gospel in the Garden".
I checked that out, and a strong emotional response boiled up from below: a reaction similar to that woman's, but under the hypothetic that determinism is true (it's been working on me). I was quite serious in my comment on Nov. 6. This lead me into a month long Berean study to find out for myself "if these things be true". I also hoped to be able to help others with the same struggle; although most who disagree with a doctrine don't let it get under their skin like I do.
So I opened a blog. The first post was mostly philosophy/values/nature of God oriented, which are weak munitions against Augustine/Plato.
The second post was a walk through Romans. A walk, because I kept it open to view as I worked on it. I just edited and re-posted as I had another passage to add. Lower Romans was easier. KC specified Romans 9, so I spent a couple of weeks in chapters 9-11. I finished after 31 days.
Although it's been open to spectators, unadvertized, as I developed it, I am now ready to say "ya'll come!". I don't even know if there have been any lurkers.

I won't know until I've had some review, but I feel strongly about what Paul does say, and what he does not say.
Bobby, I failed to put election entirely within Christ. I do not doubt it, I simply did not find a way to clearly delineate that within the scope of Romans. I like what you have written about all humans being in Christ's identity as the 2nd Adam, just most inexplicably reject HIM.
Hopefully there is hardware there to help accomplsh that in a greater work (go for it).


Hope this helps,

Your Brother

12/07/2009 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger agent4him said...

Wow, Duane...

I need to be more careful if this is the result of my posts. Can't have people spending that much time in the Bible...and Romans of all places!

I'll have to take a look at your work, Bro, but it may be a few days before I can get to it.

12/08/2009 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Duane WATTS said...

Well Jim,
I didn't mean to imply I took a vacation from work and spent the last 31 days in Romans. ;o) Although I might prefer that.
Any day in the word is preferable to a day in a plastics plant. So, I would read a chapter, take some notes, let it simmmer, pray, read it again, cross reference a little, let it simmer etc.
I rather enjoyed it. I felt like the Spirit was really participating...aw, that's not the right word, but I wasn't just hammering out flesh and tenderizing it.

I'm in 1 Corinthians now, 'cause I don't see any benefit to stopping now.
It's good to have people here to talk about the Lord with. I can't think of anything more pleasant to do.

You Brother

12/10/2009 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger agent4him said...


I just got through reading your tractatus on Romans. Love your sense of humor; we FGers could all use a generous dose of that! [Lord knows...]

If one didn't already know Duane's style from the comments on the threads at KC's, Sancs, Rose's, etc., I'm convinced that he would be accused by some of being a bit looney....or, in an earlier age, indicted on the basis of "spectral analysis" for being a perpetrator of "spectres."

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you'll just have to read Duane for yourself. You've just got to put yourself inside of his head. (I'm very sympathetic to your take on Romans, Bro.)

12/10/2009 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Rs Sanchike said...

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