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christ-in-gethsemane-p3I know. Easter is over. But it’s not.

Most Christians I know struggle with faith—sooner or later, for weeks, months, and years. It happens.

We might not pick that up from listening to TV preachers and presidential hopefuls, who speak of and for the Creator with an alarmingly casual sense of certainty. But these are carnivalesque caricatures of Christianity. For the rest of us, faith doesn’t come as easily. Faith is a struggle.

After all, life has ways of challenging a settled and certain faith—a death, divorce, illness, addiction, unemployment.

Along with big events like these, simple everyday living can stir up nagging doubts that are waiting just beneath the surface to erupt.

You might have made new friends who have a very different faith, or none at all, and yet their lives seem warmly compelling.

Or perhaps you read a book or watched a movie with fresh ideas that snuck up on you and triggered in you a lingering hesitancy about your faith. “Does God exist, really? Which God are we talking about, anyway? How can I really be certain about what I believe? Does any of this really matter?”

Yet, despite these common struggles with faith, too many Christian I know are laboring under the impression that “strong” faith means never asking questions like these.

In my own church experiences, the faith modeled for me was largely about gaining certainty about God, the universe, and our place in it. Sunday mornings centered on hour-long age appropriate Sunday school lessons and long sermons. Church seemed more like an intellectual exercise, a series of information sessions, diagrams, handouts, and overheads to help you gain unwavering confidence in your faith.

Conversely, if you didn’t know what you believed, something was clearly wrong with you that needed to be addressed with a sense of urgency. You were broken and needed to be fixed. And should you die in a state of uncertainty, your eternal destiny would no longer certain. There was a lot at stake about being certain in your faith.

And that’s where Easter comes in—that time when Jesus himself wasn’t sure about God.

Christians have historically believed that Jesus was “God with us,” the mystery of true divinity and true humanity. Jesus was sent by God to reveal God’s true nature to humanity, and then to suffer, die, and be raised by God from the dead. As John’s Gospel puts it, Jesus and his heavenly Father are “one.”

And yet even this Jesus, when dying on the cross at the hands of the Romans on Good Friday, had his doubts about God. Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark) tell us of Jesus’s sense of God’s abandonment, of God being a no-show at the very moment when the Son of God most desired God’s presence. On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Not: “I am in agony but I am confident things will go according to plan. I’ll be raised in a couple of days, so I just need to gut it out.”

But: “Why does God leave me up here to die like this? Is this how it will all end? Where are you God?”

If Jesus can show this kind of uncertainty, this kind of “lack of faith,” who are we to say otherwise? If these words can be uttered by the Son of God, the Savior, should the rest of us be surprised when we feel a sense of uncertainty about God?

“Where are you God? I don’t know how to keep going like this. I want to believe, but I can’t. Help me.” Words like these areTSOC common in the Old Testament—in the Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, and prophetic laments. And no one less than Jesus himself models this sense of abandonment.

True faith—the kind that Jesus and the biblical heritage model—is not about having and holding on to certainty. Certainty comes and goes, but true faith recognizes and embraces the struggles, challenges, and doubts as normal and expected for the life of faith, which at the end of the day lead to greater spiritual depth.

This, at least in part, is what Easter is about.

[I explore more of these ideas in The Sin of Certainty, ready for preorder now and to be released April 5.]
Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

166 Comments

  • Gary says:

    Combine that with another Easter theme: Show, not tell.

    Consider humility of beliefs in the context of crisis, gentleness of response in the encounter of threats, meekness of heart in the crucible of loss, and real miraculous action that is not predictable, tamed, or harnessed.

    In profound ways, Easter can be interpreted as countering what’s become of Christianity.

    Television preachers and politicians are too easy to paint targets upon. It’s not just them but it’s friends and family–real people–who are caught up in “faith” that produces as much anger and angst and it does kenosis and kindness.

    You ask “which God are we talking about?”

    Many think it’s the God that says this:

    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

    But not necessarily with the cruciform paradox of this:

    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

    When I was a believer I had certainty. But I never had paradox nor wish for sacrificially transformed identity. No way I’d go back.

  • Gary says:

    Combine that with another Easter theme: Show, not tell.

    Consider humility of beliefs in the context of crisis, gentleness of response in the encounter of threats, meekness of heart in the crucible of loss, and real miraculous action that is not predictable, tamed, or harnessed.

    In profound ways, Easter can be interpreted as countering what’s become of Christianity.

    Television preachers and politicians are too easy to paint targets upon. It’s not just them but it’s friends and family–real people–who are caught up in “faith” that produces as much anger and angst and it does kenosis and kindness.

    You ask “which God are we talking about?”

    Many think it’s the God that says this:

    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

    But not necessarily with the cruciform paradox of this:

    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

    When I was a believer I had certainty. But I never had paradox nor wish for sacrificially transformed identity. No way I’d go back.

  • Bex says:

    I am looking forward to reading your new book. This Lent I listened to James Martin’s meditations on the seven last words/phrases of Jesus. I appreciate authors who are willing to deal with the difficult subject of doubt.

    • Gary says:

      I do too, but more so I appreciate persons able to address the unbridled stallion of disbelief than the fenced pony of doubt. What’s incredible is when persons take up a fairness and openness of choices of religions and traditions within and use humble and truth-seeking methods of genuine exploration over a priori determinations of ends.

      There seems to be a certain kind of profound trust where one trusts self to discover and God (whatever that means, at least from my perspective) to disclose that there is a fearlessly comforting freedom in the joys of the journey.

      From what I seem to understand, Jesus of Nazareth had this kind of faith and is made power centers lose their senses of security and even grip of the narrative.

      Alas. Consider the 7th word.

      • Bex says:

        “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”? I don’t see disbelief or doubt there. Jesus did despair of God when he asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and earlier asked that “this cup be taken from me,” just as we all do, and have done.

        • Gary says:

          Indeed, to me, none of doubt, disbelief, or even belief capture the the final commending of spirit. At that point, there is no more fixing eyes upon the seen things of transience, there is no more role for confidence of hoping about the things we do not see.

          It’s likely an ahistorical utterance but I’d like to imagine Jesus as the kind who would have pondered the same thoughts as the seven years prior in the desert, making the intervening years possible.

  • Bex says:

    I am looking forward to reading your new book. This Lent I listened to James Martin’s meditations on the seven last words/phrases of Jesus. I appreciate authors who are willing to deal with the difficult subject of doubt.

    • Gary says:

      I do too, but more so I appreciate persons able to address the unbridled stallion of disbelief than the fenced pony of doubt. What’s incredible is when persons take up a fairness and openness of choices of religions and traditions within and use humble and truth-seeking methods of genuine exploration over a priori determinations of ends.

      There seems to be a certain kind of profound trust where one trusts self to discover and God (whatever that means, at least from my perspective) to disclose that there is a fearlessly comforting freedom in the joys of the journey.

      From what I seem to understand, Jesus of Nazareth had this kind of faith and is made power centers lose their senses of security and even grip of the narrative.

      Alas. Consider the 7th word.

      • Bex says:

        “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”? I don’t see disbelief or doubt there. Jesus did despair of God when he asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and earlier asked that “this cup be taken from me,” just as we all do, and have done.

        • Gary says:

          Indeed, to me, none of doubt, disbelief, or even belief capture the the final commending of spirit. At that point, there is no more fixing eyes upon the seen things of transience, there is no more role for confidence of hoping about the things we do not see.

          It’s likely an ahistorical utterance but I’d like to imagine Jesus as the kind who would have pondered the same thoughts as the seven words, years prior in the desert, making the intervening years possible.

  • Betty says:

    Jesus cried out for being forsaken by God because God put all the sins of all of humanity on Him. I know–the penal substitutionary atonement is watered down or rejected by many today. It was not that Jesus lost faith, but that God rejected Him.

    • Gary says:

      Personally I think the saying is quite likely ahistorical, and regardless, mapping natural events to supernatural causes and meanings is a rather speculative endeavor. I’d suggest interpretations reveal as much about the interpreters as they do about the interpreted.

    • Percival says:

      God also said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Do you think that because Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and obeyed even to death on the cross that the Father “rejected” him. No, the Father never rejected the son. This idea from popular religion is based on only a few proof texts and does not fit the whole narrative of scripture.

      It is quite possible to not be rejected by God but to feel He has rejected you. Did I say possible? I meant common.

      • Pete E. says:

        Are you replying to my blog post are just voicing a general opinion?

        • Percival says:

          That’s a reply to Betty. She seems to say that the reason Jesus felt forsaken and rejected was because he was rejected by the Father. I don’t believe that Jesus was rejected by the Father at all, although he certainly felt forsaken.

  • Betty says:

    Jesus cried out for being forsaken by God because God put all the sins of all of humanity on Him. I know–the penal substitutionary atonement is watered down or rejected by many today. It was not that Jesus lost faith, but that God rejected Him.

    • Gary says:

      Personally I think the saying is quite likely ahistorical, and regardless, mapping natural events to supernatural causes and meanings is a rather speculative endeavor. I’d suggest interpretations reveal as much about the interpreters as they do about the interpreted.

    • Percival says:

      God also said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Do you think that because Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and obeyed even to death on the cross that the Father “rejected” him. No, the Father never rejected the son. This idea from popular religion is based on only a few proof texts and does not fit the whole narrative of scripture.

      It is quite possible to not be rejected by God but to feel He has rejected you. Did I say possible? I meant common.

      • Pete E. says:

        Are you replying to my blog post are just voicing a general opinion?

        • Percival says:

          That’s a reply to Betty. She seems to say that the reason Jesus felt forsaken and rejected was because he was rejected by the Father. I don’t believe that Jesus was rejected by the Father at all, although he certainly felt forsaken.

  • Feeling abandoned is not the same as lacking faith. I, an ordinary sinner, have from time to time felt that God had hung me out to dry — but I knew that this was just a feeling. I still had faith that somehow my suffering, my sense of abandonment would prove to be part of God’s plan, even if I couldn’t see how (and each time my faith has been vindicated). Feelings do not equal faith, or lack thereof. I think you are wrong to say that Jesus suffered from a lack of faith, merely because he quoted with sincerity a scripture that foretold the degree of suffering he would experience for our sakes. He was “like us in all things except sin” — his spiritual suffering was part of his humanity, but it was not “lack of faith,” which would be a sin.

    Don’t forget that he could, if he had wished, have saved himself at any moment. His humanity was perfectly joined to His divinity. His human will submitted perfectly to His divine will, as a model for us all. It may be hard for us to imagine how he could be at once completely human and completely divine — but that is only because we have trouble imagining a human being who is not limited by sin. “True God and true Man” — it’s a paradox, as so many aspects of Christian revelation are, but it is a paradox we can believe without fully understanding it (that’s what makes it a Mystery). In much the same way, we can feel that God has abandoned us, while knowing through faith that He will never do so.

  • Feeling abandoned is not the same as lacking faith. I, an ordinary sinner, have from time to time felt that God had hung me out to dry — but I knew that this was just a feeling. I still had faith that somehow my suffering, my sense of abandonment would prove to be part of God’s plan, even if I couldn’t see how (and each time my faith has been vindicated). Feelings do not equal faith, or lack thereof. I think you are wrong to say that Jesus suffered from a lack of faith, merely because he quoted with sincerity a scripture that foretold the degree of suffering he would experience for our sakes. He was “like us in all things except sin” — his spiritual suffering was part of his humanity, but it was not “lack of faith,” which would be a sin.

    Don’t forget that he could, if he had wished, have saved himself at any moment. His humanity was perfectly joined to His divinity. His human will submitted perfectly to His divine will, as a model for us all. It may be hard for us to imagine how he could be at once completely human and completely divine — but that is only because we have trouble imagining a human being who is not limited by sin. “True God and true Man” — it’s a paradox, as so many aspects of Christian revelation are, but it is a paradox we can believe without fully understanding it (that’s what makes it a Mystery). In much the same way, we can feel that God has abandoned us, while knowing through faith that He will never do so.

  • Brad Kittle says:

    Peter. Been reading you for awhile. Feel we are a bit different, and I don’t want to be “that guy.” But I probably am! Anyway, I don’t struggle at all with God’s existence. I had such a powerful encounter with Him years ago, that I just can’t doubt His reality. Maybe I’m an oddball, but I really do trust God. He’s been very good to me and is present in my life. Yet, I’ve struggled with questions like: Am I good enough? Will God answer my prayers? Certain doctrines (hell), etc… I’m not entirely certain why I enjoy reading you, but I do. I think it is your openness. I really like that, and it speaks to me. I don’t think our struggles are the same, but I know that you definitely are speaking to where many people are at. In my devotional life I’m always endeavoring to move closer to God, and not so much moving towards certainty in dogma. Thank you for writing, and your openness. Brad

    • Marc B. says:

      Hi Brad. I think everything you’re saying is fine and I don’t think you’re “that guy”. However, at the end of the day, it is all subjective. It is how you feel. It is your own personal experience. Nothing wrong with that, but I do think it should be qualified for what it is. There are some out there in the same “zone” that you are in, who then take it to the next level and proclaim that they have some kind of divine ordination or truth, “certainty in dogma” as you put it. Some become preachy and try to “fix” people or bring them into their “zone”. Some become so convicted that they try to build their own kingdom. Others just avoid the “hard questions” and live with cognitive dissonance. I think Pete is speaking more to those issues. In any case, thanks for posting.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Hi Marc. I go to, or went to (I”m in transition), a church that is full of many different types of people: calvinist, charismatics, catholics, drug addicts off the street, spirit-filled, etc… I could go on. I understand the variety of “Christian” experience, and I hope I show some open-mindedness. I’ve spent my life talking to people, or wanting to talk to people about this Jesus that encountered me. He really did choose me, I didn’t choose Him. I’m not a calvinist per say, but I sure do believe Jesus flat out chose me. Anyway, I meet a lot of diversity out there, but still love to hear from Jesus in prayer and in the word. Faith is the word, and I hope it is the faith of Jesus, a Jesus bigger than me that is pulling me a long. I don’t think dogmatism manifest only in certainty, it manifest in the inability to hear others, and be open to where they are at. You don’t have to agree with them, just be open. I don’t line up with Pete on many things I’m sure, but I love his openness. Thanks for taking time to respond too. Grace mucho grace to you. Brad

    • Derek says:

      Howdy there Brad,

      You stated: “..I had such a powerful encounter with Him years ago, that I just can’t doubt His reality..” If you would be so kind, can you please describe in detail what this “powerful encounter” with God consisted of?

      Thanks so much.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Yes. Sure. I was a church kid when I was young, and I always was drawn to church and God; but when I became a teenager I wandered away a bit after we moved to a new town. I went to Bible College one year and completely lost faith in Bible college. I dropped out and joined the Air Force. A friend invited me to church, and it was vERY different than what I grew up in. I responded to an altar call by a conviction that was very strong, and terrifying. When they prayed for me in a prayer room they led me to, I slumped over, started to cry and felt like God dumped a river of water in my belly. It was physical and spiritual at the same time. Out of my belly truly flowed rivers of water. I prayed in the spirit for about 3 or 4 minutes and cried most of the time. When I got up from that experience my cigarette addiction, porn addiction, and struggle with alcohol were gone. And I do mean gone. No desire. I became insatiably hungry to read the bible and go to church etc… and the rest would be a long story of who I am now! Hope that wasn’t too much. I could give more details, but that’d be too much typing!! 😉 Thank you for asking. Brad

    • Gary says:

      Brad, you’re good enough.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Hey Gary, thank you! I’m getting better with that all the time. But that’s been more of a struggle than to believe in God. When I get works based too much I get it wrong. Grace brings peace and even transformation. Thank you.

        • Gary says:

          I wonder if there are categories beyond grace and works and if when holistically viewed, grace and works are a false dichotomy.

          Regardless, the more interesting grace is the grace given and that–IMO–is the work, perhaps even as echoed with the work of the people.

          • Brad Kittle says:

            I associate grace with resting in God, at least as used above. Trusting Him to do for me what I can’t do for myself. Works, in my world, is trying to please God by self-effort as a starting point. When I relax and trust, the Spirit comes through. The Spirit brings creativity, openness, love, holiness, wholeness, you know, all His fruits. He certainly doesn’t bring inactivity. I get more done by abiding that I ever did by fretting and struggling. I use biblical language because I spend a lot of time in my Bible. There certainly may be other ways to say what I’m saying that resonate more with you.

          • Gary says:

            Grace is giving others grace. Work is that it is work to do just that.

            When focused toward others, the dichotomy is little.

  • Brad Kittle says:

    Peter. Been reading you for awhile. Feel we are a bit different, and I don’t want to be “that guy.” But I probably am! Anyway, I don’t struggle at all with God’s existence. I had such a powerful encounter with Him years ago, that I just can’t doubt His reality. Maybe I’m an oddball, but I really do trust God. He’s been very good to me and is present in my life. Yet, I’ve struggled with questions like: Am I good enough? Will God answer my prayers? Certain doctrines (hell), etc… I’m not entirely certain why I enjoy reading you, but I do. I think it is your openness. I really like that, and it speaks to me. I don’t think our struggles are the same, but I know that you definitely are speaking to where many people are at. In my devotional life I’m always endeavoring to move closer to God, and not so much moving towards certainty in dogma. Thank you for writing, and your openness. Brad

    • Marc B. says:

      Hi Brad. I think everything you’re saying is fine and I don’t think you’re “that guy”. However, at the end of the day, it is all subjective. It is how you feel. It is your own personal experience. Nothing wrong with that, but I do think it should be qualified for what it is. There are some out there in the same “zone” that you are in, who then take it to the next level and proclaim that they have some kind of divine ordination or truth, “certainty in dogma” as you put it. Some become preachy and try to “fix” people or bring them into their “zone”. Some become so convicted that they try to build their own kingdom. Others just avoid the “hard questions” and live with cognitive dissonance. I think Pete is speaking more to those issues. In any case, thanks for posting.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Hi Marc. I go to, or went to (I”m in transition), a church that is full of many different types of people: calvinist, charismatics, catholics, drug addicts off the street, spirit-filled, etc… I could go on. I understand the variety of “Christian” experience, and I hope I show some open-mindedness. I’ve spent my life talking to people, or wanting to talk to people about this Jesus that encountered me. He really did choose me, I didn’t choose Him. I’m not a calvinist per say, but I sure do believe Jesus flat out chose me. Anyway, I meet a lot of diversity out there, but still love to hear from Jesus in prayer and in the word. Faith in the word, and I hope it is the faith of Jesus, is in a Jesus bigger than me that is pulling me a long. I don’t think dogmatism manifest only in certainty, it manifest in the inability to hear others, and be open to where they are at. You don’t have to agree with them, just be open. I don’t line up with Pete on many things I’m sure, but I love his openness. Thanks for taking time to respond too. Grace mucho grace to you. Brad

    • Derek says:

      Howdy there Brad,

      You stated: “..I had such a powerful encounter with Him years ago, that I just can’t doubt His reality..” If you would be so kind, can you please describe in detail what this “powerful encounter” with God consisted of?

      Thanks so much.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Yes. Sure. I was a church kid when I was young, and I always was drawn to church and God; but when I became a teenager I wandered away a bit after we moved to a new town. I went to Bible College one year and completely lost faith in Bible college. I dropped out and joined the Air Force. A friend invited me to church, and it was vERY different than what I grew up in. I responded to an altar call by a conviction that was very strong, and terrifying. When they prayed for me in a prayer room they led me to, I slumped over, started to cry and felt like God dumped a river of water in my belly. It was physical and spiritual at the same time. Out of my belly truly flowed rivers of water. I prayed in the spirit for about 3 or 4 minutes and cried most of the time. When I got up from that experience my cigarette addiction, porn addiction, and struggle with alcohol were gone. And I do mean gone. No desire. I became insatiably hungry to read the bible and go to church etc… and the rest would be a long story of who I am now! Hope that wasn’t too much. I could give more details, but that’d be too much typing!! 😉 Thank you for asking. Brad

    • Gary says:

      Brad, you’re good enough.

      • Brad Kittle says:

        Hey Gary, thank you! I’m getting better with that all the time. But that’s been more of a struggle than to believe in God. When I get works based too much I get it wrong. Grace brings peace and even transformation. Thank you.

        • Gary says:

          I wonder if there are categories beyond grace and works and if when holistically viewed, grace and works are a false dichotomy.

          Regardless, the more interesting grace is the grace given and that–IMO–is the work, perhaps even as echoed with the work of the people.

          • Brad Kittle says:

            I associate grace with resting in God, at least as used above. Trusting Him to do for me what I can’t do for myself. Works, in my world, is trying to please God by self-effort as a starting point. When I relax and trust, the Spirit comes through. The Spirit brings creativity, openness, love, holiness, wholeness, you know, all His fruits. He certainly doesn’t bring inactivity. I get more done by abiding that I ever did by fretting and struggling. I use biblical language because I spend a lot of time in my Bible. There certainly may be other ways to say what I’m saying that resonate more with you.

          • Gary says:

            Grace is giving others grace. Work is that it is work to do just that.

            When focused toward others, the dichotomy is little.

  • Nolan Kurtz says:

    I want to thank you for writing this. I think you are brilliant and am eager to read your new book. Although I have only recently come across your work, I feel as if you are a dear friend speaking directly to me. You give me hope for what faith could mean to me. Thank you for what you do.

  • Nolan Kurtz says:

    I want to thank you for writing this. I think you are brilliant and am eager to read your new book. Although I have only recently come across your work, I feel as if you are a dear friend speaking directly to me. You give me hope for what faith could mean to me. Thank you for what you do.

  • Ross says:

    The thoughts that have struck me since reading this revolve around my own feelings of despair and exclusion from God. If we take Jesus’ words as reference to Psalm 22 we can look there to see the level of despair he is feeling.

    Not that it suddenly makes me feel better (or even over a longer time!), in those times when I have felt like that I can identify with Jesus and maybe suffer with him. Is there some spiritual way that at this point me and him get very close? When I am feeling like him, then he is there feeling like me too? Both of us being bloody miserable together.

    When feeling so far from God and abandoned by him, is that actually the point at which we are closest?

    This maybe makes me think that at these points we cry out to God, we desperately want to find him and be touched by him, at this point we are seeking him more than anything. When feeling good, even loved by God, maybe we are not really looking as we think we have found him. So this feeling itself is not a bad thing, although it feels horrendous.

    Unfortunately, in my experience, unlike the psalm it isn’t often/ever followed up by feel good experiences. Not necessarily a bad thing either, but it feels bad.

    • Gary says:

      I think we take Jesus words as author’s reference to the Septuagint’s Psalm 22.

      • Ross says:

        I wasn’t going to state that but I think the link is probably all a “scene setting” device. Whether or not there is any historical accuracy, to what degree whatever is beyond me. Regardless, for me the scene setting or not seems to get me on the emotional level to somehow link with Jesus.

        For some the emotional linking gives shiny happy faces, hands raised and hymns of praise, for me it tends to be gut crushing agony, despair and hopelessness. Horses for courses!!

  • Ross says:

    The thoughts that have struck me since reading this revolve around my own feelings of despair and exclusion from God. If we take Jesus’ words as reference to Psalm 22 we can look there to see the level of despair he is feeling.

    Not that it suddenly makes me feel better (or even over a longer time!), in those times when I have felt like that I can identify with Jesus and maybe suffer with him. Is there some spiritual way that at this point me and him get very close? When I am feeling like him, then he is there feeling like me too? Both of us being bloody miserable together.

    When feeling so far from God and abandoned by him, is that actually the point at which we are closest?

    This maybe makes me think that at these points we cry out to God, we desperately want to find him and be touched by him, at this point we are seeking him more than anything. When feeling good, even loved by God, maybe we are not really looking as we think we have found him. So this feeling itself is not a bad thing, although it feels horrendous.

    Unfortunately, in my experience, unlike the psalm it isn’t often/ever followed up by feel good experiences. Not necessarily a bad thing either, but it feels bad.

    • Gary says:

      I think we take Jesus words as author’s reference to the Septuagint’s Psalm 22.

      • Ross says:

        I wasn’t going to state that but I think the link is probably all a “scene setting” device. Whether or not there is any historical accuracy, to what degree whatever is beyond me. Regardless, for me the scene setting or not seems to get me on the emotional level to somehow link with Jesus.

        For some the emotional linking gives shiny happy faces, hands raised and hymns of praise, for me it tends to be gut crushing agony, despair and hopelessness. Horses for courses!!

  • TimTripod says:

    Jesus was not displaying a lack of faith. He was referencing Psalm 22, a messianic psalm written by David that begins by asking where God is in the midst of difficult times, but which ultimately acknowledges that God is sovereign even in the midst of those troubles. This psalm also strongly alludes to the crucifixion of Jesus (vv. 14-18). That Jesus was making a direct reference to this psalm is made even more evident by the fact that every other time Jesus spoke to God, He called Him “Father” (e.g. Matt. 6:9, Matt. 26:39, John 17), but here, in this direct quotation, He calls Him “My God.” So we see that rather than displaying a lack of faith, Jesus is here demonstrating, even in the middle of a horrible situation, total faith that He is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy found in the OT, and that He was sent by God. Jesus’ cry from the cross shows us how excruciating his pain was physically, mentally, and spiritually — and this shows us how great was His love for us — but it does not signify a lapse in faith.

    • Pete E. says:

      It sounds like you’re saying that Jesus isn’t suffering the anguish of alienation from God, but just doing some prooftexting.

      • Gary says:

        Pete, prooftexting is painful enough.

      • TimTripod says:

        Well, if you disregard the part where I said that “Jesus’ cry from the cross shows us how excruciating his pain was”, I can see how it could sound like that. However, my point is that even in the midst of one the worst scenarios imaginable, Jesus was still relying on the Word of God to shape his actions and words. His utter reliance on God and the words of Scripture even while he’s literally being killed seems to me to be the ultimate show of faith. That’s how I see it, anyway.

      • Pete C says:

        Dr. Enns. Spot on with that comment. Jesus statement was made at the point of time when the Son of God had taken on his body the sins of the world. Past present & future & the Father at that point judged all those sins & poured out His wrath on Him because of them. Jesus the Son of God was made the perfect passover lamb & scape goat. At that point, He who knew no sin became sin for us & Yes at that point Jesus felt & suffered alienation & condemnation from his Father. I believe it was therefore a human cry of anguish as he died your & mine death, It does not need to be a loss of faith. Why did Jesus rise from the dead?? Because He had lived a perfect sinless life & he had the eternal undying, uncorrupted spiritual life of the Father in him. That is the same type of life the Father gives his children when they take hold by belief & faith that Christ died for them. Galatians 2:19-20 (NASB)
        19
        “For through the Law I died to the
        Law, so that I might live to God.
        20
        “I have been crucified with Christ;
        and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life
        which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
        and gave Himself up for me.

    • Marc B. says:

      Would love to hear your spin on Luke 22:44

      • TimTripod says:

        My “spin” is that Jesus was in such anguish at the thought of the pain that he would have to endure at the cross that he asked God for another way, yet still had the absolute faith, even while suffering from hematohidrosis, to submit to God’s will.

    • RocksCryOut says:

      I need a high priest who can sympathize with my weaknesses. Your high priest doesn’t seem to be able to do so.

      • Watchful1 says:

        Jesus was struggling with His human WILL, not with His FAITH. He CAN sympathize with our weaknesses-that’s the whole point of God allowing us to see Jesus’ struggle at Gethsemane and also on the cross. It shows us a man died for us, not a God. We can’t prove these things to ourselves unless they are written or stated-Jesus told Pontias Pilot “I came to testify of the truth”. Remember, as I mentioned above (Lazerus’ tomb-John 11:42), Jesus sometimes expressed things for the sake of those who were listening and not because he doubted God (that verse explicitly says this). John 11:42 directly rebuts Pete’s Thesis that Jesus was wavering in His faith. Also to rebut Pete: in Romans 14:23 Paul teaches us that “Whatever is not of faith is sin”. Then at Hebrews 4 we learn “We have a high priest who was tempted in every point like we are, yet without sin”. Many folks on this string speak of struggling with their faith. Be encouraged…many of you are not doubting the existence of God, it is your WILL you are struggling with. Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1)-I highly doubt you ever changed what you were hoping for. The Garden at Gethsemane and Jesus doing God’s will contrasts with The Garden of Eden and Adam/Eve doing their own will. Also remember that Job cried out that there was no “…Mediator who can lay his hand and God and me” (Job 9:33). Jesus can literally lay His hand on both God and man; He knows what each side needs and can bring them together-done!

        • Pete E. says:

          How do you know?

          • Watchful1 says:

            Pete: The most direct evidence is John 11:42 where Jesus literally said something out loud and then acknowledged that He did this for those listening; even specifying the reason as that they might believe. Why is that not good enough for you?

          • Pete E. says:

            That’s not “direct evidence.” (1) That verse in (2) that context in (3) John’s Gospel does not address our topic. We can’t just mush verses together as if they are are mutually interpretive.

          • Watchful1 says:

            Pete: The Bible in its totality is the correct context. In John 11:42 we have clear evidence that Jesus sometimes said things so we would hear them ans believe. On the cross He also said It is Finished…do you think not sure of that too? Your topic is the nature of a person’s faith so of course John 11:42 speaks to a person’s faith…He said out loud “so they would hear and believe”. I didn’t mush anything Pete…the Bible should be used to interpret the Bible. That is real Bible study.

          • Pete E. says:

            How do you know they the bible as a whole is the proper context for interpretation?

          • Watchful1 says:

            Pete: Why else would we have an entire Bible? The Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Old and New Testament; does that affirm context for the Holy Spirit throughout the entire Bible if you are studying the Holy Spirit? Your thesis is Jesus’ faith; the entire Bible is about faith. Jesus was speaking of people’s faith in John 11:42 and you suggested Jesus’ faith wavered when He said “My God My God why hast thou forsaken me?”.

          • Watchful1 says:

            By the way…thanks all of you for talking to me.

        • Percival says:

          You seem to equate faith with certainty of belief, or maybe I’m reading between the lines incorrectly. This is what I’ve come to understand about how the Bible talks about faith. Doubt and faith are not in opposition. Unfaithfulness and faithfulness (trust) are in opposition. Sometimes the Biblical writers use the word faith to mean belief, but usually it seems to mean something more like faithfulness, holding on to your trust in God. That can happen even when you don’t know what to believe. You still know who to trust.

          • Watchful1 says:

            Wow Percival (great name BTW!). I must analyze what you wrote. I remember Jesus told (doubting) Thomas “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. And Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Probably doubt and faith CAN BE in opposition. I much like your “trust in God” focus. Cain believed God existed (he had a running conversation with him) but in 1 John we learn Cain was of the devil. That means believing God exists doesn’t quite get us there–your trust is principal. Like Abraham believed (trusted) God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Endure to the end.

  • TimTripod says:

    Jesus was not displaying a lack of faith. He was referencing Psalm 22, a messianic psalm written by David that begins by asking where God is in the midst of difficult times, but which ultimately acknowledges that God is sovereign even in the midst of those troubles. This psalm also strongly alludes to the crucifixion of Jesus (vv. 14-18). That Jesus was making a direct reference to this psalm is made even more evident by the fact that every other time Jesus spoke to God, He called Him “Father” (e.g. Matt. 6:9, Matt. 26:39, John 17), but here, in this direct quotation, He calls Him “My God.” So we see that rather than displaying a lack of faith, Jesus is here demonstrating, even in the middle of a horrible situation, total faith that He is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy found in the OT, and that He was sent by God. Jesus’ cry from the cross shows us how excruciating his pain was physically, mentally, and spiritually — and this shows us how great was His love for us — but it does not signify a lapse in faith.

    • Pete E. says:

      It sounds like you’re saying that Jesus isn’t suffering the anguish of alienation from God, but just doing some prooftexting.

      • Gary says:

        Pete, prooftexting is painful enough.

      • TimTripod says:

        Well, if you disregard the part where I said that “Jesus’ cry from the cross shows us how excruciating his pain was”, I can see how it could sound like that. However, my point is that even in the midst of one the worst scenarios imaginable, Jesus was still relying on the Word of God to shape his actions and words. His utter reliance on God and the words of Scripture even while he’s literally being killed seems to me to be the ultimate show of faith. That’s how I see it, anyway.

      • Pete C says:

        Dr. Enns. Spot on with that comment. Jesus statement was made at the point of time when the Son of God had taken on his body the sins of the world. Past present & future & the Father at that point judged all those sins & poured out His wrath on Him because of them. Jesus the Son of God was made the perfect passover lamb & scape goat. At that point, He who knew no sin became sin for us & Yes at that point Jesus felt & suffered alienation & condemnation from his Father. I believe it was therefore a human cry of anguish as he died your & mine death, It does not need to be a loss of faith. Why did Jesus rise from the dead?? Because He had lived a perfect sinless life & he had the eternal undying, uncorrupted spiritual life of the Father in him. That is the same type of life the Father gives his children when they take hold by belief & faith that Christ died for them. Galatians 2:19-20 (NASB)
        19
        “For through the Law I died to the
        Law, so that I might live to God.
        20
        “I have been crucified with Christ;
        and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life
        which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
        and gave Himself up for me.

    • Marc B. says:

      Would love to hear your spin on Luke 22:44

      • TimTripod says:

        My “spin” is that Jesus was in such anguish at the thought of the pain that he would have to endure at the cross that he asked God for another way, yet still had the absolute faith, even while suffering from hematohidrosis, to submit to God’s will.

    • RocksCryOut says:

      I need a high priest who can sympathize with my weaknesses. Your high priest doesn’t seem to be able to do so.

      • Watchful1 says:

        Jesus was struggling with His human WILL, not with His FAITH. He CAN sympathize with our weaknesses-that’s the whole point of God allowing us to see Jesus’ struggle at Gethsemane and also on the cross. It shows us a man died for us, not a God. We can’t prove these things to ourselves unless they are written or stated-Jesus told Pontias Pilot “I came to testify of the truth”. Remember, as I mentioned above (Lazerus’ tomb-John 11:42), Jesus sometimes expressed things for the sake of those who were listening and not because he doubted God (that verse explicitly says this). John 11:42 directly rebuts Pete’s Thesis that Jesus was wavering in His faith. Also to rebut Pete: in Romans 14:23 Paul teaches us that “Whatever is not of faith is sin”. Then at Hebrews 4 we learn “We have a high priest who was tempted in every point like we are, yet without sin”. Many folks on this string speak of struggling with their faith. Be encouraged…many of you are not doubting the existence of God, it is your WILL you are struggling with. Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1)-I highly doubt you ever changed what you were hoping for. The Garden at Gethsemane and Jesus doing God’s will contrasts with The Garden of Eden and Adam/Eve doing their own will. Also remember that Job cried out that there was no “…Mediator who can lay his hand and God and me” (Job 9:33). Jesus can literally lay His hand on both God and man; He knows what each side needs and can bring them together-done!

        • Pete E. says:

          How do you know?

          • Watchful1 says:

            Pete: The most direct evidence is John 11:42 where Jesus literally said something out loud and then acknowledged that He did this for those listening; even specifying the reason as that they might believe. Why is that not good enough for you?

          • Pete E. says:

            That’s not “direct evidence.” (1) That verse in (2) that context in (3) John’s Gospel does not address our topic. We can’t just mush verses together as if they are are mutually interpretive.

          • Watchful1 says:

            Pete: The Bible in its totality is the correct context. In John 11:42 we have clear evidence that Jesus sometimes said things so we would hear them ans believe. On the cross He also said It is Finished…do you think not sure of that too? Your topic is the nature of a person’s faith so of course John 11:42 speaks to a person’s faith…He said out loud “so they would hear and believe”. I didn’t mush anything Pete…the Bible should be used to interpret the Bible. That is real Bible study.

        • Percival says:

          You seem to equate faith with certainty of belief, or maybe I’m reading between the lines incorrectly. This is what I’ve come to understand about how the Bible talks about faith. Doubt and faith are not in opposition. Unfaithfulness and faithfulness (trust) are in opposition. Sometimes the Biblical writers use the word faith to mean belief, but usually it seems to mean something more like faithfulness, holding on to your trust in God. That can happen even when you don’t know what to believe. You still know who to trust.

  • Watchful1 says:

    At Lazerus’ tomb Jesus said to God: “And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:42) In other words, Jesus sometimes said things for the sake of those around him (and those of us today!)-Jesus obviously was quoting that Psalm-certainly not doubting. He was sweating blood the previous night-I believe He was not so stressed about the suffering as He was the separation He knew was coming the next day (He became sin for us-God turned away from Him). They did not kill Jesus, He gave up His Spirit-Matthew makes that very explicit (…”and He gave up His Spirit”). He could have called in a Legion of Angels at any time to stop all this (as Satan had mentioned when tempting Him those three times). This fact makes His work even more stunning and certainly also underscores His faith. The Hypostatic Union of God and Man within the person of Jesus is spelled out in the two Hebrews verses: Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the substance (Hupostasis) of things hoped for…” and Hebrews 1:3 “…[Jesus] is the express image of God’s person (Hupostasis)”. Look up the Greek in those two verses-Jesus literally is the definition of “first faith” (the first of many brethren to come). Several years ago my family suffered a very painful suffering-I can’t even mention it here-many tears. But I remember months later thinking “You know? I never doubted God despite how bad it hurt”–and I was comforted in that thought-that I had not doubted. Jesus’ story of the Wheat and Tare principally tells us why God allows our suffering–everyone in History has to grow up into what they are-either Wheat or Tare. Satan sows his seeds and God sows His in every human heart–we shall see what grows. God can’t make you choose Him and God has to allow everyone to come up into what they will be. God don’t make you a Tare-but it ain’t true love unless He allows you your own will. I love you all-you r Bible can be trusted!

    • Gary says:

      I had thought he didn’t sweat blood till the second century or so.

    • Veritas says:

      It seems to me that the word “choose” is the hinge of this discussion. It is certainly a great gift to have a faith beyond doubt, but it seems also to be a gift to experience doubt. Each episode of doubt is an opportunity to choose God, and thus an opportunity to exercise and strengthen our faith.
      Psalm 22, itself, is a exercise to strengthen our faith, just as psalm 51 is an exercise in repentance….(on and on, choose your favorite workout)

      Were there not times in your life that this exercise led you to where you are now? Will there not possibly be times in the future to be tested?

      • Watchful1 says:

        I believe God’s penultimate goal is to know/prove our heart; are we wheat or tare. Satan challenged this with Job and God allowed testing and so with us all. Everyone in History must grow up into what they are–what will they allow-Satan’s seed or God’s? Remember, Cain believed God existed-he had a conversation with Him but in 1 John we learn that Cain was “of his father the devil”. Apparently a long life and his heart never was for God. Also: Mark 9:24 – Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I have always taken this verse as the man’s heart was right with God-but he just could not have enough faith to move a mountain. Remember also God said to Abraham “NOW I KNOW you fear the lord your God…” after he was willing to offer his son Isaac.

        • Veritas says:

          Does God need to prove our hearts? He already knows, it would seem to me.
          We need to prove our hearts to ourselves. To be firm in what we believe.

          Have you always believed in the existence of God and never doubted or questioned? If so, why do you believe? How do you answers all of the nonbelievers. What is the reason for your hope?

          • Watchful1 says:

            With Abraham and the almost sacrifice of Isaac God said “NOW I know you fear the Lord…”. Seems God foreknew what Abraham would do but it was real knowing only AFTER he was willing to offer Isaac. Good place to remind everyone Jesus once said not everyone who called Him Lord would be saved…” Go away from me I never KNEW you”. I don’t remember ever not believing and the more I studied the Bible the better the evidence I had. It is obvious this world did not make itself and that with common sense and your parent’s belief is where you start. From there however you must study the Bible…faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Principally where the Bible keeps lining up with reality and truth.

          • Pete E. says:

            Sounds like God found out something he didn’t know before. That’s not the only time this happens in the OT.

          • Veritas says:

            How does that square with omniscience?

          • Pete E. says:

            It doesn’t.

          • Percival says:

            It depends on how you define omniscience. If God knows everything that is actual, then the future may not be knowable. Maybe the future can be predicted and engineered but not actually known until it happens.

  • Watchful1 says:

    At Lazerus’ tomb Jesus said to God: “And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:42) In other words, Jesus sometimes said things for the sake of those around him (and those of us today!)-Jesus obviously was quoting that Psalm-certainly not doubting. He was sweating blood the previous night-I believe He was not so stressed about the suffering as He was the separation He knew was coming the next day (He became sin for us-God turned away from Him). They did not kill Jesus, He gave up His Spirit-Matthew makes that very explicit (…”and He gave up His Spirit”). He could have called in a Legion of Angels at any time to stop all this (as Satan had mentioned when tempting Him those three times). This fact makes His work even more stunning and certainly also underscores His faith. The Hypostatic Union of God and Man within the person of Jesus is spelled out in the two Hebrews verses: Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the substance (Hupostasis) of things hoped for…” and Hebrews 1:3 “…[Jesus] is the express image of God’s person (Hupostasis)”. Look up the Greek in those two verses-Jesus literally is the definition of “first faith” (the first of many brethren to come). Several years ago my family suffered a very painful suffering-I can’t even mention it here-many tears. But I remember months later thinking “You know? I never doubted God despite how bad it hurt”–and I was comforted in that thought-that I had not doubted. Jesus’ story of the Wheat and Tare principally tells us why God allows our suffering–everyone in History has to grow up into what they are-either Wheat or Tare. Satan sows his seeds and God sows His in every human heart–we shall see what grows. God can’t make you choose Him and God has to allow everyone to come up into what they will be. God don’t make you a Tare-but it ain’t true love unless He allows you your own will. I love you all-you r Bible can be trusted!

    • Gary says:

      I had thought he didn’t sweat blood till the second century or so.

      • Watchful1 says:

        No…He sweat including blood. Peculiar but it is there Luke 22:44

        • Pete E. says:

          Gary is referring to the notion among biblical scholars that this line may be Luke’s creation and not the words of Jesus.

          • Gary says:

            Actually, I was referring to the notion that it’s not Luke’s creation but likely later insertion. Perhaps there’s a matter of layers of interestingness here. In some ways here in this post, perhaps you Pete are combating contemporary docetic tendencies, specifically ones that relate to knowledge/belief.

          • Pete E. says:

            Or that.

    • Veritas says:

      It seems to me that the word “choose” is the hinge of this discussion. It is certainly a great gift to have a faith beyond doubt, but it seems also to be a gift to experience doubt. Each episode of doubt is an opportunity to choose God, and thus an opportunity to exercise and strengthen our faith.
      Psalm 22, itself, is a exercise to strengthen our faith, just as psalm 51 is an exercise in repentance….(on and on, choose your favorite workout)

      Were there not times in your life that this exercise led you to where you are now? Will there not possibly be times in the future to be tested?

      • Watchful1 says:

        I believe God’s penultimate goal is to know/prove our heart; are we wheat or tare. Satan challenged this with Job and God allowed testing and so with us all. Everyone in History must grow up into what they are–what will they allow-Satan’s seed or God’s? Remember, Cain believed God existed-he had a conversation with Him but in 1 John we learn that Cain was “of his father the devil”. Apparently a long life and his heart never was for God. Also: Mark 9:24 – Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I have always taken this verse as the man’s heart was right with God-but he just could not have enough faith to move a mountain. Remember also God said to Abraham “NOW I KNOW you fear the lord your God…” after he was willing to offer his son Isaac.

        • Veritas says:

          Does God need to prove our hearts? He already knows, it would seem to me.
          We need to prove our hearts to ourselves. To be firm in what we believe.

          Have you always believed in the existence of God and never doubted or questioned? If so, why do you believe? How do you answers all of the nonbelievers. What is the reason for your hope?

  • Suzanne says:

    Chiming in just to thank you, as always, for helping so many of us to hang on and not feel that our questions/despair/feelings of abandonment are a death knell to our faith. I watch for every post, Peter, and I’m waiting eagerly for your new book to show up on my doorstep. Thank you for caring about us and continuing to write.

  • Suzanne says:

    Chiming in just to thank you, as always, for helping so many of us to hang on and not feel that our questions/despair/feelings of abandonment are a death knell to our faith. I watch for every post, Peter, and I’m waiting eagerly for your new book to show up on my doorstep. Thank you for caring about us and continuing to write.

  • Veritas says:

    It seems to me one of the many great fruits of the Incarnation is our ability to relate to the fully human Christ. Even psalm 22 is a journey from a faltering faith to confidence and exultation of God…( To a point of commending His Spirit) A human Son of God makes the same journey the we children of God can follow. Didn’t Jesus, in reaching down into the depths of despair and human misery, reach even the most wretched humans and unite them to himself? (Isn’t that what letter to the Hebrews is all about)

    In many a faltering moment I have latched on to these ideas, was my hope misplaced?

    • charlesburchfield says:

      yes! I believe that’s true! he’s done it for everybody everywhere for all time & eternity IMHO! *]:D

  • Veritas says:

    It seems to me one of the many great fruits of the Incarnation is our ability to relate to the fully human Christ. Even psalm 22 is a journey from a faltering faith to confidence and exultation of God…( To a point of commending His Spirit) A human Son of God makes the same journey the we children of God can follow. Didn’t Jesus, in reaching down into the depths of despair and human misery, reach even the most wretched humans and unite them to himself? (Isn’t that what letter to the Hebrews is all about)

    In many a faltering moment I have latched on to these ideas, was my hope misplaced?

  • negateOPM says:

    Jesus is using the opening to Psalm 22. It is the Jewish tradition to openly state the first 4 lines of a prayer and to repeat the rest silently. The Psalm is the statement of ultimate faith.

    • Bex says:

      And that doubt and despair are part of it.

    • newenglandsun says:

      Except prayers are converted to the heart whether silent or not. Whether Psalm 22 is a prophecy or prayer, I will not go into discussion here on but whether it is prophecy or prayer or not hardly matters. If it is prayer, it seems that Jesus is in fact really feeling abandoned on the cross.

      • Esther says:

        I was wondering if someone would point this out — so thanks! I agree. To say God abandoned Christ is a dangerous thought to give into. I think there is some more studying of Psalm 22 to be done before this post is accurate. Culture is a huge part, that’s why Jesus spoke the line in Hebrew.. Because it was a reference. Psalm 22 points to Christ and, like the psalmist, seeks God and trusts in His deliverance despite the circumstance. I think the picture is more of Chrisys grave towar us, that even in His last few moments on the cross, He is still trying to teach mankind.

  • Bex says:

    And that doubt and despair are part of it.

  • Pete E. says:

    Sounds like God found out something he didn’t know before. That’s not the only time this happens in the OT.

    • Watchful1 says:

      Pete: It is a translation. The Hebrew root word for know here is Yada same root as “Adam went in and knew his wife”. The implication seems to be sharing a special connection together resulting in life. Abraham offered his son Isaac and 1,500 years later God SENT His son. Now God has had a knowing experience WITH Abraham. God still knows the end from the beginning…He can’t have an experience WITH us in time until that time since WE are bound by time.

      • newenglandsun says:

        How many actually think God has a literal body? Like with hands, feet, arms, neck, etc.?
        If not, why not when the scriptures say so? Anthropomorphism is clearly present in the scriptures and known in the history of Christianity. I cannot imagine anthropomorphism not being used when discussing the nature of God.
        We were made in his image, not he in ours so we cannot expect God to be a human.

        • Gary says:

          Nominally, about 15 million Mormons think God the Heavenly Father has a literal body and nominally about 2 billion and some Chalcedonian Christians creedally claim God the Son has a literal–albeit “glorified”–body. By far and away, despite adherents’ actual in-the-pew and in-the-head beliefs, Christianity is a distinctively global religion with orthodox beliefs of God having a body. Now that being said, most all of the Christians I know reflect something much more docetic or Platonic when I listen to them. Many despise Muslims, but have distinctively more Islamic concepts of God than nominally Christian.

          Most Christians I know know what God thinks about same sex marriage better than they know what they believe about God’s Essence.

          I find the fervor fascinating.

          • newenglandsun says:

            But the orthodox view of the incarnation says that Jesus was incarnated. So we have God incarnate. But also, the Trinity is also God–the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So while all of God was incarnate because the Son is wholly God, the Father and Spirit were not. They remained “bodiless”.
            Further, the dimensions of Christ’s body in orthodox Christian theology shows that Christ’s body is also incontainable. For his body subsides in the bread and wine in the Eucharist and his body is also the Church.
            I don’t really know where same sex marriage came into this discussion.

          • Gary says:

            SSM came from the fact that most contemporary Christians seem to give it greater thought than the other matters you mention.

          • newenglandsun says:

            As it is a contemporary issue, it is only natural that Christians focus on how to deal with same sex “marriage”.
            But you are talking about two different things–ethics and ontology. I am not denying the two are related but what I said had absolutely nothing to do with an ethics statement.
            One is forced to think about this issue though when asked “how many believe…?”
            So my question was rather aimed at forcing people to think through this issue.

          • Gary says:

            Ah, but marriage is very much a matter of ethics based upon ontology and I’d suggest as much is as owing to Plato and an bringing together of dualisms with first-century Palestinian thought to create common Christian ways of thinking.

            Biology is messy. Chromosomes, genital formation, attraction, etc. Ideals are simple. Male and female, created He them.

            Two shall become one.

            Christ and the Church.

            It is very much about ontological symbolism.

            While I think Christians today have less awareness of their Christologies and ecclesiologies, I’d suggest that the center of understanding of symbolism have shifted to such as SSM.

    • Veritas says:

      How does that square with omniscience?

      • Pete E. says:

        It doesn’t.

        • Percival says:

          It depends on how you define omniscience. If God knows everything that is actual, then the future may not be knowable. Maybe the future can be predicted and engineered but not actually known until it happens.

        • Watchful1 says:

          God said “Now I know…” meaning now we have come together in a very special way (God is not limited by time but man/Abraham is/was)-Jesus was born 1500 years later. Same word root-Yada-“Adam went in and knew his wife”. I don’t believe it has anything to do with God not knowing what would happen in the future. Romans 8:29-30 “Those whom He foreknew he predestined…”. Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 speak of those whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life since the beginning; this implies God’s Lamb’s Book of Life was full of all who be born in History and when time began at Genesis 1:1 God blotted many names out–obviously because He knows the end from the beginning.

          • Pete E. says:

            On these and your other comments, I appreciate your zeal and self-confidence in knowing precisely how complex matters of interpretation should be handled. I’ll leave you to it. But concerning your understanding yada’, it strikes me that you probably are not very familiar with Hebrew. The language–in fact, no language–works the way you have contorted here. Specifically, you are committing the interpretive fallacy of “illegitimate totality transfer”–taking what a word means in one context and transferring that to another context. Words, to the contrary, have great semantic range depending in their usage. You know this instinctively from your own native language, English. Look up the meanings of “know” or “run” in a dictionary. You would never simply take the a word’s meaning in one context and transfer it to another–you would never say that someone who “runs” a company wears jogging gear and sweats while doing xo simply because “run” can mean the physical act of running in other contexts. And to say, as you might, that your view is valid with the Bible because it is a different kind of book, written by the Spirit of God, would simply be a very bad and naive assumption that will bend and twist the Bible to make it say anything you want it to.

          • Gary says:

            I don’t know Hebrew, but in Japanese, “yada” means something like “ugh, alas, oh–more of that…” It’s a response with a bit of child-like onomatopoeia flair to express dislike, disgust, or desire not to do something.

  • Pete E. says:

    Gary is referring to the notion among biblical scholars that this line may be Luke’s creation and not the words of Jesus.

    • Watchful1 says:

      The Bible tells us of the sweating as blood and not Jesus. The Bible is inspired, not Luke’s etc creation. Peter taught Holy Men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. He also spoke of Paul’s letters as from God too.

      • Gary says:

        One of the things that I’ve come to discover in the last decade and some is that church isn’t necessarily the best place to learn about the Bible or Christianity.

        For me personally, it’s caused quote an erosion of credibility.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        “X is . . .because X declares it” is not a valid argument for anything (although I don’t think the Bible in anyway declares itself inerrant). You are in the same playing field as conservative Imans here.

    • Gary says:

      Actually, I was referring to the notion that it’s not Luke’s creation but likely later insertion. Perhaps there’s a matter of layers of interestingness here. In some ways here in this post, perhaps you Pete are combating contemporary docetic tendencies, specifically ones that relate to knowledge/belief.

  • cken says:

    For me personally I have always thought if you don’t doubt and don’t ask questions how can your faith grow. I have also come to the conclusion based on many experiences that when bad things happen to you God has a lesson in there for you and it is up to us to determine what that lesson is or was. Discerning that lesson is another way to grow.

    • Andrew Dowling says:

      I concur with your first sentence but completely disagree with the second: “I have also come to the conclusion based on many experiences that when
      bad things happen to you God has a lesson in there for you and it is up
      to us to determine what that lesson is or was” . . .I think way too many horrible things happen to very good people which leave no lessons beyond pain and misery. This is a painful truth that has certainly shook my faith and my conception of God, but I think pivoting to some sort of divine determinism is not dealing with reality. As an example, an acquaintance of mine’s wife was recently raped and murdered. Beyond someone losing their children it’s hard for me to think of a worst thing for someone to go through, And I think concluding that the end game of that is that there’s some “lesson” for him is not respectful of the husband and ultimately not respectful of God.

      • cken says:

        I think because of our pain and misery in those bad times we lose the ability to look deeper. I think that is true for most of the bad times but certainly not all. One of the lessons for me was learning to always put you faith in God. When bad things happen we tend to call on God and then when it turns around we take sole credit for turning it around. As I heard a wise man once say, reading the bible isn’t enough, praying isn’t enough, going to church isn’t enough, you must totally surrender to God’s will for you.

  • cken says:

    For me personally I have always thought if you don’t doubt and don’t ask questions how can your faith grow. I have also come to the conclusion based on many experiences that when bad things happen to you God has a lesson in there for you and it is up to us to determine what that lesson is or was. Discerning that lesson is another way to grow.

    • Andrew Dowling says:

      I concur with your first sentence but completely disagree with the second: “I have also come to the conclusion based on many experiences that when
      bad things happen to you God has a lesson in there for you and it is up
      to us to determine what that lesson is or was” . . .I think way too many horrible things happen to very good people which leave no lessons beyond pain and misery. This is a painful truth that has certainly shook my faith and my conception of God, but I think pivoting to some sort of divine determinism is not dealing with reality. As an example, an acquaintance of mine’s wife was recently raped and murdered. Beyond someone losing their children it’s hard for me to think of a worst thing for someone to go through, And I think concluding that the end game of that is that there’s some “lesson” for him is not respectful of the husband and ultimately not respectful of God.

      • cken says:

        I think because of our pain and misery in those bad times we lose the ability to look deeper. I think that is true for most of the bad times but certainly not all. One of the lessons for me was learning to always put you faith in God. When bad things happen we tend to call on God and then when it turns around we take sole credit for turning it around. As I heard a wise man once say, reading the bible isn’t enough, praying isn’t enough, going to church isn’t enough, you must totally surrender to God’s will for you.

  • Pete E. says:

    On these and your other comments, I appreciate your zeal and self-confidence in knowing precisely how complex matters of interpretation should be handled. I’ll leave you to it. But concerning your understanding yada’, it strikes me that you probably are not very familiar with Hebrew. The language–in fact, no language–works the way you have contorted here. Specifically, you are committing the interpretive fallacy of “illegitimate totality transfer”–taking what a word means in one context and transferring that to another context. Words, to the contrary, have great semantic range depending in their usage. You know this instinctively from your own native language, English. Look up the meanings of “know” or “run” in a dictionary. You would never simply take the a word’s meaning in one context and transfer it to another–you would never say that someone who “runs” a company wears jogging gear and sweats while doing xo simply because “run” can mean the physical act of running in other contexts. And to say, as you might, that your view is valid with the Bible because it is a different kind of book, written by the Spirit of God, would simply be a very bad and naive assumption that will bend and twist the Bible to make it say anything you want it to.

    • Gary says:

      I don’t know Hebrew, but in Japanese, “yada” means something like “ugh, alas, oh–more of that…” It’s a response with a bit of child-like onomatopoeia flair to express dislike, disgust, or desire not to do something.

    • Watchful1 says:

      Good morning Pete. Genesis 4:1 – יָדַ עְ תִּ י-idothi and Genesis 22:12 – יָדַ ע-ido 1) The word in both places is of the same root–there is a reason for this-read on; 2) While meaning can vary some with context, a basic study here shows they do tie together in their context—-producing life (eternal life in the latter case). Only a Christian would understand this (using the New Testament and Old Testament together)-Jews probably wondered about it. Note: Genesis 22:12 “…since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” and also Genesis 22:8 “…God will provide himself a Lamb…” and Genesis 22:14 “Jehovahjireh-the Lord will provide–and it is symbolic of Mt. Moriah. So your “illegitimate totality transfer” example of “runs a company” is not what I did here-I have indeed correctly understood everything that is going on in these Bible verses. Genesis 22:12 is first mention of a son who WOULD BE sacrificed many years later. It is one of the more stunning examples of God’s Omniscience; and to think I became interested in the verse because of the word “Know”! Ha! Also I want you to enjoy the King James Poetic; check this out: 1) Abraham…”lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.” Genesis 22:4; 2) “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help (Jesus!!) Psalm 121:1—–some folks believe the place where Abraham offered up Isaac (Mt. Moriah is in Jerusalem) later became Golgotha-place of the Crucifixion. Kapow!!

  • Gary says:

    One of the things that I’ve come to discover in the last decade and some is that church isn’t necessarily the best place to learn about the Bible or Christianity.

    For me personally, it’s caused quote an erosion of credibility.

    • Watchful1 says:

      There are certainly some poor Churches; Revelation speaks some to that. But we are taught not to neglect gathering in some way-we can encourage one another (hope this encourages). Iron sharpens iron. God may want you to be in the middle helping a Church stay closer to the Bible.

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    “X is . . .because X declares it” is not a valid argument for anything (although I don’t think the Bible in anyway declares itself inerrant). You are in the same playing field as conservative Imans here.

    • Watchful1 says:

      Imams don’t believe Jesus is the son of God but I do. 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” The teacher Brian Edwards teaches that “inspiration” is TheoPneustos (as in God and Pneumatic-as in tools powered by air-sounds to me like reference to Spirit empowering). 2 Peter 1:21 – “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Psalm 12:6 – “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” 2 Peter 3:15-18 – “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

  • newenglandsun says:

    How many actually think God has a literal body? Like with hands, feet, arms, neck, etc.?
    If not, why not when the scriptures say so? Anthropomorphism is clearly present in the scriptures and known in the history of Christianity. I cannot imagine anthropomorphism not being used when discussing the nature of God.
    We were made in his image, not he in ours so we cannot expect God to be a human.

    • Gary says:

      Nominally, about 15 million Mormons think God the Heavenly Father has a literal body and nominally about 2 billion and some Chalcedonian Christians creedally claim God the Son has a literal–albeit “glorified”–body. By far and away, despite adherents’ actual in-the-pew and in-the-head beliefs, Christianity is a distinctively global religion with orthodox beliefs of God having a body. Now that being said, most all of the Christians I know reflect something much more docetic or Platonic when I listen to them. Many despise Muslims, but have distinctively more Islamic concepts of God than nominally Christian.

      Most Christians I know know what God thinks about same sex marriage better than they know what they believe about God’s Essence.

      I find the fervor fascinating.

      • newenglandsun says:

        But the orthodox view of the incarnation says that Jesus was incarnated. So we have God incarnate. But also, the Trinity is also God–the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So while all of God was incarnate because the Son is wholly God, the Father and Spirit were not. They remained “bodiless”.
        Further, the dimensions of Christ’s body in orthodox Christian theology shows that Christ’s body is also incontainable. For his body subsides in the bread and wine in the Eucharist and his body is also the Church.
        I don’t really know where same sex marriage came into this discussion.

        • Gary says:

          SSM came from the fact that most contemporary Christians seem to give it greater thought than the other matters you mention.

          • newenglandsun says:

            As it is a contemporary issue, it is only natural that Christians focus on how to deal with same sex “marriage”.
            But you are talking about two different things–ethics and ontology. I am not denying the two are related but what I said had absolutely nothing to do with an ethics statement.
            One is forced to think about this issue though when asked “how many believe…?”
            So my question was rather aimed at forcing people to think through this issue.

          • Gary says:

            Ah, but marriage is very much a matter of ethics based upon ontology and I’d suggest as much is as owing to Plato and an bringing together of dualisms with first-century Palestinian thought to create common Christian ways of thinking.

            Biology is messy. Chromosomes, genital formation, attraction, etc. Ideals are simple. Male and female, created He them.

            Two shall become one.

            Christ and the Church.

            It is very much about ontological symbolism.

            While I think Christians today have less awareness of their Christologies and ecclesiologies, I’d suggest that the center of understanding of symbolism have shifted to such as SSM.

          • newenglandsun says:

            I can see your point that marriage is a matter of ethics based on ontology and I agree. However, marriage is based on ontological ethics. We were talking just simple ontology.
            Though the ontological symbolism of a marital union between man and woman producing children is iconographic of the Triune deity. Same sex “marriage” is not and therefore cannot be classified as marriage.
            Biology might be messy in regard to sexual attractions but theology is quite clear on the issue of same sex “marriage”.
            BTW, the more one understands accurate Christologies and Ecclesiologies, the more one understands why the marital union can only be for a man and a woman for the purposes of pro-creation. You forgot the part of that section where God creates man and woman to be fruitful and multiply.
            Which non-Christian/non-Jewish philosophers taught the same is moot. God clearly has revealed to us his moral code we are to follow and obey. Same sex “marriage” cannot be reconciled with the Christian faith precisely because of the Triune deity.

          • Gary says:

            We can define things however we’d like.

          • Gary says:

            We can define things however we’d like.

    • Watchful1 says:

      Elohim is a plural noun and yet bara (created) is a singular verb (Genesis 1:1); I consider this the second flag of authenticity in the Bible. God the father; God the son; and God the holy spirit within Elohim (which uses a singular verb). The first flag of authenticity is the time-space-matter continuum…At the beginning (time), created God the heavens (space) and the Earth (matter). Kapow! Now the translation of Hebrews 1:3 states that: [Jesus Christ] is the express IMAGE of God’s person (Hupostasis). And so it seems Jesus is the physical image/God in person when experienced within time (with His resurrected body He returned a few times). The Hypostatic union of God and man within the person of Jesus Christ-fully man and fully God. But we know God also exists and has always existed beyond this time convention we are enduring; God lives in eternity-Psalm 90:2 (“…from everlasting to everlasting”). My youngest son was once stressing trying to put his mind around eternity; he seemed worried about not knowing what it would be like. All I knew to tell him was Jesus is the express image of God’s person-Jesus showed us a great many acts during His time with the early Church-He is a wonderful person so be comforted-He was/is a really loving person. I am trying to understand your focus on anthropomorphism-is that helpful in discussing the nature of God. I don’t believe God the father has a physical body; I look at the 3 persons of the Godhead as 1 x 1 x 1 and not 1 + 1 + 1.

  • newenglandsun says:

    Except prayers are converted to the heart whether silent or not. Whether Psalm 22 is a prophecy or prayer, I will not go into discussion here on but whether it is prophecy or prayer or not hardly matters. If it is prayer, it seems that Jesus is in fact really feeling abandoned on the cross.

    • Esther says:

      I was wondering if someone would point this out — so thanks! I agree. To say God abandoned Christ is a dangerous thought to give into. I think there is some more studying of Psalm 22 to be done before this post is accurate. Culture is a huge part, that’s why Jesus spoke the line in Hebrew.. Because it was a reference. Psalm 22 points to Christ and, like the psalmist, seeks God and trusts in His deliverance despite the circumstance. I think the picture is more of Chrisys grave towar us, that even in His last few moments on the cross, He is still trying to teach mankind.

  • Gary says:

    Alas. I forgot that iron sharpens iron. I get it now. 😉

  • Gary says:

    God may want the smell of burning flesh too. Hard to say really.

    • Watchful1 says:

      Lord no. My picture of God is not of a flesh destroying angry dad but rather the father of the Prodigal son-when that father saw His boy coming home he did not indignantly wait for him but rather rather ran to His boy and “fell on his neck”. I look at my boys the same way-love them so deeply.

  • Joshua Christy says:

    I would imagine that for Jesus to be suffering separation from God would be such a painful thing it would make adultery and divorce seem like a walk in the park. To be one with God for all of your life, and even all of eternity, and then have that ripped away. I doubt there are words that can really express what that’s like. Psalm 22 might come closer to it than anything else though.

  • Joshua Christy says:

    I would imagine that for Jesus to be suffering separation from God would be such a painful thing it would make adultery and divorce seem like a walk in the park. To be one with God for all of your life, and even all of eternity, and then have that ripped away. I doubt there are words that can really express what that’s like. Psalm 22 might come closer to it than anything else though.

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