Blessed are the …

Almost three weeks ago, I posted from a small fishing village on the northeast coast of Brazil. My post mentioned my location, apologized for not having something new to post, linked to a piece from several years ago, and stated I was trying to write another piece on blessings or being blessed.

Since returning from Brazil, I have tried mightily to write an essay triggered by something said during the mission to Brazil. As it turned out, I was at best tilting at windmills. At worst, I was completely misunderstanding what I was feeling called to do.

In trying to write something, anything actually, on this topic something kept interfering. I suppose one could write off what I saw as interference as a form of writer’s block or procrastination. Yet, that did not seem to be the case. I was hitting serious roadblocks, from computer problems, to schedule conflicts, to completing my responsibilities related to wrapping up the mission trip. I was thinking, what is going on here? Then the light dawned!

I was thinking I was supposed to write and publish something about a new, to me at least, idea of what it meant to be blessed. Consequently, I was scrambling around attempting to do research, and make sense of what I heard. Then it hit me. The person leading the discussion which inspired me to start this piece had already done the research. In fact, he had probably written something about this particular concept.1

I was not supposed to write something new. All I needed to do was share what he had already written. It was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders and a veil being lifted from my eyes. Click on the link below and see if you find anything different in Ken Miller’s discussion of what it means to be blessed, and what one normally thinks it means.

The Benefits of God’s Approval

1. It is embarrassing enough to find oneself unable to write intelligently on a subject. It is even more embarrassing to think I should have made the connection to this pastor’s blog more quickly. I serve with him all the time in our men’s ministry.

© AnOldSinner 2017

Posted in Faith, Missions, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , ,

Of Blessings and Challenges

Three years ago this week AnOldSinner published “Truly Blessed.” This piece was published while I was on a men’s mission to a small village in Brazil. It was also a follow-up to a piece titled “Blessed” posted a few weeks earlier.

Today I am again blessed to be on a mission to the small village in Brazil. Returning to this village and its church is always a blessing, but it also has its challenges. In this case, the challenge has been twofold. First, I have little time to write. Second, I am an inspirational writer. That is, I can pound out something to publish, but my best work is when something inspires me. Once I have an inspiration, nothing else is completed until I have at least a first draft.

This trip to Brazil has inspired me to write another piece on the concept of being blessed. Unfortunately, for me at least, I have little free time and horrible internet connections. What free time I have is dedicated to photography and posting updates on the day’s mission activities. Even finding time to post this has been difficult, so much for my tale of woe.

If I am to write the piece I envision it will be published in two weeks. Until then, I thought it might be worthwhile to ask you to read or reread “Truly Blessed,” possibly even “Blessed?”

Just click on the link below, and check back on August 23 for the new piece.

Truly Blessed

© – 2017

Posted in Faith, Missions, Religion | Tagged , , , ,

Of Specks and Logs

A well-meaning soul shared a thought the other day with her social media friends. The thought, in the form of a meme, carried the message, “Worry about your own sin. I promise you won’t be asked about mine.” Of course, it immediately garnered a number of likes and positive comments. After all, most of us can empathize with someone who feels judged, condemned, or criticized for one behavior or another. The problem is the meme is a bit simplistic.

It is true the Bible contains the admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV) Additionally, the following verses seem to emphasize that thought. Verse 3 is especially pointed, advising one not to judge the speck in another’s eye while failing to notice the log in their own. There you have it, point made, case closed, do not judge others. Hardly!

Certainly, each of us will be judged for our sins. What I think of your alleged sins, and you think of mine, are of little concern in some ways. It is God’s judgment that matters. Still, the idea that one Christian should not worry about the behavior of other believers is simply not biblical. In fact, it may be one of the actions, or lack thereof, one will be asked about on the day of judgment.

If you are reading this sentence, the last sentence may not have registered yet. Either that, or you are giving me the benefit of the doubt, and waiting to see if I say anything else judgmental. Yes, I did just imply that a believer is to be concerned, worried possibly, about the sins of others. The question now is am I denying or ignoring the truth of Matthew 7. I think not, but you will need to be the judge of that.

The truth is Matthew 7:1-5 is not speaking of believers in general. Many want to focus on the first verse, while completely ignoring the rest of that section. Verses 3 through 5 make it clear Jesus is speaking to hypocrites. He is speaking to people accusing others of sins while living in sin themselves. Some feel He was specifically speaking to the Pharisees who were known for expecting others to adhere to the law, when they paid it little more than lip service.

Think of it this way. If the verses in Matthew are saying only the sinless can criticize, rebuke, correct, or attempt to show someone the error of his or her ways, then no human being has the right to advise, criticize, or point out someone’s sinful behavior. That means no priest, pastor, reverend, deacon, Bible teacher or anyone else can do anything more than teach the Word. Even then, they must be careful not judge or imply a person’s actions might be sinful

If these verses in Matthew are to be taken literally, then Paul was wrong when he wrote to the Corinthians about their behavior. Not only was he wrong, he was encouraging the Corinthian church to commit sins by judging others and taking action to remove them from the church, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2)

It would seem obvious the Bible encourages believers to hold each other accountable for their behavior.1 In Matthew 18:15-17 believers are told to “show him his fault in private.” Also, Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 5:13, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Verses in 2 Corinthians, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, and Galatians teach a similar message. Christians do have an obligation to notice, be concerned about, and deal with the sins of other Christians.

Two other points need to be made here before bringing this piece to a close. The statement, “you will not be asked about mine” is misleading at best. At worst, it is a deliberate attempt to lead a believer astray. Neither those who read this piece nor AnOldSinner will be judged on the behavior of others. That does not mean we will not be asked about their behavior in some manner.

This piece posits that Christians have a duty to let other Christians know when they are sinning. If that is true, then it would seem God may want to ask us about why we did not tell our brother or sister to mend his or her ways. If that is true, God will not ask us about the other’s sins. He will ask, or judge, us on our failure to help that believer mend his or her ways.

Finally, the Bible makes it clear we are to approach others with love and respect when dealing with issues such as this. We are to make the first effort at correction in private, and if that does not work the Bible lays out a process by which a believer is to be disciplined. (Matthew 18:15-17) Unfortunately, we all too often resort to non-biblical behavior when dealing with the sins of others.  In fact, we fall into sin ourselves, as did the Pharisees,  because we do not understand, or do not know, how to lovingly take another’s behavior to task.

  1. Yes, the page of verses to which this article links is titled “Church Discipline.”  Just remember there is the church, the place you attend services, and then there is the Church, which is the body of believers.  Churches, buildings designed and dedicated to holding Christian services, did not exist in biblical times.  When we speak of Paul writing to the church at Corinth, he is writing to the body of believers, part of the Church, and what he says is applicable to all within that body.

© AnOldSinner -2017

Posted in Faith, parenting, Religion, sin, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Hardened Heart

As promised, this piece will deal with the question, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?” For the purpose of clarity, it is important to remember Pharaoh’s is not the only heart that God hardened or allowed to be hardened.  In fact, hearts are hardened to this very day, but discussion of those hearts must wait for another time.

In “Why Did God …?” I noted I quickly came up with a possible response to the question. I also noted that was likely not a good idea. Instead, I suggested asking the person to elaborate on his question or his underlying concerns. The point in trying to obtain more information from the questioner is twofold. First, it buys a little time for you to gather your thoughts, as long as you can gather your thoughts and listen. Second, the individual will, hopefully at least, provide information that will help you understand how to answer the question.

The last phrase above, understand how to answer the question, might give some the idea I am suggesting a tailored or weasel worded answer that skirts the truth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, I am advising you to remember the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Which means, engaging in a heartfelt discourse with someone who simply wants to argue may not be the best use of one’s time and energy.

The truth is that God has the right to do or not do whatever he pleases. This is clearly expressed at the end of Exodus 33:19, when God tells Moses, I … “will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (ESV) Paul makes the same point in Romans 9:14-16. Making that claim to many believers would not go well, and to a skeptic it would simply be the same as pouring gasoline on a fire.1

It does not take much imagination to envision a response such as, “So, your god just treats people like ants, doing to them whatever he wants.” Unfortunately, that is a legitimate understanding of the translation to one who is a skeptic, new believer, a New Testament only believer, or mature Christian in a crisis of faith.To avoid suddenly being put on the defensive in that manner, avoid making such a take-it or leave-it answer.

For the record, my immediate response was not that confrontational. Still, it was not one I would have made to someone I did not know well or expected to be argumentative. At least it is not one I would have made if I had taken time to think about it. Essentially, my response was God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to teach him and his people a lesson. Also, He was making certain everyone, including the Israelites, knew He was the one true God. Again, while that makes sense, it could sound a bit arbitrary and capricious to a lot of folks.

In fact, it might generate another question from a skeptic, “Why did God need to teach anyone a lesson, couldn’t he simply make Pharaoh let them go?” This and other questions one can imagine here are based on the question of God being all-powerful and loving. The real question is, “If God is all-powerful and loving, why couldn’t He just change Pharaoh’s heart instead of hardening it?”

The same question could be, and is, asked about a number of incidents.  For example, why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?  Or, why did God command the Israelites to destroy the occupants of the land they were promised.  Even in the New Testament, what kind of God would let a man be born blind just so Jesus could heal him later?  For that matter, why would God allow any form of evil in the world, if He is indeed all-powerful and loving?

It is likely for most of us, the correct way to respond to or answer such a question is, “I don’t know for certain, but I’d love to look into it and get back to you.” This is after you’ve done everything you can to understand why the person is asking the question. This answer, or a similar answer, is recommended for three reasons.

First, you will find out if the person is actually seeking to understand. People who are not interested in your response will likely not agree. Someone simply wanting to argue or push your buttons will likely not care about your response. In fact, they may try to goad you into a response they can attack. Second, if they agree to the arrangement, you are buying time to polish your response or learn more about the matter yourself. Third, you are opening the door to the possibility of establishing a new or deeper relationship with the person.

AnOldSinner will admit this advice is much easier to give than to accept. When one believes strongly in something, it is difficult to listen to someone attack it without triggering a variation of the fight or flight response. Another issue is fearing the other person might see you as weak or simply someone who drank the kool-aid. Those are certainly possibilities, but there are a couple of other points to keep in mind.

One, you may not be prepared to fully answer the question. It is unlikely the person asking the question has never asked it before. The fact the person is asking why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart is a dead giveaway. Someone focusing on that particular aspect of the story is more than casually familiar with the scripture.

Two, it may not be your job to answer the question.  Some believe they must stand up for their belief against every challenge. While that is true, unless one is strong in his or her faith and knowledge, trying to debate an atheist or skeptic may be a mistake. Such a person is often well prepared to attack a believer’s faith, with the hope of sowing some seeds of doubt.  It is possible, if you are not certain how to answer a challenging question, the skeptic was placed in your path to urge you to become stronger and more knowledgeable in your faith.

A final point to remember is God has hardened hearts at times.  He is also the one who can soften hearts.  Those who study the issue of evangelism much more deeply than AnOldSinner believe God will soften those hearts he chooses, and harden those he chooses. They also believe God may use multiple believers to soften someone’s heart. Your job might just be to hear the skeptic out, and offer to introduce them to someone more knowledgeable.  God decides when it is the unbeliever’s time, and He may use multiple incidents and testimonies to prepare the heart of an unbeliever.

God decides when an unbeliever’s heart is softened. It is great to be part of that experience, but it comes in God’s time, not ours.

1. Experts in the area of Bible translation point out this phrase is hard to understand. One commentary makes the point, “Commentators point out that the Hebrew phrase used here does not imply any abrupt arbitrariness on the part of God, as its English translation might suggest. It simply draws attention to the fact that these are qualities of God which may be seen in certain specific historic instances, without going into further detail.” [Exodus: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 2, p. 236 )]
2. See “Of Job and Ants” for more on why one might respond that way.

© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in apologetics, Faith, Religion, Spirituality, Testimony | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Why Did God …?

A Christian openly living his or her faith will eventually be asked, “Why did God _______?” One such Christian asked AnOldSinner how to respond to a question he was asked by someone he described as a skeptic. In this case, the question was, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?” Before sharing my response, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about questions like this.

First, there are some who believe many questions are simply statements in disguise. One self-appointed expert on television with quite a following is fond of saying 80-85 percent of questions are statements in disguise. He is often criticized by more academic types, but there is reason to believe, in many instances, questions are statements in disguise.

A second point to consider is why the question is being asked. Take the case of a new Christian. Many new Christians, and many long time church goers, have little if any knowledge of the Old Testament. Therefore a question such as “Why didn’t God stop slavery” may be a legitimate question, and not the opening gambit in an objection to the basic idea of God.

Finally, as far as questions are concerned, what is the purpose of the question. One should always be aware the person asking the question may be interested in more than a direct answer. Consider the question above concerning Pharaoh.

The person asking the question is seeking information, even if his question is really a thinly veiled accusation against God. It is possible the questioner is seeking a substantive reply.  It is also possible that is not the case. Rather, the person is likely attempting to gather information about the one being questioned.

How one responds to such a question helps the person asking the question in several ways. First, he, or she, will have a feeling for the respondent’s knowledge of the Bible. Second, he will gain some insight into the person’s level of faith, commitment, and ability to handle objections or challenges. In short, how one responds to such a question will tell the person asking the question a good deal about the Christian being questioned. Which brings us back to how one responds to questions such as the one posed above.

When asked how I would respond to the question about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, I had an immediate response. It is not one I recommend, as I will discuss later, but based on my own thoughts in this area it made sense. Also, it somewhat parallels God’s reasoning when He tells Moses He is hardening Pharaoh’s heart to show His power to the Egyptians, and so His story can be told to future generations of Israelites. (Exodus 10:1-2)

My response was He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to make a point and teach a lesson. I said God could have simply changed Pharaoh’s heart and commanded Pharaoh to free the Israelites. The problem is that would make us a race of puppets, not beings with free will. My answer made sense to my friend, but there could have been a problem if he had responded in that fashion to the person questioning him.

A more mature believer might accept, if not completely understand, that God was using the situation to teach a lesson. A nonbeliever or less mature believer might be appalled that God could be so cruel. In fact, at one time in AnOldSinner’s life I might have asked such a question, hoping someone would be foolish enough to answer that God was teaching mankind a lesson. You see, I would have been one of those people asking a question that was really a statement.

If I had asked the question about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, I would have been thinking you worship an evil god, if such a being actually exists. Additionally, I was fully prepared to dismantle any rationalization, explanation, or excuse for your god’s behavior that you made. Which brings us to the point of this piece.

Trying to answer a question such as why God hardened someone’s heart is usually a mistake. Certainly under some circumstances it isn’t a mistake, but in a conversation with a skeptic or atheist it probably is. It is likely a mistake for several reasons.

First, they are probably prepared for any answer you could make. Second, they are really not going to listen to your answer, as they are already formulating their reply to any answer you make. Third, it is likely you do not know their real reason for asking. It is possible they are really seeking understanding, they may simply be wanting to argue, or they may be trying to find out what kind of a religious nut you are.

Instead of answering their question, ask them one. For instance, I might say, “That is a great question. What makes you ask?” Another variation would be, “I’ve struggled with that question myself, do you have any thoughts on the matter?” The idea is to avoid being defensive or combative, and to get the other party to do the talking.1

I discussed this matter in more detail a few years ago in “A Defensive Position.” The bottom line is getting them to do the talking. As I was taught, and later taught my negotiation students, if you can keep the other party talking, he or she will tell you everything you need to know to settle the deal. Of course, you must be listening. If you are, you will discover the real reason they asked the question, and if there is any way to help them understand God’s Word.

In closing, it is important you have a response to their original question.  You may not need it at that moment, but you may need it later.  Accordingly, if AnOldSinner’s plan works out, my next piece will be an argument one can make in response to someone essentially accusing God of being evil or fostering evil.

1. The statements leading into the question in these examples are for rapport building purposes. If you don’t think it is a great question, or you’ve never struggled with that or some similar question, say something else. The idea is to build rapport, disarm, and encourage the other person to talk. Simply asking someone why they are asking the question might sound defensive or confrontational. If so, that ends any hope of a conversation.

© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in Faith | 1 Comment

Of Satisfaction and Yearning

Some might find it absurd if a pastor mentioned the Rolling Stones in a sermon. Unless of course, he needed an example of the wages of sin and excess. One look at Mick Jagger’s face is all one needs to know about the damage one can do to himself seeking worldly success and pleasures. That is why the Stones came to mind when AnOldSinner was contemplating what to share in this piece.

My home church just completed a sermon series titled, The Search for Satisfaction. One sermon was “Candle Smoke and Cotton Candy.” As usual the sermon was a good one, informative, touching and entertaining. It was also thought-provoking, but possibly not as the pastor intended.

Before going on, it seems appropriate to talk about the Stones for a moment. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger penned “Satisfaction” in 1965. It is unlikely either of them was thinking of King Solomon or the Book of Ecclesiastes when they wrote it. Yet, the basic theme of the song, the lack of satisfaction one finds in the world of man is simply echoing the thoughts of King Solomon.

The Stones made boatloads of money pointing out in song what the pastor was preaching. There is no true satisfaction in our earthly lives. Possibly without realizing it, the Stones were saying, looking for satisfaction in things and other people is little more than candle smoke and cotton candy as the pastor taught in his sermon.

AnOldSinner has no disagreement with the message in “Satisfaction” or the message in Ecclesiastes. There is nothing new under the sun, and there is no satisfaction to be found in things or other sinners. Still, one point made in the sermon, and later in discussions with other believers, raised a question.

The pastor listed a set of what were labeled Sad Facts at the end of his analysis. They were drawn from Ecclesiastes 1:1-18. Three were very clear, and easy to comprehend. No matter how hard one tries, nothing is permanent. No matter how long one seeks, not even our appetites, whatever they may be, can be permanently satisfied. No matter what one does, changing or stopping the aging process is not possible. The last sad fact is the one that gave me pause. It was, “You cannot fill the void within that yearns for meaning in life.”

The pastor wrapped up the sermon speaking of the substance of real satisfaction. He noted we cannot find satisfaction without being connected to God, and he drew from Solomon’s words to encourage us to live a life in which we do good for others, take time to smell the roses, gain satisfaction from our work, and give thanks to God for what He has given us.

I understand the sermon and what was intended. Yet I still question the sad fact about yearning. To me, there is a danger in not yearning. Yes, yearning for more money, more fame, more respect, more friends, more time, and fewer struggles is pointless in an eternal sense. It is also dangerous in an earthly sense. Again, take a look at Jagger’s face. He has paid a price for all the fame, fortune and other benefits those things bring, and all those will end with his last breath.

Does that mean one should never yearn? That is the point one could take from the sermon. It may not be the point the pastor intended, but that is the way some could interpret the sad fact statement about yearning.

I would argue one should yearn. The problem, which the pastor clearly identified, is we yearn for the wrong things. What we should yearn for is a closer walk with the Lord. What we should yearn for is more connection with and understanding of His Word. What we should yearn for is the opportunity to witness to others through our lives or our testimonies. Of course, the real problem is not whether or not we yearn for something. The real problem is we do not take action.

Yearning, whether one yearns for possessions or to be a light unto the world, is not enough. One must do something. AnOldSinner knows many people who yearn to be better Christians, better witnesses, better evangelists, better spouses, or better parents. The problem is too many people sit on their backsides waiting for Jesus to take them by the hand and show them what to do.

John 15:5 states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”(ESV) Some seem to read this verse and think it validates their decision to wait for Jesus to take them by the hand and lead them. Someone making such a decision might be right, but it seems hard to believe.

A story one of our pastors told to a Sunday School class years ago came to mind as I wrote that last paragraph. He thought it was hilarious, but it went over like a lead balloon in a classroom full of folks whose sense of humor died with Bob Hope. It does make my point however.

The story went something like this:

During her prayers one day a lady says to God. ‘”Lord! I pray and pray to win the lotto so I don’t have to work so hard, and can use the money to help others. Why haven’t I won?” At this point she pauses expectantly and hears, “First, you need to buy a lotto ticket.”

Neither he nor I am encouraging anyone to buy a lottery ticket. Both he and I are trying to make a point. If one never takes action, it is unlikely one will be rewarded. Could God miraculously deliver a winning lottery ticket to a petitioner? Of course He could, but such an act would likely be a test more than a miracle. If one truly wants God to help him or her win the lottery, one must buy a ticket.

The lottery story is shared simply to make a point. The point is this. Someone praying to become a best-selling Christian author must actually write something. God might give a writer inspiration, but it is unlikely He will deliver a best-selling manuscript to a publisher in the name of the person praying for such fame and fortune. The same is true for someone who wants to be the next Charles Spurgeon. God might give one the gifts needed to achieve that goal, but it is unlikely He will simply pick them up and drop them in a pulpit fully prepared to lead thousands of congregants.

It would seem yearning, in and of itself, is not a sad fact. The sad fact is we let fear, complacency, and false humility keep us from achieving the goals we seek in His name.

© – 2017

Posted in Faith, Religion, Spirituality, Testimony | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Of Good Intentions and False Teachers

In the interest of clarity, let me start with the following statement. AnOldSinner has a concern about the prevalence of false teachers in the world today. It is somewhat based on my experiences as a young Christian, experiences that drove me away from the church. I do recognize my spiritual immaturity played a role in the situation, but the shortcomings of the pastors and teachers involved played a larger role.

With that said, there is reason to be concerned about false teachers. Believers have been warned about those who speak and teach falsely since Old Testament times, and not much has changed over the centuries, with one exception.

False teachers in modern times can have a much wider and more immediate impact than those who traveled by foot and donkey. Of course, there are false teachers, and then there are FALSE teachers. The difference is false teachers are those who are well intentioned but misguided. The other kind may have less noble reasons for misleading believers.

Today, I want to discuss something taught by a person I believe falls into the well-intentioned but possibly misguided class of false teachers. These are the people who feel called to teach the Bible, but do so without any formal training, education or the support of a recognized ministry or church.1

The teacher in question taught on a topic causing someone who follows AnOldSinner’s writings to feel a bit of concern and distress.  Broadly stated, the topic was communicating or attempting to communicate with someone who is deceased.

More specifically, the lesson approached this topic by answering three questions. “Is it Okay to Visit the Cemetery To Talk or Pray for the Deceased?” “What does the Bible Say About Talking to the Dead?” And, “Is it OK to ask God to deliver a Message To a loved One Who has died?”

The distress arose from the fact this individual engaged in some of these activities at times. Now, she wondered if she had committed a sin. Second, the reasoning used to support the conclusions that these were unacceptable activities for a Christian seemed to be in conflict with what she heard in other studies and from some pastors.

Initially, I was not too interested in involving myself in this matter. I was not present during the study. I had not seen the study materials, and I knew that the way one hears a lesson sometimes depends on one’s underlying biases and point of view. I did however, agree to review the study materials, and see if there might be a problem.

Given the information provided up to this point you likely know what I felt about the lesson. I found several problems. I also had some concerns about comments the teacher reportedly made while explaining the materials. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss them in detail as I did not hear them. It does seem however they would have been consistent with points made in the printed material.

The two problems I can discuss are the amount of information the lesson attempted to cover and the source material. The teacher attempted to deal with the three questions in one session. The reference or source material provided to the participants, and my review of the questions, lead me to believe each question might have deserved a lesson of its own. Perhaps the topics could have been covered in two sessions, but squeezing them all into one because they seemed related may have been a mistake.

As for the lesson material, it was taken directly from an online source which purports to answer questions about the Bible, Christianity, God and other matters of religion. It is in fact a source I cited in past essays and papers.   The problem in this case, if there is one, is that the handouts did not make it clear the material is from an online source. Also, it does not seem any other sources were considered or reviewed.

AnOldSinner references online sources such as the one from which the study material was taken because they are readily available to anyone with access to the internet. Normally, they are only referenced if the information provided is consistent with more formal or academic sources used in developing an argument, or as a counterpoint of some sort. Occasionally, One will be referenced to point out differences in opinions about translations or interpretation of Scripture.

It would be of little value at this point to go into a detailed analysis of the material used in the lesson which triggered this essay. The essays or articles used to develop the lesson used multiple citations in making the argument for that particular question or topic. Discussing them in depth would need more time and space than is acceptable in a blog post. Accordingly, please consider the following.

The primary focus of the lesson and the support material was the question of someone communicating with the dead. There was secondary concern of asking God to be the messenger in one’s communication with a deceased person, but the primary question concerned communicating with someone who was deceased. Additionally, it was clear this was communication with a deceased loved one or friend.

The conclusion of the three different essays or articles used for the study material in this case was it is not Biblical to communicate with the dead. In fact, according to the materials, it was specifically prohibited by the Bible. The problem is the primary passages used to support this conclusion are Deuteronomy 18:11 and portions of 1 Samuel 28.

Deuteronomy is clearly speaking of someone who practices witchcraft of some sort. Likewise, the passages relating to this topic in 1 Samuel 28 deal with witchcraft. In cases of this nature, according to every commentary at my disposal, the sin was not simply trying to talk to the dead. Rather, it was the reason for the attempted communication.

For example Deuteronomy 18:11 is one verse in a passage about pagan practices that the Israelites were to avoid. It states one is to avoid, “… a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead.” In 1 Samuel 28 the Bible is relating the story of King Saul being cut off from God. The Philistines were preparing to attack Saul and his army. When he prayed to God about the matter, God was silent. (Verses 4-6)

Saul did not handle God’s silence well. He faced a serious situation and wanted to know what he should do. Instead of seeking forgiveness or repenting of his sins, Saul chose to engage the Witch of En-dor, convincing her to call forth the spirit of Samuel. His hope was Samuel would tell him what to do since God was silent.

On the surface, one might think these passages do condemn someone for speaking to or praying for a deceased loved one. The problem is both of these passages are dealing with people trying to get around God. Commentaries seem to agree the prohibition is against seeking secret information in an attempt to circumvent God. One could also argue the prohibition is more against dealing with witches, mediums or others who practice pagan rituals.

As for the question of speaking to the dead, the bottom line is this. AnOldSinner is not saying it is okay to ask God to carry a message to Aunt Minnie or your mom. Neither am I saying one should pray to a deceased friend or loved one, asking them for help, winning lotto numbers, or to send a sign to let one know Heaven is real. On the other hand, it is hard to see how simply trying to convey one’s thoughts of love and pain to mom, dad, Aunt Minnie or anyone else while visiting their grave is a sin. They may not be able to hear it, but that does not mean it is a worthless gesture or a sin.

So, if my conclusions are ambiguous, or based mostly on my understanding of the situation, what is the point of this piece. The point of this piece is simple. If someone claiming to be a Bible teacher, Bible scholar, pastor, minister, or prophet says something that does not seem right, seek a second opinion. Do not seek the opinion of a pagan, the Witch of En-dor, or the fellow standing on the street corner with a Bible in one hand and an “The End is Near” sign in the other. Seek the opinion of someone who might have a better grasp of the situation than a lay Bible study leader or a blogger one has never met (me included).

Remember the old saying about which road is paved with good intentions. That sentiment has more truth than one might want to accept. There is little doubt in my mind the person leading the Bible study that sparked this rather lengthy commentary is well-intentioned. That does not mean everything taught in that class is biblically accurate.

  1. I do not mean to imply a person cannot study the Bible on his or her own and reach an understanding that is within the range of possible interpretations.  That is certainly a possibility, but history and personal experience lead me to believe it is not likely.

© AnOldSinner -2017


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