Could Christ Have Sinned: Understanding temptation

Before we can get into the issue of answering whether Christ could sin or not, we need to do some groundwork. Specifically, we need to talk about temptation.

Let me start out by saying this: I think most Christians would agree with me that being tempted is not a sin in and of itself (if you hold that being tempted is sinful by nature, you need to be asking the question, “Since Christ sinned, what does that mean?”) Outside of that concession, opinions on temptation seem to vary quite a bit, both as to the mechanics of an actual instance of temptation and as to temptation’s overarching purpose.

So, I’d like open a dialogue about temptation. What is the purpose of temptation? What is temptation actually? What does Christ being tempted and never sinning tell us about Him? What does our failure in the face of temptation tell us about ourselves?

Anyone want to take a shot at it?

Divinity and Temptation: Could Christ have sinned?

For the past several months, members of our church have been meeting on Sunday evenings to work our way through the Second London Baptist Confession. The format is pretty informal, with two of the elders leading the discussion and keeping things loosely on track and more importantly, orthodox (which is not to say that people can’t bring up completely unorthodox positions and try to prove them, but that the elders have a responsibility – as all Christians do –  to make a reasoned defense of the faith)

Anyway, last week we were covering point three of chapter five and we got off on an interesting rabbit trail. The question was asked, “Could Christ have chosen to sin, and if not, does that mean that he was not tempted in every way that we are, and does that therefore mean that He can not identify with us and understand our position?”

One of the interesting side effects of having discussion like these is that you are very quickly made aware of how difficult it is to articulate anything, much less topics that depend on prior topics and concepts being defined. You also find that the very act of articulation changes the way you understand the subject.

So here’s what I’m proposing: I’ll let this sit until Thursday of this week, possibly longer if there is some activity, and I invite anyone and everyone to leave a comment describing their take on this subject. Be as brief or as verbose as you like. But understand something, saying what you mean so that someone else gets it is harder than you think. (Man, I hope that made sense.)

On C. S. Lewis, His Personal Devotion to Relationships, and My Depravity

Courtesy of The Inklings, we have this this excerpt of Erik Routley’s remembrance of C. S. Lewis taken from C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and other Reminiscences:

I know myself what others know far better — how unfailingly courteous Lewis was in answering letters. I think I corresponded with him on three or four occasions… But there was a reply every time — it might be quite brief, but it was always written for you and for nobody else. I think this was his greatest secret. He hated casual contacts; human contact must, for him, be serious and concentrated and attentive, or it was better avoided. It might be for a moment only, but that was its invariable quality. That is not only why so many people have precious memories of him; it is also why he couldn’t write three words without the reader’s feeling that they were written for him and him alone. It’s why his massive books of scholarship read as delightfully as his children’s stories, and why he’s one of the few preachers who can be read without losing their message.

Having read this, I find myself ashamed at the thought of my own inattention to others, at the very lack of effort I put into achieving quality in a shared experience. I find that I am vain and self-absorbed, wholly committed to the selling of myself on the stock market of the moment, more concerned with how I am perceived than with how I truly am. Even now, as I read back through this, I find myself thinking, what will people think of me when they read these things? Will they think me genuine? Perhaps if I tell them that I’m thinking about it they will… My only consolation is that I am not alone in my depravity, and that is almost no consolation at all.

How do you rate compared to Lewis?

Love, Insulation, and Speaking to be Heard

I read about a Swedish band; they sing their songs in English because it insultates them from lyrics that would be too raw, too painful to sing otherwise.  It made me think of birthday cards, of poems written by machines, of leaving notes for loved ones instead of saying the words ourselves.

Is it just human to behave this way? To only say what we feel when there is a lesser chance that we will hear our own words?

Does this makes its way into our worship? Or is it rather, quite the other way around? Is our ability to show ourselves, and to even know ourselves, tied up in our love for God? Are we unable to speak truly of ourselves because we unwilling to speak truly of Him?

What do you say?

This is a love story: a very short (and possibly unfinished) work of fiction

Author’s Note: This is not a new piece. I wrote it a few years ago, and while I’m still not totally happy with it, for some reason, I like it very much. So, occasionally, I get it out, reread it a few times, make a few edits, and stare at it, all the while wishing I had an idea for making it longer. This time, I thought I would share it with you. As always, comments are welcome

This is a love story. There is a girl. There is a boy. It is traditional.
I should warn you though, you have already been lied to.

Continue reading “This is a love story: a very short (and possibly unfinished) work of fiction”

Why is that man smiling: Reason, Insanity and Pleasure

About ten years ago, on one of the first nights of my EMT/Paramedic clinicals, we had a mental patient in the ER for a few hours. He was a little fidgety man that smiled a lot, muttered under his breath constantly, and made little jokes about being restrained and about sneaking out of the hospital. He was, in many ways, the traditional comedic psych patient as seen on TV, and as I was young and naive (which might be redundant, but there you go there), well, I was completely disarmed by him.

It was sometime after midnight as I was leaving his room, that the doctor that was proctoring me at the hospital stopped me and said quite simply, “Charles, I would not, at any time, turn your back on that man. You don’t know anything about him, and he may be quite dangerous.” And I did what any young, naive fool would do: I said, “Yes sir” and “Thank you” and immediately forgot what he had said.

Continue reading “Why is that man smiling: Reason, Insanity and Pleasure”

God, Grammar, and the Precision of Scripture

I don’t have time to go into it in depth right now, but the following passages should be read and their implications considered anytime we wonder about the precision of Scripture and how seriously and literally that we should take it. First read this:

Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
(Mark 12:19-27)

Then read this:

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
(Galatians 3:15-17)

In these passages, Jesus and then Paul expound on doctrine based on what would (at first) seem to be insignificant details. In the first example, Jesus establishes the fact (before the unbelieving Sadducees) that there is a resurrection by pointing out that God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. Then, in the second example, Paul reveals that in Genesis 22:18, God was referring to Jesus Christ and not to Isaac and his descendants because the singular Hebrew word for seed was used and not the plural.

So think about this the next time you hear someone questioning the precision of the Word of God. And also tell your children that, yes, grammar is important.

The Best Story, the True Myth, a poem

Over at Bittersweet Life, Ariel has posted a poem about the choice we make each day in how we see the world. Here’s a snippet:

Every story that has inner beauty,
That strikes a note and holds it
In our hearts and minds,
Is an echo of the one Story—
Wild and frightening and wonderful.

As a writer there can be nothing more depressing than slaving over words and putting them out for the world to see and then hearing nothing in return. So do him this kindness: go there and read the poem and then leave him a comment. It doesn’t have to be long, in fact, it can even be disagreement. You should also bookmark his site while your there. It’s a great read.

Looking back on love

With apologies, these are poems that I wrote my wife while we were dating. There have been poems since then, but I stumbled across these recently and thought that with Valentine’s day coming up tomorrow, they seemed appropriate.

It’s midnight
and I’m lying in my bed,
trying not to think about you.
I close my eyes
and I see your face
your smile turned on me full force
and your dark eyes
staring into mine
as deep as the night sky
and full of their own constellations

I remember how we began…
with a quick and startling glimpse,
into each other’s lives.
Little pieces of conversations, emails,
and late night phone calls,
beginning the gentle process of my life slipping into yours,
and your life flowing into mine; of our hearts, teaching one another,
that love is not a dream.There is no end to love like this,
For I loved you before I knew your name
You are the love I thought I’d never find,
The part of me I thought, would never be complete,
You are my heart, my life, the better part of me.
There is no end to love like this…
How could there be?

Do I love you?
I have asked myself that question a million times
…afraid of speaking before hearing your reply,
…knowing yours and waiting still,
…knowing mine and holding back my voice,
…knowing the question like an old familiar friend,
and wondering at times,
if asking
isn’t just a part
of loving.

I love you, and I live in your eyes
I wear you, as the smile on my face
you are, so very much a part of me
not something added in haste
but something I have needed
from the day I first drew breath

Books for Boys and Girls

Diary of an Early American Boy
Any boy (or girl) interested in post-colonial American life will love this book. Based on accounts from a diary kept for the year 1805, the book follows the diary’s author, Noah Blake and records the significant events of that year. The author of the book, Eric Sloane, took great pains to embellish these events both with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and detailed, well-researched descriptions. Themes in the book include: blacksmithing, engineering, bridge building, coopering, early American harvest festivals, carpentry, farming, early-American architecture, religion, and courtship.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Staying in the vein of early American life, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a young man born a few years before the Revolutionary War, who would have a significant impact upon the world. The book follows Nathaniel as he is trained in his father’s cooperage, indentured as a bookkeeping apprentice to a ship chandler, and finally serves as a crew member and later the master of his own ship. Themes covered in this book are: Christian childhood, manhood, mathematics, sailing, navigation, scholarship, courtship, marriage, Christian love, life purpose, and death.

There are more books that I’d like to add to this list, but in the meantime, you can also use this handy form to search my book library. It’s set to search books based on tags, so searching for “boys” will give you books for boys, and “girls”, will give you books for, well, if you can’t see the pattern that’s forming, I sincerely doubt that pages of exposition will make a difference. Here’s the form, give it a try. As always, comments and questions are encouraged.