Thursday, March 31, 2005

Should I Get a Living Will?

Conventional wisdom suggests we should all go out and get living wills in the wake of the Terri Schiavo tragedy. Many (like me) assumed that “living wills” were the only kind of Advance Medical Directive you could sign thing you could sign to guide medical professionals in the event that you are unable to convey your wishes. In fact, though, there is another kind of directive, called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions (DPAHCD).

According to
Carrie Gordon Earll, the DPAHCD is preferred over a Living Will for the following reasons:

The Living Will

  • is a vague statement saying a physician may withhold or withdraw treatment if you are terminally ill
  • is a piece of paper that medical professionals may ignore or misinterpret
  • gives blanket authority to a doctor you may or may not know, a serious concern in these days of managed care
  • generally exempts doctors from liability, regardless of a medical surrogate’s directions
  • does not guarantee your wishes will be carried out
  • presumes non-treatment, regardless of medical situation
  • allows “treatment” to be defined by state law (In many states, medically assisted nutrition and hydration is considered medical treatment).

The DPAHCD, on the other hand:

  • appoints a surrogate to make your medical decisions (applies in any crisis, regardless of prognosis)
  • names a person who will be your advocate
  • gives authority to a loved one who knows your wishes
  • legally clarifies surrogate
  • generally exempts doctors from liability if following directions from your surrogate
  • may include an addendum outlining your specific wishes to provide guidance for your surrogate
  • defers to surrogate and written wishes

Ms. Earll explains that, in accordance with the Patient Self Determination Act of 1990, health care facilities receiving federal funds are required to ask patients upon admission if they have or want to sign an Advance Medical Directive. But of course, it is best to consider and sign such a document before you need it. It is suggested that an addendum or a letter to your surrogate be added outlining your wishes in specific situations. A successor to your surrogate should be named, the directive should be updated in accordance with your current wishes, and a copy should be sent to your family, your physician, and your local doctor. An Advance Medical Directive can be obtained through an attorney, a stationary store, the state legislature, or a probate court. You don’t have to hire an attorney in order to sign it.

However, for those who are pro-life, anti-euthanasia, it is wise not to rely upon the language provided in a state statute. Instead, you should order a Protective Medical Decisions Document, created by the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Ms. Earll explains:

This document, entitled the “Protective Medical Decisions Document” (PMDD), defines and prohibits euthanasia, as well as stating that “ordinary nursing and medical care and pain relief appropriate to your condition be provided.” The PMDD is a general Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care which allows the signer to name a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions in the event the signer is incapacitated for any reason, not just terminal illness. The PMDD may be used in any state and may be attached to the advance directive form(s) approved by your state legislature.

For further explanation, and for a list of questions to consider when making end-of-life decisions, see Ms. Earll’s articles, Advance Medical Directives and Guideline for Making End-of-Life Decisions.

You can download an Advanced Directive here, prepared by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. (HT: Joe Carter)

Diversion, Boredom, and God

The “basic dilemma concerning man’s existence beyond the requirements of biological and material survival [is] the vital question of how to live out that stretch of life that is neither sleep nor work.”—Leo Lowenthal

“Diversion, however frantic, can overwhelm temporarily but not ultimately relieve the boredom which oozes from nonfulillment…. Diversion at most, through weariness and fatigue, can numb and distract anxiety.” —Ernest Van den Haag

“All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber…. They have a secret instinct which impels them to seek amusement and occupation abroad, and which arises from the sense of their constant unhappiness.”—Pascal

“The question remains whether popular culture can serve as an able medium of meaning, or whether it is instead a distraction from confronting meaning, as well as meaninglessness.”—Ken Myers

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”—C.S. Lewis

Should All Churches Be Multiracial?

In 2000, sociologists Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith published an influential study entitled Divided by Faith: Evangelicals and the Problem of Race in America. Three years later, Emerson joined fellow sociologists Karen Chai Kim and George Yancey, along with theologian Curtiss Paul DeYoung, to write the sequel, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race. Today Christianity Today has published an excerpt, entitled: “All Churches Should be Multiracial: The Biblical Case.”

I encourage you to read it, and then I’d be interested to have you weigh in on this question: Is it consistent for someone to hate racism and to long for genuine reconciliation among alienated races and yet at the same time regard the reasoning of these authors to undermine the very heart of the gospel?

The very way that I’ve posed the question inevitably suggests my answer, but I really am curious to hear what others think first.

Fight! Fight!

If you want to see two sharp thinkers--one conservative, one liberal--hash it out on the differences in economic perspective between conservatism and liberalism, go to, where National Review's Jonah Goldberg is debating New Republic's Jonathan Chait. (Goldberg is not only funny but his arguments are superb as well.)

Let Us...

K-Lo at The Corner reprints with permission an email that Princeton's Robert George sent to some friends:

Let us mourn, but not be discouraged. Let us forgive those who have acted wrongly in our name, even as we beg forgiveness from the Author of Life for whatever failures and delinquencies on our own parts have contributed to the culture of death. We are all sinners, and have fallen short; and the wages of sin truly are death. Let us resolve that Terri's death shall not have been in vain. In her name, let reform and renewal be our undoubted mission. Let us now, even in the depths of sorrow, rededicate ourselves to our ancient creed, affirming that every human being, as a creature fashioned in the divine image, possesses a profound, inherent, and equal worth and dignity--a worth and dignity that it is the high duty of the officers and institutions of constitutional republican government to respect and defend.

Terri Schiavo (1963-2005)

Terri Schiavo is dead.

As Peggy Noonan wrote in this morning's Wall Street Journal:

Everyone is upset about Terri Schiavo. Everyone should be. Even Republicans who say Congress and the White House should have no role in this case are uncomfortable with what has been wrought, as are many, many Democrats. A great nation does not like to see an innocent woman put to death. Everyone seems aware: It is not like us. Her death, if it comes to that, will be a big loss. We will ponder what happened here for years to come. The fight for life has many fronts, and the war will not be over in our lifetimes.

For now, may those who fought for life be honored. May Jesse Jackson be honored, and all who fought the fight in Florida. From David McCullough's "John Adams": "Adams had, however, arrived at certain bedrock conclusions before [his] end came. He believed, with all his heart, as he had written to Jefferson, that no effort in favor of virtue was lost." Onward.

Terri Schiavo: Enduring Questions

Al Mohler has now completed an important three-part series entitled “Terri Schiavo: Enduring Questions” (part 1, part 2, and part 3). Here are the questions Mohler takes up:

  1. What does this mean for the culture?
  2. What does this mean for the future?
  3. What does this mean for the courts?
  4. What does this mean for conservatism?
  5. What does this mean for other patients?
  6. What does this mean for doctors?

Christianity Today recently interviewed John Kilner, president of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, about the ethical and medical criteria that should be used in deciding when to remove a feeding tube.

Mohler and Kilner have both done us a tremendous service with their thoughtful, biblical examinations of these difficult issues.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Why Hillary Will Be Hard to Beat in '08

Peggy Noonan--who authored The Case Against Hillary Clinton--explains why she will be hard to beat.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I'm not sure Hillary would do that well. First, it's difficult to see how she could have any cross-over votes, for nothing would energize the conservative base like a Hillary candidacy. Second, I think that Hillary is far too hawkish to excite the wing of the Democratic base. But of course, much depends on who the Republicans nominate. Many conservatives would like to see Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, or Jeb Bush run--but none of them will do so in '08.

Fun thought: If Hillary wins in '08 and Jeb wins in '12, then the American presidency will look like this: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, Bush.

Any serious thoughts?

Grandmothers Against Gansta Rap

Uh...I join Kevin Cawley in wondering what in the world the Southern Baptist International Mission Board was thinking with this video (lower left hand corner). Truly bizzare!

Genesis 2:5-7 and Implications

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:5-7, NASB)

Genesis 1-2 are two of the most contested chapters in the Bible. “Young-earth creationists” think it’s all rather simple, and that a face-value reading of these chapters inevitably leads to a belief that God created the world in six ordinary days. “Old-earth creationists” believe both the text and the world are more complex than this. And so the debate has raged.

In my view, interpreters on both sides have not paid enough attention to a crucial text: Genesis 2:5-7. Though I am unpersuaded of his “framework interpretation,” I do think that Professor Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary—in his article “Because It Had Rained” (part 1 and part 2)—rightly discerns the logic of Genesis 2:5-7 and explains its role in OT covenantal theology. Futato sees a twofold problem, a twofold reason, and a twofold solution:

Twofold Problem (No Wild Vegetation, No Cultivated Vegetation)

1. No wild vegetation had appeared in the land.

2. No cultivated grains had yet sprung up.

Twofold Reason (No Rain, No Cultivator)

1. The Lord God had not sent rain on the land.

2. There was no man to cultivate the ground.

Twofold Solution (God Sent Rain Clouds, God Formed a Cultivator)

1. God caused rain clouds to rise up from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

2. The Lord God formed the man.

The “bush of the field” (siah-hassadeh) described in 2:5 are the wild, uncultivated, desert vegetation that grows spontaneously after the onset of the rainy season in the fall (Gen. 21:15; Job 30:4, 7). The “small plants of the field” (es eb-hassadeh) in 2:5 refer to cultivated grains like flax, barley, wheat, and pelt (Gen. 3:18; Exod. 9:22, 25).

Now note the reason these had not yet grown: because it had not yet rained. Ed in 2:6 is best translated as “rain cloud” (cf. Job 36:27). Its “rising from the earth/land” is from a human perspective. Clouds appear on the horizon (whether a plain or a mountain or the sea), thus giving the appearance of rising (cf. Ps. 135:7; 1 Kings 18:44; Jer. 10:13; 51:16).

A Contradiction?

If the above interpretation is on track, then there is an apparent contradiction, for according to Genesis 1:9-13, vegetation was made on the third day. But in Genesis 2, it is the sixth day and there is no vegetation.

Three options are available by way of response: (1) abandon harmonization; (2) abandon seeing a sequence of events (i.e., logic, not sequence, is the organizing principle—cf. the “framework interpretation”); (3) reexamine the Hebrew terms. Since it seems that harmonization is encouraged by Genesis 2:4 and by the doctrine of an inerrant Scripture, and because the numbering of the days one after another encourages us to think in terms of a sequence, the third option is the most viable.

There are two sets of terms, the reexamination of which would change our interpretation of the passage. First, we might argue that the vegetation referenced in Gen. 2:5 is not included in the reference of Gen. 1:9-13. Hence there is no contradiction. This is the option that most commentators (Waltke, Sailhamer, et al) seem to prefer. Though I tremble to disagree with such experts of Genesis, I just don’t find their arguments very persuasive. The vegetation (dese) described in Gen. 1:9-13, is broken down into two broad categories: seed-bearing plants (eseb mazria zera) and trees that bear fruit (es peri oseh peri). It seems that the vegetation described in Genesis 2 are a subcategory of those described in Genesis 1. The traditional idea is that the lack of tilling foreshadows post-fall work and the lack of rain foreshadows a post-fall flood. But this assumes that there was no agricultural work before the fall and that it didn’t rain until the flood. I definitely don’t think the latter is true (for the text tells us that it rained, and I see no reason to think the earth existed for over a thousand years without rain!), and I don’t think we can be dogmatic about the former (see Gordon Hugenberger’s Is Work the Result of the Fall? A Note on Genesis 2:15.)

The second solution would be to reexamine the term “earth” (eretz) in 2:5-6. It can refer to the earth as a whole (Gen. 1:1-2), the region of dry land (Gen. 1:10), or some particular region (Gen. 2:11-13). So perhaps eretz in Genesis 2:5-7 refers to a particular land (the Garden of Eden), whereas eretz in Gen 1:11-13 to the earth as a whole. In fact, that’s exactly the solution presupposed by the English Standard Version (ESV) translation, and I believe this was the correct decision.

Ordinary Providence

But note again the startling reason in Genesis 2:5-7 for why there were no shrubs or small plants in the Garden: because “it had not yet rained.” Note well: there is an explanation for this lack of vegetation, which is a reference to ordinary providence. To see the theological implications of this feature, we need to examine the context—of the ancient Middle East, of the original audience, and of the Old Testament as a whole. (Much of the following is dependent on Futato’s careful work.)

Geographic Context

Moses narrated these events for his audience, the people of Israel, who were living in Canaan prior to the exile. What was the climate like there? At the end of the dry season and after five months of drought, the hills in Canaan are dry as dust and the vegetation is brown. Plowing and planting are impossible because the field is as hard as iron. Then the rains come, and the hills of the steppe become clothed with verdure (Job 38:25-27), the soil is softened, and the farmer is able to plow and plant (Ps. 65:9-10).

Theological Context

The agriculture of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia depended upon irrigation from rivers. In Canaan, however, agriculture depended on rain (see Deuteronomy 11:10-11). Because the basic equation was “water = life,” this understanding influenced their respective theologies and religions. Hence, the religions of Mesopotamia and Egypt were concerned with river gods, whereas the primary god of the Canaanites was Baal, the storm god who was the “rider on the clouds.”

Futato points out that the “struggle against Baalism is part of the fabric of Genesis through Kings.” The Israelites had been led by Yahweh through the desert and the sea, but as they were set to enter the land of Canaan, the question became, “Is Yahweh also the God of Canaan?” The temptation was to inquire of the Canaanites what made their gardens grow, and hence to be drawn to Baal worship. The polemic against Baalism is at the heart of OT covenant theology. Covenant loyalty to Yahweh resulted in rain, vegetation, and life. Covenant disloyalty—worshipping other gods—resulted in no rain, no produce, and death (see Deut. 11:10-17). Therefore, as Fatuto writes, “the ubiquitous threat of Baalism provides the theological context in which Genesis 1-2 is to be read.”


If the above interpretation is accurate, Genesis 2:5-7 serves a significant polemical function, for it demonstrates that Yahweh is the true God of rain, over against the pretender god Baal.

I don’t believe that Moses was at all concerned about the length of time in which God created the world and prepared the garden. In fact, the church has not historically been overly concerned about such issues. But since it is a preoccupation of our scientific age to inquire into the duration of the creation account, responsible interpreters must eventually lay their cards on the table and reveal their position (even if they get accused of heresy in the process!).

So here’s my view: I believe that Genesis 2:5-7 decisively rules out the idea that the sixth day was a 24-hour period. If the sixth day is a 24-hour period, then the explanation for the lack of vegetation (namely, that it had not yet rained) makes no sense. The very wording of the text presupposes seasons and rain cycles and a lengthier passage of time.

Genesis 1?

Along with many scholars (Waltke, Sailhamer, et al) I believe that Genesis 1:1 is neither a title nor a summary of the following narrative. Rather, it is a background statement that describes how the universe came to be. The typical function of such a background statement (also found in Gen. 16:1; 21:1; 24:1) is to give an action that took place some unspecified time before the narrative actually gets under way. If Genesis 1:1 is a title or a summary, then Genesis does not teach creation out of nothing. The main point of the narrative (in Gen. 1:3–2:3) is the making and preparation of the earth for its inhabitants.

Many incorrectly assume that the creation of the sun, moon, stars, and light occurs in Genesis 1:3, 14, 16. But there is a distinction in the Hebrew words for create and make. For example, as Jack Collins points out, the Hebrew construction let there be is used in the phrase “Let your steadfast love…be upon us” (Ps. 33:22; cf. 90:17; 119:76). This obviously isn’t a request for God’s love to begin to exist, but rather to function in a certain way. Similarly, the sun, moon, stars, and lights were created in Genesis 1:1, but were made or appointed for a particular function in Genesis 1:3, 14, 16—namely, to mark the set time for worship on man’s calendar.

Evening and Morning

What then does the repeated refrain “evening and morning” in Genesis 1 mean? Many think it’s a reference to an ordinary, 24-hour day. But evening to morning isn’t 24 hours, is it? What is it? It is nighttime! It’s the same phrase used to indicate when an Israelite would take his daily rest (cf. Ps. 104:23; Gen. 30:16; Ex. 18:13). The daily rest in Israel looks forward to the weekly Sabbath rest.

When we take this insight, and then combine it with a proper understanding of anthropomorphic, analogical language, a solution begins to emerge. What does God do on the seventh day? Exodus 31:17 tells us that on the seventh day God “rest and was refreshed.” God—refreshed? It’s the same Hebrew word used for getting your breath back after running a long race (Exod. 23:12; 2 Sam. 16:14)! The reason it is not improper to say God was refreshed is the same reason it’s not improper to say that God breathes, hovers, is like a potter, gardens, etc (all images used in Genesis 1-2). God’s revelation to us is analogical (neither entirely identical nor entirely dissimilar) and anthropomorphic (accommodated and communicated from our perspective).

In essence, I agree with the great 19th century theologian Herman Bavinck:

“The creation days are the workdays of God. By a labor, resumed and renewed six times, he prepared the whole earth….” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol.1 , p. 500).

Another great 19th century theologian, W.G.T. Shedd, wrote about it this way:

The seven days of the human week are copies of the seven days of the divine week. The “sun-divided days” are images of the “God-divided days.” This agrees with the biblical representation generally. The human is the copy of the divine, not the divine of the human. Human fatherhood and sonship are finite copies of the Trinitarian fatherhood and sonship. Human justice, benevolence, holiness, mercy, etc., are imitations of corresponding divine qualities. The reason given for man’s rest upon the seventh solar day is that God rested upon the seventh creative day (Exod. 20:11). But this does not prove that the divine rest was only twenty-four hours in duration any more than the fact that human sonship is a copy of the divine proves that the latter is sexual. (Dogmatic Theology, p. 374).

In other words, the “days” of Genesis 1 are analogical and anthropomorphic. God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them. How long were God’s workdays? The Bible doesn’t say. But I see no reason to insist that they were only 24 hours long.

Who Else Holds This Position?

Variations of this view were held by Augustine, W.G.T. Shedd, Herman Bavinck (perhaps the greatest systematic theologian), and Franz Delitzsch (perhaps the great Christian Hebraist). It was also the most common view among the late 19th century and early 20th century convservative Dutch theologians. The most articulate and prominent contemporary defender of this view—whose arguments I have followed most closely—is C. John “Jack” Collins, professor of OT at Covenant Seminary and the OT chair of the ESV translation. Collins is the author of the superb book, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? (which began with a homeschooling mom calling him for advice on teaching her children about science). See also his more technical article, “How Old Is the Earth? Anthropomorphic Days in Genesis 1.1-2.3,” Presbyterion (Fall, 1994): 109-130.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Affirmative Action and Police Hiring

We all remember that on March 11 Brian Nichols when on his deadly shooting in the Atlanta courtroom, stealing the courtroom deputy's gun, killing the judge and many others. I remember wondering at the time: how in the world did that happen? To my recollection, the media didn't emphasize that it What I don't remember, though, is it being emphasized that it is not that difficult for a 6-foot-tall 33 year old to overpower a 5-foot-2 51-one-year-old woman!

Affirmative action (in all its forms) has consequences--some of them good, some of them evil. John Lott recently examined the results of affirmative action in hiring cops.


In a post last week on forgiveness, I expressed disagreements with some aspects of Ken Sande’s view on what forgiveness entails. But now let me take a second to give a plug for Sande’s ministry, Peacemaker Ministries, and his book, Peacemakers: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. John Piper writes, “Of people alive and writing today, I know of no more reliable guide for peacemaking in church and family than Ken Sande.” Timothy George calls the book a “modern classic.” And C.J. Mahaney says, “There is no need for another book on this topic to be written, now that this volume exists.”


Instapundit points to this handy little device, the TV-B-Gone keychain:

You're sitting in a restaurant with your friends. The TV in the corner is blaring. You realize that none of you are actually talking to each other. Instead, you're all staring at a piece of furniture!

Now there's a solution, the TV-B-Gone! This small, keychain wonder is designed to turn off virtually any television. Invented by Mitch Altman, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the TV-B-Gone is a simple remote control device with a single button. When activated, the unit emits 209 different turn-off codes for nearly every TV. The unit takes a little more than a minute to cycle through all of the turn-off codes, but fortunately, codes for the most common TVs are emitted first. And because it's small, unassuming and attaches to your key-ring, you can always be discreet about offing that off-putting talking head.

Just think, more authentic and meaningful social interactions can be yours in seconds! Be prepared when the TV goes off, though; you may have to talk to those friends of yours at the table. Of course, if it's just simple silence you're after, the TV-G-Gone delivers that, too. Pick up that book and enjoy!

I dare someone to go to a sports bar and to try this will the Final Four games are in their final minute! (Just kidding.)

Neither Innocent Nor Wise

Crossroads, a pro-life organization, recently issued a press release comparing Florida governor Jeb Bush to Pontius Pilate because he has not defied the law and the courts in order to rescue Terri Schiavo. Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Unfortunately, press releases like this fail on both counts.

Fake But Accurate--Again?

The story has been out for a while now, but I haven't linked to it yet. If you were bothered by reports that the Republicans were distributing an internal "talking points memo" about how Terri Schiavo would energize the pro-life base and put the Democrats in a bind--well, there's nothing to worry about. It seems that the media has not yet fully learned the Lessons of Dan Rather. John Hinderaker of Powerline--at the front of dismantling Rather's "fake but accurate" memo--explains this new memo as well.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Divine Sovereignty and the Necessity of Means

I believe that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Why do I believe this? Because from Genesis to Revelation it is the consistent teaching of God’s Word. Small things are ordained by the Lord (“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD”—Prov. 16:33). Big things are ordained by the Lord (“He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away”—Job 12:23). Good things are ordained by the Lord (“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”—Jas. 1:17). And evil things are ordained by the Lord (“Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”—Amos 3:6). God is free (“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases”—Ps. 115:3); therefore he ordains whatsoever comes to pass ([God] works all things according to the counsel of his will—Eph. 1:11).

This raises innumerable philosophical objections from many quarters. Many evangelicals believe from Scripture—and nature—that we are responsible agents with free wills. The teaching above—that God ordains whatsoever shall come to pass—is deemed to be incompatible with human responsibility. Therefore these evangelicals believe that the “absolute sovereignty” passages must be understood in a different way.

Now is not the place to respond to that objection in any depth, but suffice it to say that these evangelicals have brought to the Bible an unbiblical presupposition regarding the nature of free human agents (namely, that final self-determination is required). I challenge those who believe that absolute divine sovereignty and genuine human accountability are in contradiction to each other to read Acts 4:27-28 and to reconcile it with the idea that divine ordination and human accountability are at odds with one another.

One of the most common objections to this line of reasoning is that it seems to eliminate the necessity of human action. Hence the questions come: If God is sovereign, why pray? If God is sovereign, why witness? If God’s election is irrevocable, why not become a fatalist?

But these questions misunderstand the crucial role that means play in the biblical worldview of God’s sovereignty.

Let me give an example. My wife, daughter, and I drove back to my hometown for the Easter weekend. Since I believe God ordained all things, I believe God ordained this. But suppose that last Thursday I had reasoned as follows: If God is going to ordain that I drive home for Easter, that means I will be home whether or not I do anything about it. Therefore, I am not going to drive home.

The reasoning may sound logical on a human level, but it runs contrary to biblical logic. God not only ordains ends, he also ordains means. He not only ordains that we be home for Easter, but he also ordains how we go home.

Some may think this is a clever answer that solves the problem philosophically/logically but not biblically. But consider an amazing passage: Acts 27:13-32, which recounts Paul being on a ship at sea during a storm. I will let Tom Schreiner—NT professor at Southern Seminary—explain:

The storm struck with such fury that all aboard despaired of living (Acts 27:13-19). Paul, however, received a word from the Lord that every single person on the ship would be saved, i.e., every single person’s life would be preserved (27:20-26). The word that all aboard the ship would live was a divine promise, pledging safety for all. Some of us might be inclined to relax and “take it easy” after receiving such a promise. Paul, on the other hand, did not think that such a promise ruled out the need for admonitions and warnings. This is clear as we read on in the narrative. The sailors feigned that they were merely lowering anchors, when actually they intended to lower the lifeboat and escape the ship (Acts 27:29-32). Paul responded by warning the centurion that if the sailors left the ship the lives of those on board would not be preserved. Why would Paul even bother to admonish the centurion about the scheme of the sailors? After all, he already had received a promise from an angel that everyone on the boat would escape with their lives. Paul did not reason the way many of us do today, “God has promised that the lives of all will be saved, therefore, any warning is superfluous.” No, the urgent warning was the very means by which the promise was secured. The promise did not come to pass apart from the warning but through it. This same approach should be applied to the promises and threats in the scriptures regarding our salvation. It is by means of taking the warnings seriously that the promise of our salvation is secured. (Thomas R. Schreiner, Perseverance and Assurance: A Survey and a Proposal, my emphasis in bold.)

Some of us emphasize divine sovereignty and promise in such a way that human action and means become unnecessary and inconsequential. And others emphasize human accountability and autonomy in such a way that divine sovereignty and promise become muted.

Don Carson (How Long O Lord?, p. 201) explains that in order to be biblical, we must hold to both of the following theses, which are presupposed throughout Scripture:

  1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed, minimized, or mitigated.

  1. Human beings are morally responsible creatures—they significantly choose, rebel, obey, defy, make decisions, and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for such actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.

Paul and the other biblical authors saw no inherent tension—much less contradiction—between a divine promise and the necessity of warning and the use of means. And neither should we.

(For those wanting to go deeper on this, I’d recommend (1) Still Sovereign, ed. Schreiner and Ware; (2) Why I Am Not an Arminian, by Peterson and Williams ; (3) Potter’s Freedom, by White. On the issues of how to reconcile divine sovereignty and human freedom, the definitive work is Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards. Few will take the time and energy to read this difficult book, but an excellent start would be to read Sam Storms’ excellent chapter in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (scroll down to page 28). Even more accessible is Matt Perman’s summary of Edwards, entitled The Consistency of Divine Sovereignty and Human Accountability. [There is also a briefer version.])

(The article quoted above by Schreiner has now been expanded into a book—co-authored with A. B. Caneday—entitled The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance. I highly recommend it.)

Michael Schiavo's Book

No, there's nothing official. But Professor Duncan speculates on what seems all but inevitable.

Carson on Preparing for Suffering and Evil

Jeff Downs pointed me to the following message by Don Carson, delivered at Denver Seminary on March 7-8, 2005: Being Prepared for Suffering and Evil: Part One, and Being Prepared for Suffering and Evil: Part Two.

For those who want more, Dr. Carson’s book How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil is one of the best available.

Schiavo Thoughts

At this point, as callous as it feels to say it, there's not much left to do but wait for her to die.

A commentor on this blog this weekend took umbrage with my labeling Michael Schiavo as "evil." The label is not just about his views on euthanasia. It also has to do with forsaking his wedding vows ("in sickness and in health"), refusing to allow her to have any therapy, refusing to allow further medical studies on her condition, "remembering" that Terri expressed her wishes about these matters only years after Terri entered this state and after he had won his malpractice suit, being content to starve another human being to death, and his castigating anyone who disagrees with his decision.

The commenter--a medical student--also provided medical information about PVS. But whether or not she is truly in a PVS is under dispute. (See, for example, this affidavit by Dr. William Cheshire.)

Finally, the suggestion has been made that the "Christian right" is being used here by the Republicans. I disagree. First, it was the "Christian right" (among others) who persuaded Congress to act--not vice versa. Second, moral revulsion on this issue does not belong to the right alone. For example, this weekend Jesse Jackson and Ralph Nader both expressed their disgust with the way in which Mrs. Schiavo is being killed. In Congress, Tom Harkin (D, Iowa)--a liberal's liberal--was at the forefront of passing the (ignored) legislation.

For further response to the "cynical political ploy" view, see Michael Barone's latest column.

Al Mohler's blog entry today, Terri Schiavo--The Bell Tolls for Humanity, provides a helpful recap of the case and the ethical-legal-medical issues involved.

Credit Card Companies

They are hard at work--so they tell us--to prevent identity theft. Well, maybe not.

(HT: Instapundit)

Easter Wings

I know it’s the day after Easter, but perhaps that’s the best day for an Easter post. After all, we are to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection not just once a year, but every day. This weekend Gene Veith at linked to George Herbert’s poem, Easter Wings. Veith, the author of the now-out-of-print book Reformation Spirituality: The Religion of George Herbert, wrote: “Notice not just the shape, but how the lines ‘decay’ as they describe first all of humanity and then the individual speaker degenerating because of sin. Then note how Christ meets both at their lowest point. And how Christ’s resurrection allows humanity and the suffering individual to soar.” For those who, like me, are not poetically inclined, it may help to read it aloud and to read it more than once.

Easter Wings

by George Herbert

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,

Though foolishly he lost the same,

Decaying more and more,

Till he became

Most poore:

With Thee

O let me rise,

As larks, harmoniously,

And sing this day Thy victories:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne;

And still with sicknesses and shame

Thou didst so punish sinne,

That I became

Most thinne.

With Thee

Let me combine,

And feel this day Thy victorie;

For, if I imp my wing on Thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Story Heard Round the Web

Wesley Smith asks:

Why did this story, of all stories, reach such a critical mass; why did Terri Schiavo, of all people, ignite such a deep, visceral emotional response in so many of her fellow citizens; why have so many people devoted so much energy and commitment to this case--some utterly intent upon keeping her alive, others adamantly believing she should be left to die as quickly as possible?

The answer: the Internet.

Personhood vs. Being Human

Wesley Smith points to a debate he particpated in. Note what his opponent is arguing: that Terri Schiavo is not a person. (I briefly discussed why we should regard all humans as persons in a previous post.)

Friday, March 25, 2005

MacArthur and Warren

The folks at Grace to You have responded to CNN's segment on Rick Warren and John MacArthur (which I discussed here).

(HT: Josh Sowin)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Sad But True Cartoon

Posted by JivinJehoshaphat.

Traveling Man

I'll be heading home for Easter, and hence posting will be light to non-existent. I pray that each of you will celebrate our great risen Christ this Easter season.

If you're looking for some stirring Easter meditations, I'd recommend the following narrative parables by John Piper:

The Gallows and the Gift of Life

The Donkey, the Stallion and the Strategy of the Hills

They may be two of the least known of his writings, and yet they are two of my favorites.

If you’re traveling or have the radio on, you might want to tune in to NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Friday. Barbara Bradley Hagerty will do a segment on Terri Schiavo and the ethical issues involved, and Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason will be one of her guests.

Update: The NPR program will air on Good Friday at 5:12 am, 7:12 am, and 9:12 am.

Harriet McBryde Johnson

Harriet McBryde Johnson--a disability-rights lawyer who has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance, due to a congenital neuromuscular disease--explains why Congress was right to stick up for Terry Schiavo.

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Former Washington County State's Attorney Tom Kelly: "We think some jail time is appropriate. . . . The cows suffered tremendously." He's referring to Christian DeNeergaard, a South Dakato farmer accused of starving 11 cows to death.

In other news, Judge Greer has denied Jeb Bush's request to reexamine Terri Schiavo's medical records.

The Shroud of Turin, Revisited

A while back I mentioned that Nathan Wilson, the 26-year-old son of Presbyterian pastor-gadfly Douglas Wilson and an English teacher at New St. Andrews College, has conducted an experiment casting serious doubts on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

Wilson reported his findings in an article for Books & Culture entitled Father Brown Fakes the Shroud—a Chestertonian piece of detective work. The piece has created a buzz. Wilson has recently been interviewed by ABC News, Good Morning America, the Discovery Channel, and NPR. (The ABC/Associated Press story and the Discovery Channel report are both online.)

Wilson’s site is There you can also read a list of FAQs responding to critics.

Meanwhile, his dad, Doug Wilson, explains why he’s proud of his son, and why the lessons to be learned here are not really about the shroud. “The issue is story, learning to think in terms of story, learning to have the narrative of Scripture shape how you see yourself and the world around you, and learning to see yourself as a character in the story.”

Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre

Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre is producing some of the best resources currently available today in the “Christian Market.” Using casts of internationally acclaimed actors, cinema-quality sound effects, and full orchestration, they are making a number of classic works available in a fresh way. These radio dramas are of such a high quality that their production Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom was honored with the prestigious Peabody Award in 2001. Other dramas include Les Misérables, A Christmas Carol, Billy Budd, Sailor, Little Women, The Legend of Squanto, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and The Chronicles of Narnia. (Click here for a full list of their products.)

Next month they will release The Hiding Place, reliving Corrie ten Boom’s account of life in the Dutch Underground during World War II.

No Ordinary People

J. Gresham Machen:

The [human] race is worthy of a man’s service not if it is composed of mere creatures of the day, whose life is essentially like the life of the beasts, but only if it is composed of men with immortal souls.

C.S. Lewis:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

Why We Need Good Philosophy

C.S. Lewis:

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. . . .

G.K. Chesteron:

Men have always one or two things: either a complete and conscious philosophy or the unconscious acceptance of the broken bits of some incomplete and often discredited philosophy…. Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out.

C.S. Lewis

To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.

Legal Updates

A federal appeals court in Atlanta denied the Schindlers request for an emergency review. The Schindlers went to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS declined to hear the case. Meanwhile, Judge Greer--who has been at the center of this from the beginning--declined a request from the state of Florida to unseal Terri's records. It looks to me like all of the legal options have run their course.

Peggy Noonan on Being "In Love With Death"

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal this morning about those who have “half fallen in love with death” in their enthusiasm for euthanasia, asking some very good questions about the consistency, certainty, and passion of the pull-the-tube advocates. I don’t believe that Noonan’s sobering conclusion is over-the-top:

Once you “know” that—that human life is not so special after all—then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It's Time

William Anderson—lecturer at Harvard University and Senior Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital—argues that it’s time to attempt giving Terri Schiavo orally administered liquids.

…no medical reason now exists to refuse a trial of natural drinking. She may have impaired swallowing function, but that at its worst cannot be as bad as death by dehydration.

Allowing her to drink water would be the definitive test of swallowing function. She may be able to swallow water and other clear liquids, in which case she will avoid death by dehydration, even if she later succumbs to malnutrition. Or she may be able to swallow pureed food, which will avoid death by malnutrition. Or she may not be able to swallow water without aspiration into the lungs, and so would develop pneumonia, and have a quicker and more peaceful death.

As to legal concerns, a guardian may refuse any medical treatment, but drinking water is not such a procedure. It is not within the power of a guardian to withhold it, and not in the power of a rational court to prohibit it.

The moral case speaks for itself.

When we awaken from this queasy nightmare, people will ask how it could have been that a court could post a police officer by the bedside to insure that a dying woman succumbed to a ghastly death by thirst.

Appeals Court Says No

"By a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined early Wednesday to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube," CNN reports.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Andrew McCarthy on Terry Schiavo's Lengthy Torture

it is worth remembering that the excruciating slowness of the execution here, the incremental-ness of death, is designed by its champions to inure us to it. After the first hour, the second passes with far less fanfare, and the third less still. I've been following this closely, and I needed to remind myself today how many hours Terri Schiavo has actually been without sustenance by counting the days since Friday afternoon and multiplying by 24. How much more easily the time passes, and the world around us changes, for those following only fleetingly, or not at all.

Why should we think this is intentional? Consider, say, a month ago, before Terri's plight took center stage, if you had asked someone in the abstract: "How would you feel about starving and dehydrating a defenseless, brain-damaged woman?" The answer is easy to imagine: "Outrageous, atrocious -- something that wouldn't be done to an animal and couldn't be done to the worst convicted murderer."

But then it actually happens ... slowly. You're powerless to stop it, and ... you find your life goes on. There are kids and jobs and triumphs and tragedies and everyday just-getting-by. An atrocity becomes yet another awful thing going on in the world. After a day, or maybe two, of initial flabbergast, we're talking again about social security reform, China, North Korea, Hezbollah, etc. A woman's snail-like, gradual torture goes from savagery to just one of those sad facts of life. As is the case with other depravities once believed unthinkable, it coarsens us. We slowly, and however reluctantly, accept it. We accept it. The New York Times no doubt soon "progresses" from something like "terminating life by starvation," to "the dignity of death by starvation," to "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as starvation." And so the culture of life slides a little more. The culture of death gains a firmer foothold.

Of course, the physical needs of the body are not limited to food and water. There is also air. But no judge, even in Florida, would ever have had the nerve in Terri's case to permit "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as asphyxiation." Too crude. Too quick. Too obviously murder of a vulnerable innocent. Brazen, instant savagery might wake us from our slumber. For the culture of death, better that we sleep.
Posted at 10:47 PM

Screwtape Revisited

Douglas Wilson weighs in on the Terri Schiavo situation and the way words are being obscured to serve evil ends:

As we speak, by order of the court, Terri Schiavo is being starved to death in Florida. But there are other victims, among them the godly use of words. When men want to obscure their lusts, or hide their greed, they always create a fog of words. Obscure, deny, lie, evade, change, slice, spin, and counterattack.

All this to say something that should be obvious -- food is not medical treatment. We are not talking about a genuinely difficult ethical dilemma created by some marvel of medical technology. There are times when some artificial means of keeping a body alive are a form of doctors trying to play God. But giving someone food does not fall into that category. The standard here is not life, or death. The standard is always found in answer to the question, “Who do we think we are? God? Or men answerable to God?”

The court is not “letting Terri die,” and this is what I meant when I said these scoundrels are doing more than just killing her. They are murdering words so that they may do as they please with men and women. Withholding food is not “letting someone die.” Smothering Terri with a pillow would not be “letting her body take its natural course when oxygen is not present.” And inability to follow an argument of this nature is a profound moral failing.

Making the same point in narrative form, Meghan Cox Gurdon examines this through her essay, Screwtape Revisited: With Gratitude (and Apologies) to C. S. Lewis.

Prager and Koukl on Whether It's Always Right to Forgive

While in the car yesterday, I caught a few minutes of the Dennis Prager Show. His guest host, Mark Taylor, a self-professed Christian, was talking about whether or not we should forgive those who commit heinous crimes. He was reacting to the situation that has now become commonplace: a tragedy brought about by moral sin happens, and the local pastor urges those in the community to forgive the perpetrator—who has not yet shown any sign of remorse or repentance.

I’ve thought about this and related issues in the past, and my tentative proposals have been met with skepticism by godly friends. So I planned to investigate what the Bible says about “horizontal forgiveness” (human-to-human) to try to settle the issue once and for all.

This morning I discovered that Prager—probably the most thoughtful, philosophical voice on the radio today—published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled When Forgiveness Is a Sin (1998). Prager, who is Jewish, once had confidence that evangelicals would be the leaders of a moral renaissance in America. But his confidence has been shaken after observing that “many Christians have adopted the idea that they should forgive everyone who commits evil against anyone, no matter how great and cruel and whether or not the evildoer repents.”

Prager offers three arguments for his view: (1) only the one who is wronged is in a position to forgive; (2) Jesus taught that only those who repent are in a position to be forgiven; (3) it is selfish to offer forgiveness only because of the psychological advantages it brings to oneself.

Soon after, evangelical apologist Greg Koukl wrote a commentary on the issue, entitled The Sin of Forgiveness? examining Prager’s arguments. Koukl agreed with Prager in the main, though he wanted to add some qualifications to Prager’s three arguments:

1) There is a sense in which it is self-evident that only the offended can forgive—but we must also remember that sin is ultimately a sin against God (cf. Ps. 51:4), and that the ramifications of sin never affect and offend only one person. For example, the parents of a murder victim have also been sinned against.

2) Prager quotes Luke 17:3-4 where Jesus teaches that if someone repents of his sin against you, you must forgive him. While other verses don’t explicitly add repentance as a precondition for forgiveness, Koukl thinks that Luke 17 qualifies the other passages.

3) Prager thinks that many of the public statements of forgiveness are “selfishness masquerading as idealism”—declarations designed to make us feel better about ourselves. Koukl disagrees, suggesting that there can be legitimate, healthy catharsis in dropping things and letting them go, provided that “the egregious nature of the moral crime doesn’t receive the short shrift in the process.”

In the next post I’ll look at the Bible to see what principles of forgiveness can be derived there, and whether or not Mssrs. Prager and Koukl are correct on this.

Should We Forgive the Unrepentant?

In the above post I mentioned the provocative commentaries by Dennis Prager and Greg Koukl arguing that “to forgive” is not always right. This is my own inclination as well, but I’ve decided to study the issue in more depth and to see if this position is indeed biblical. To do so, I’ve had to widen the scope of the investigation and address some related issues.

What Is Divine Forgiveness?

Calvin explained that when God forgives us, he “remits all the punishment that we had deserved” (Institutes 3.4.30). W.G.T. Shedd argues that divine forgiveness means that “the punishment due to sin is released or not inflicted upon the transgressor” (Dogmatic Theology, p. 698). In the application of our redemption, God first regenerates our heart, then grants us faith, and by means of that faith, gives us the forgiveness of sins (our debt is removed) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (a perfect record is granted). The Christian life involves a lifelong process of confessing our sins and forgiving the sins of those who sin against us—and if we do, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).

What Is Horizontal Forgiveness?

Horizontal forgiveness could mean a number of different things: (1) accepting someone who “asks for forgiveness”; (2) forgetting that an offense has occurred, i.e., not keeping “a record of wrongs”; (3) restoring a relationship back to its pre-offense condition; (4) treating the person as if the offense never occurred in the first place; (5) desiring that only good, and not punishment or consequences, would befall the offender. I’m sure that most people would argue for a combination of some of the above. Scripture does not explicitly define horizontal forgiveness. Therefore, to understand the concept behind the terms, we have to engage in an inductive approach (which is outlined, in part, below).

Ken Sande’s Definitions and Distinctions

Before doing so, I want to look at the work of Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, who has thought about the biblical basis for and the practical ramifications of forgivness as few others have. In his excellent book The Peacemaker, he defines forgiveness as follows: “To forgive someone means to release from liability to suffer punishment or penalty.” He explains:

We must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us. We must not hold wrongs against others, not think about them, and not punish others for them. Therefore, forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

[1] “I will not think about this incident.”

[2] “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”

[3] “I will not talk to others about this incident.”

[4] “I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

Sande goes on to suggest that ideally, repentance should precede forgiveness (Luke 17:3). But he also rightly points out that we should be quick to forgive minor offenses against us, not insisting on every case upon expressed repentance.

When repentance is not forthcoming, Sande suggests that we think of forgiveness as a two-stage process: (1) positional forgiveness, and (2) transactional forgiveness. Positional forgiveness entails an unconditional commitment to God that you strive not to dwell on the incident, that you have an attitude of mercy and love, and that you not seek vengeance. In other words, it seeks to fulfill promise #1 listed above. You are in a “position of forgiveness”—ready to reconcile upon repentance. Transactional forgiveness is a commitment to the offender to fulfill the other three promises, but it is conditioned upon their repentance.

For the most part, I think Sande gives wise, biblical advice that applies to the vast majority of situations where we have been wronged by another. I am unpersuaded, however, that Sande’s first promise—that I will not think about this incident—is biblically required. God does say that he will “remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:34b; cf. Isa. 43:25), but divine remembrance here is to be understood in analogical language. Just as God does not literally “remember” the rainbow (in the way that we “remember” where we left our coat), so in the same way I do not believe that God literally forgets our sin. The language is judicial and covenantal—God will not punish us on the basis of those sins. The same would be true for biblical statements that, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12) and statements that God does not “keep a record of sins” (Ps. 130:3-4—compare 1 Cor. 13:).

Furthermore, I don’t think that on the horizontal level we are required to abstain from thinking about offensive incidents. This might apply if I say a poorly-timed word to my wife and it makes her upset. But if a man murders my daughter, I will think about the incident everyday for the rest of my life—even if the murderer repents and is forgiven. I agree with Sande that we should have a merciful, loving, non-vengeful attitude. But I don’t see that that entails never again thinking about the incident.

As another example, think of church discipline—the process instituted by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

It is difficult for me to see how treating an unrepentant sinner as a Gentile and a tax collector is compatible with making an unconditional promise to God to “not think about this incident.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-9!)

The second critique of Sande’s otherwise helpful and wise approach is that it does not seem to adequately distinguish between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Let’s return to the scenario of a man whose daughter has been murdered. Let’s suppose that the murderer repents of his sin and seeks reconciliation with the victim’s parents. Is it plausible, and is it biblically required, that the parents will make promises to the effect that they won’t bring up the incident, won’t use it against the perpetrator, and won’t talk to others about the incident? Such a promise would preclude any testimony in court. These promises would apply in the spiritual kingdom, but not in the context of human courts. I may desire that the murderer repents and is accepted into heaven, and yet also desire that he suffer the temporal consequences on earth. In other words, I think we have to make some further distinctions.

What Does the Bible Teach About Horizontal Forgivnesss?

In our English Bibles, there are approximately 130 references to some form of the word “forgive.” The vast majority of occurrences reference God forgiving his people or an individual. Only about 12 passages deal with horizontal forgiveness (Matt. 6:12, 14, 15; 18:21; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; 11:4; 17:3; John 20:23; 2 Cor. 2:7, 10; 2 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

Here is my attempt to set forth the principles I see in the NT regarding forgiveness of one another:

Flying as a banner over all interaction with those have offended us is Jesus’s command, “Love your enemies.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you . . . for [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Rom. 12:20=Prov. 25:21).

Negatively phrased, we are to be free from hatred, bitterness, and vengeance at all times.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

We are to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Forgive one another, “as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).

Conversely, we ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others.

“[Father] forgive us our debts, as we also have been forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). “[Father] forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).

If we forgive others, we will be forgiven; if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven.

“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:12). “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). “Forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:12). “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you [punishment], if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:35).

Horizontal forgiveness is not explicitly defined, though it is connected with vertical forgiveness (see above) and is connected with other commands.

We are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other” (Eph. 4:32). We are to bear with one another and, “if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (Col. 3:13). In Luke 6:37, “to forgive” is listed in the same category as judge not and condemn not.

The Remaining Question

Based upon all that we’ve seen, this question remains in my mind: Is it possible for a Christian to remain fully obedient to Scripture, with kindness and tenderheartedness, loving his enemy as himself, and yet at the same time not granting forgiveness to an unrepentant offender?

From what I can discern from the evidence in the Bible, and from what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls “good and necessary consequence,” I’m persuaded that the answer is yes. “Love your enemies” is something that we should do at all times and in all places. It is modeled after God’s love for his enemies, whom he loves even when they are “unjust” and “evil” (Luke 6:35). At the same time, our forgiveness of others is likewise modeled upon God’s forgiveness of sinners, whom he forgives conditioned upon their repentance. God does not forgive apart from repentance; neither should we. In major offenses, we are not to forgive the unrepentant.

In the event of a tragedy that involves the loss of human life brought about by wanton human sin, it is therefore wrong for Christians to call upon immediate forgiveness in the absence of repentance. Such a call both cheapens and misunderstands the biblical doctrine of forgiveness.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Thomas Sowell: " No murderer would be allowed to be killed this way, which would almost certainly be declared 'cruel and unusual punishment,' in violation of the Constitution, by virtually any court."