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Questions and Answers

A collection of brief answers to many random questions that have come to us through the website over the years.

Separation between church and state?


Question: 
In next two weeks my high school debater must present both affirmative/negative views on this topic: “Democracy is best served with a complete separation of church and state.” Any suggestions?

 

Answer:  We haven’t written anything directly on separation of church and state. However, listen to the last section (the “Practical Application”) of Dr. Dave’s Talk on Romans 13:1-7 (http://www.growingchristians.org/talks/romans_13a).

Our secular society wrongly equates separation between church and state with separation between God and state.  The framers of our Constitution never had the idea of eliminating God from the public arena when they advocated separation between a specific “church” and state.  Their idea, which was biblical, was that both church and state are subordinate to God, and both answer to God.

 

Is Jonah a parable?


Question: 
I thoroughly enjoyed your sermon on Jonah.  Being a devout Christian, I was quite disappointed that my college-aged son who’s attending a Christian university, is now convinced that the story of Jonah is just a parable.  I would appreciate any help with scriptures that back Jonah as being true history.

 

Answer:  Thanks for your email.  Here are three points to share with your son about the story of Jonah not being a parable.

1.  2 Kings 14:25 indicates that Jonah was a person in history, not a parable.

2 . The Lord Jesus did not consider Jonah as a parable – see Matthew 12:39-41.

3.  If Jonah was a parable, it would be written in Hebrew poetry which has a distinctive structure called parallelism.  However, the literary genre of Jonah (except for Jonah’s prayer and praise in chapter 2) is historical narrative – which indicates it is true history.  Listen to Dr. Dave’s lecture about literary genre and historical narrative – including the Book of Jonah — Principle #22 at http://www.growingchristians.org/courses/hermeneutics.

How can I present my gifts without appearing prideful or threatening?


Question:
 I just read “The Sanctity of Skill,” and I have never read such an awesome article about this subject before.  One question:  how do you present your gift or let leadership know about your gift without it appearing prideful or threatening?  The church seems to accept unskilled people with grace, but in my experience, the developed, skilled people are prone to be accused of being conceited in some way.

 

Answer:  Thanks for your encouraging email.   We think the basic answer to your question is to “start small.”  Be willing to use your skills and talents and gifts with small groups wherever and whenever you get the opportunity – perhaps with Sunday school or youth activities.  Then let the Lord, through other believers, “spread the word” about your gifts and talents, and in His will and timing, more and “bigger” opportunities may follow.  Be patient.  We hope this is helpful.

What is the correct interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8?


Question:  
The interpretation that God’s timing is different from man’s timing – while true – is not the correct interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8.  The context of the passage is the second coming of the Lord.  In this context, I think the believer has a key to the second advent.  We do not know the day or the hour, but we do know that the Lord will return in this generation.

The geneology in Luke 3:23-38 is from Jesus back to Adam.  The Bible gives the number of years between generations.  It is a simple exercise to put the generations in a spreadsheet and calculate the number of years (about 6000).  A day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.  The 7th day, a day of rest, is a type of Christ’s millineal kingdom on the Earth.

 

Answer:  We agree that there has been about 6000 years since creation week (of 6 literal days) based on the genealogies of Scripture.  And we agree that the millennial kingdom of our Lord will be 1000 years based on Revelation 20.  However, we believe it is not good hermeneutics (interpretation) to make 1 day equal 1000 years based on 2 Peter 3:8.

Organized churches or home churches?


Question:
 What’s wrong with the organized church?  I enjoy attending church, but there is someone I love like a mother and she said that new testament churches met in homes. This I know and have no problem with, but there are some friends who no longer attend church and they said it was okay because they are in a good place with God.

She talks a lot about third days churches and how third day isn’t about doing anything because that’s all second. I want to be led by God and seek Him about everything I say and do, but should we throw out going to the organized church?    My christian Mom is great, but I’m concerned and I want to confront her lovingly and honestly. Please help me!!

 

Answer:  I commend you for your willingness to be led by God in your life and for seeking counsel from others.  It is unfortunate that many of your friends have chosen to resolve their problems with the “organized church” by no longer attending church.  It is important for all believers to “not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25).   Dr Dave wrote a devotional essay on the subject of the organized church is entitled “Critical Mass.”  You may find it helpful.  You can link to it from here:  http://www.growingchristians.org/dfgc/critmass.htm


As you said, it was the pattern of New Testament churches to meet in homes.  It is  still okay for a church to meet in a home, and, in fact, sometimes quite necessary, as in a communist or Muslim country.  However, the rest of the New Testament indicates that the location of the church meeting place is not a major issue.  It is not unscriptural for a church to meet in a larger building to accommodate more people and ministries.  Remember, a “church” is a gathering of believers, and where they gather is not as important an issue as what they believe.  For more information on New Testament patterns and whether they are to be followed today, you can listen to Lesson 7 of Dr. Dave’s Hermeneutics course (http://www.growingchristians.org/cfgc/herm/herm7a.html).

I was not at all familiar with “Third Day Churches” until you mentioned them in your letter.  From the brief research I have done, it seems to be a growing movement.  They are based on the principle that many good things in the Bible happened on the third day (Jesus’ resurrection, Jonah spit up by the great fish, etc.).  They then turn to 2 Peter 3:8, which says, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  They use this verse to create a “one day = one thousand years” formula, which they apply to say we are now in the third millennium of the Church.  (For a discussion on why it is poor biblical interpretation to use 2 Peter 3:8 as a formula, see Dr. Dave’s devotion “Intent of the Author”: http://www.growingchristians.org/dfgc/intent.htm)

The movement calls for a revival in “the way church is done” and one of the ways they seek to reform is by emphasizing Home Churches.  Although I did not see a doctrinal statement from these churches, the movement appears to be based on several hermeneutical leaps, and that would make me cautious of their approach to biblical interpretation.  From what I read, they tend a be a charismatic and Covenant Theology-based movement.  I found this article particularly helpful: http://www.carm.org/list/third_day.htm

In response to your question as to whether we should throw out the organized church, I believe we should not.  Our emphasis should be to find a local church that teaches the Bible literally and accurately.  When you speak to your Christian mother, I recommend your emphasis be on the biblical accuracy of her church’s beliefs, regardless of where they meet.

What is your position on Israel and Palestine?


Question:  
On this morning’s broadcast, Dr. Reid confirmed that the land of Israel was given to them by God, but then he said that the Abrahamaic covenant didn’t give them the “right to annex more territory.”  Since they are only occupying about one-tenth of what God gave them, I’d like some clarification on what he meant.  We certainly hope Dr. Reid isn’t standing up for the so-called “Palestinians,” since we’re sure he knows there is no such country as “Palestine”; that it was created by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 130 AD as an affront to the Jewish people. The lie of “Palestine” is becoming more and more prevalent, and we, as Christians, need to do everything we can to keep it from growing further.

 

Answer:  We can assure you that “Dr. Dave” is pro-Israel, and he does not support  a Palestinian state being created on land that God gave to the Jewish people!  His point in the “Talks” was that the present secular state of Israel (which still rejects their Messiah) does not have a biblical right to kill off all the Palestinians in order to possess all the land that God gave to Israel under the Abrahamic Covenant.  God will give the Land  to His chosen people in His time when they return to Him.  In the meantime, however, as a sovereign nation, Israel does have every right to defend itself against foreign aggression and terrorist attacks–even to the point of justified preemptive strikes.  This is Dr. Reid’s position.

Questions about Proverbs and parables


Question:
 I have been greatly perplexed by the diversity of views taken by commentators on the book of Proverbs.  John Gill seems to allegorize everything, even the traits of the virtuous woman in ch 31.  Others take more literal, practical interpretations.  How might I know which is the correct approach?  For example, if every reference to wealth in Proverbs means only spiritual wealth, or every reference to virtuous women means only the church, then of what practical guidance in arranging one’s finances or seeking a wife is that book at all?

I can accept there being parables and allegories in Scripture, especially where the Bible explicitly calls them such.  But I feel some commentators almost arbitrarily spiritualize passages without any cue from the text.

 One final point – do you believe that anything cited as being just or righteous within a parable – for example, the rich man paying those who labored all day the same amount as those who labored for an hour – is a model for modern morality?  The reason why I doubt this is because some commentators (Gill, again) render Hosea’s taking a wife of whoredoms to be a parable or a vision, which would mean that we could not safely deduce any practical morality from parables (not that their primary purpose is to teach practical morality anyway, since they teach lessons about the Kingdom of God).

 

Answer:  We agree that the Proverbs should not be spiritualized.  They should be taken in a literal way, as general, practical words of wisdom.  Of course, historical context must be taken into account.  The point of most proverbs is a moral or ethical principle – that is, they are wise sayings, not just popular sayings.  (“A penny saved is a penny earned” is a proverb, whereas “March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb” is not a proverb–by definition.)

In reference to the parables, we should remember that they are parables – illustrations of a spiritual lesson.  That is, the main points that the Lord intended to teach are the spiritual lessons or doctrine, including prophecy in the parables of the Kingdom.

Could Jesus Have Sinned?


Question:
 I found your lecture on the temptation of Jesus very interesting.  Would you please address the following:  You said the Jesus could not have sinned — do you think He had a choice?

 

Answer:  Yes, Jesus had a choice.  Choice is not foreign to any Person of the Godhead–ever!  But no Person of the Godhead can sin–ever!  Jesus is still fully Man but He cannot sin.

The big question that the Bible does not answer for us is whether Jesus knew He could not sin when He was here on this earth.  Was it determined in the eternal councils of God that when the eternal Son became Man this would be an area of limitation, as was His knowledge of the date of His return (Matthew 24:36)?

What can I say to a Jehovah’s Witness when they knock on my door?


Question:
  I have talked with some Jehovah’s Witnesses and asked them specific questions about Jesus and did they believe that Jesus was the Savior.  They told me they did, and that without him they could not be saved.  I have always heard that they were a cult.  Can you tell me more about what they believe so I will know better how to witness to them when they knock on my door.

 

Answer:   In order to expose their incorrect doctrine, the key questions to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses is whether Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and whether He is fully God.  They deny both biblical truths.  They say the Son of God is a high and lofty creature but still a created being–not eternal.  They say there was a time “when He was not!”  They do not want to include Jesus in the God of Genesis 1:1.

Furthermore, they deny the full deity of Christ (that’s one of the characteristics of a cult).  They will call Jesus “the Savior” and “the Redeemer,” but they deny His full deity.  And yet Colossians 2:9 clearly says that Jesus is fully God–not just “possessed of divine qualities.”  Our Savior and Redeemer must be fully God in order for His atoning work to have infinite value.