Answers to Questions—25/10/2017-31/10/2017

I have hit the milestone of 1,000 answered questions on Curious Cat and have signed off answering questions on the site for the next few months. Thanks to everyone for their questions! Here is a list of some of the last batch of my responses:


What is the Bible FOR? … [Answer]


Were Job’s friends trying to kill him? [Answer]


Why do you think signs and wonders proliferated in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and in Daniel’s ministry? … [Answer]


Elisha curses young men and they get mauled by bears. What’s that all about? … [Answer]


I’m preaching on Luke 24:13-35.

I’m surprised how many commentators assume “our hearts burned” to mean “our hearts were warmed”, when the latter is a English idiom that may not be paralleled in the Greek and jesus’ teaching is framed by a strong rebuke. I am tending to think it means a more painful experience (like Psalm 39:4 and Jeremiah 20:9). What do you think?

While I’m here do you have any thoughts on the passage more generally? [Answer]


Some people argue that “love your neighbor as yourself” implies a command to love yourself before you’re capable of loving anyone else. Where do you stand on this? [Answer]


While I accept that God didn’t have plan A and then plan B after the Fall, I sometimes have difficulty articulating it simply, but fully…. [Answer]


Do you subscribe to the belief that there was a pre-creation covenant of redemption within the Trinity, either from a systematic or biblical theological position? … [Answer]


Is it okay to believe in God on purely non-theological or logical grounds? I think that God exists, but I couldn’t prove it to you and I find theological discussion tiresome. I just know. [Answer]


What is the relationship between law and new covenant? [Answer]


Why are evangelicals wary of strongly embracing typological readings of the Old Testament? [Answer]


A friend of mine recently told me that when missionaries he knows plant a church among a tribal group, they allow the new converts to decide what beverage they will use for Communion. The tribes do not have an existing culture of making wine, and what alcohol they do make is in some cases not safe to drink. So they use something like tea or Coca-Cola. Given the very compelling (to me) case you have made for wine to be used in Communion, I’m wondering what you think about this. Should the missionaries have found a way to import wine for them? [Answer]


James Jordan argues that the Christian tradition errs in treating the sacraments as visible signs, arguing that they should be understood instead as tactile or gustatory signs. There is some question regarding whether he accurately represents the tradition—”visible” is a metonymy for “sensible”—but setting that aside, is the use of “visible” as a metonymy misleading? … [Answer]


… I have grown up in the churches of Christ, which hold water baptism by immersion being one of the essentials to salvation, appealing often to Acts 2:38 as well as all examples of New Testament conversions containing reference to the immediacy of baptism upon a saving faith. I have struggled with understanding being saved by faith, while also tacking on baptism as essential. I have read a bit of tertullian, but wanted to get your thoughts as I respect you much. [Answer]


When explaining the objectivity of baptism from Romans 6, how do you explain the baptism into Christ of the unregenerate? Is Paul still talking about baptism in verse 5? [Answer]


What do you think is happening, both spiritually and psychologically, when mature, godly, well-informed Reformed evangelicals believe that they are engaging in and correctly interpreting actual glossolalia—assuming that in reality the actual gift has ceased? [Answer] [Follow-up]


When it comes to your view of prophecy and tongues and miracles, how would you understand a command such as “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14)? … [Answer]


What do you think of contemporary worship music? [Answer]


Is episcopal government the best form of church government? [Answer]


What do you think are the main pitfalls your average contemporary Reformed person makes when teaching on the Reformation? [Answer]


Are Popish errors liable to set men up for damnation? … [Answer]


Should we pray for the demise of the Roman church? [Answer]


Was St Patrick a Protestant, as Ian Paisley said? [Answer]


Are Catholics Christians? … [Answer]


Do you have an opinion on the debate over ‘every member ministry’…? [Answer]


I find the invisible/visible church distinction unhelpful. Granted, I come from a Church of South India tradition greatly informed by Lesslie Newbigin’s views on the matter–that a divided church harms the witness of the Gospel, particularly where Christians are a minority. In The Household of God, he said that our acceptance of the divisions of the church is due to the fact that we do not believe that the church of God is what the New Testament taught that it was: the indivisible body of Christ. You seem more accepting of a type of invisible/visible church distinction. How would you respond to Newbigin’s view? [Answer]


How big should the ideal church be? Is there a size that is too big? Is there a size that is too small? … [Answer]


Can Amazonian tribesmen who have never heard of God go to heaven? … [Answer]


Cornelius needed the gospel because he lived during the time of its proclamation, but if a (hypothetical) pious Cornelius’ grandfather lived in 80 BC why wouldn’t his sincere fear of the god of the Israel, alms, and prayers to God been evidence of true faith as much as Jephthah’s or Lot’s? [Answer]


… How can one have a genuine Christian faith without a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Can saving faith be had without it? [Answer]


I’m more curious what the Christian response should be when doubt and despair arise. [Answer]


Is slavery morally wrong? … [Answer]


Question about the moral duty of arming yourself to defend your family and for self-defense [Answer] [Follow-up]


Isaiah 1:17 says to correct oppression. How do you interpret that in light of police brutality in the U.S.? Should evangelicals be doing more? [Answer]


Do you think humour has a place in preaching? … [Answer]


An observation seeking observations. The Gospel Coalition has a short video about “Resisting the allure of gossip” The contributors are all women…. [Answer]


… You say husbands do not have to become “the head”, they just have to recognize their position and live according to it. I was left wondering how a man can, in practice, fail to do this. How would you answer this?

Moreover, wives are *commanded* to submit to their husbands, which seems to imply more of an active role in “becoming” submissive. What does it mean for a wife not to be submissive? [Answer]


… For me, the term “leader” is not well suited for describing the husband’s role in the one-flesh reality of marriage. Do you think the concept of the husband leading his wife is justifiable from this particular passage or the Scriptures in general? Do you have any hesitancy using the term “leader” to describe the husband’s role in relation to his wife? [Answer]


Regarding the Ephesians passage on submission in marriage, I have a friend who points out that the passage just prior calls for the members of the Church to submit to one another. My friend argues that this implies that the use of the same word (hypotasso in Greek) means that it can have no connotation of authority or obedience in the marriage context, as that would be absurd in the broader Church context.

How would you answer this claim? What is going on in this passage? Is there some notion of a wife obeying her husband in Biblical perspectives on marriage? [Answer]


You have said many times i think now that the man is the head of the wife by nature. Dose this headship extend beyond the family and if yes then how does one stop themselves from appearing condescending to all women they meet? If no then are you saying that the genesis passages are only speaking to men and women in their married state? Does the passage not have implications for how all men relate to all women? [Answer]


Should I continue having sex with my girlfriend, or tell her that we can’t as it is wrong in the eyes of God, even if I lose her? [Answer] [Follow-up]


I am infertile, or so I discovered a few years ago. Should I get married, even though I can’t have children? Was does scripture say about this? [Answer]


… When same-sex couples … have a child by artificial means, one of the pair … is the biological father of a child whose biological mother is not his wife. Although there is no physical intimacy when a child is conceived in this way, the child is the fruit of a union between the man’s sperm and the woman’s ovum, so do you that, in some way, such a union is adulterous? [Answer]


I just finished David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church. I think he’s right about the feminising atmosphere of many churches and the lack of active roles for men who aren’t more bookishly inclined. That said I think his focus on the more blue collar male is somewhat myopic and ignores that many men are inclined to be enjoy deeper theological teaching more than women. [Answer]


You argue against marriage between same sex couples and also gave reasons why women should not be pastors. Given the bibles understanding of marriage and the pastoral office would you say that marriage between same sex couples is not possible? And in the same way would you say that women cannot be pastors (in the narrower definition of ‘pastor’? Or is it more that women can be pastors, but there are good reasons for them not to be? [Answer]


You have written before on how you think Scripture limits the pastoral office to males. How then do we view women who are apparently serving as pastors? [Answer]


Is it good for Christians to feel revulsion toward homosexual practice? [Answer]


What do you think of Kevin Spacey’s implicit admission that there’s a link between homosexuality and pederasty? [Answer]


This is controversial, but what if telling people that unwanted sexual advances are traumatic makes the recipient resent it more as time goes by? I honestly think that people are more traumatised by child molestation now than they were 50 years ago. This isn’t because it’s not a horrible thing, but because the narrative of victimhood has overhwelmed discussions. [Answer] [Follow-up]


Someone recently said to me that the role of mother reflects God “at least as much as that of father”. Now, I’m aware of how motherhood is reflective of God, especially more so in the person and work of th Spirit, but the qualifier “at least as much as that of father” sits wrongly with me. How would you respond? [Answer]


Why are the Christians I meet so weak and feeble? … I find them to be ludicrously naive about human nature…. [Answer]


… How do you think those against abortion ought to frame the argument, if not in terms of personhood? [Answer]


What do you think about Christians who claim all Christians should be vegetarian, vegan, etc. because what we eat is a matter of justice and caring for God’s creation? Are there grounds for some Christians choosing these diets, even if not *every* Christian should? … [Answer]


Is being considerably overweight as a Christian a sin? [Answer]


Was the British Empire a good thing? [Answer]


Do you like Uber? Do you support it being banned in London? [Answer]


Should Britain leave the EU? [Answer]


Is Rod Dreher right in the Benedict Option? [Answer]


How should Christians react to people who are racists / anti-semitic? [Answer]


In your response to a question about Jared Taylor you described him as a racialist. In other contexts you have used racism and also racism/racialism. Do you intend to make a distinction between the terms and if so how would you distinguish them? [Answer]


What do you think about evangelicals supporting #BlackLivesMatter? Would you encourage it or discourage it? Why or why not? … [Answer]


What do you think of Martin Luther King, Jr? Should Christians celebrate his life? [Answer]


What do you think of Hauerwas’ theology? I see you mentioned him positively a few answers ago. [Answer]


Do you have any thoughts on Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation? [Answer]


… If you regularly find yourself in the position of theological outlier, is that a cause for concern? [Answer]


If there were five books you could make everybody read (besides the Bible), what would they be? [Answer]


What do you recommend as the best way to become familiar with O’Donovan’s work? Is there a particular order to start in? Or are there any lectures he gives that are good introductions to larger themes? [Answer]


Do you recommend aspiring pastors read classic novels, or concentrate on theology? [Answer]


Do you have or recommend a Bible reading plan? [Answer]


Would you rather: only be able to listen to Test Match Special on 5 Live for the rest of your life (and never watch cricket on TV) OR only be able to watch cricket on TV (and never be able to listen to TMS)? [Answer] [Follow-up question in response to which I discuss some of the appeal of aristocracy over meritocracy]


A job you enjoy but don’t pay you much vs a job you can (joyless) do but gives you financial comfort. Which one to pick? [Answer]


Do you mind being trolled? [Answer] [Follow-up] [More] [More]


Do you think in different circumstances, you might have identified as Irish rather than English? [Answer]


That’s all for the next few months! Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. There are about 700 unanswered questions in my inbox. I am sorry if yours was one of them.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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