Sin and Christian Teaching: Journal Critique

Effect of sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. Upon this foundational truth, Octavio Esqueda asserts a clear understanding of the relationship between sin and grace is necessary to fully appreciate the grace of God and to understand sin’s goal in opposing God and His holy character. The purpose of this critique is to assess Esqueda’s conclusion regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching.

SUMMARY

Esqueda acknowledges the grace of God and the sin of man are two essential realities that define the Christian faith and that all humans are sinners in desperate need for God’s grace. This hypothesis is traced back to the original sin and Esqueda illustrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[1] As time has gone on, Esqueda explains how culture continues to play a more dominant role in determining what is right and wrong, and what should be viewed as being happy or sad. Next, Esqueda establishes sin’s role in fading God’s plan for His creation and its ability to corrupt and isolate, leading to a life of pride. Citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esqueda emphasizes, “Perceiving God’s grace without an appropriate understanding of sin is meaningless and becomes cheap.”[2] After establishing a clear definition of sin and its effects, Esqueda uses the seven capital sins to define specific character traits that lead individuals away from God. Robert Kruschwitz identifies, “These sins are the harbingers of destruction; and they are the first in order of attack after pride and they bring in other sins that destroy people’s love for God and one another.”[3] Lastly, Esqueda explains the need for Christian teaching because any teaching, which fails to stress the importance of grace to sinners, is futile.[4]

CRITICAL INTERACTION

Esqueda does an excellent job of explaining the responsibilities of leaders and teachers in cultivating the spiritual growth of his or her students and he firmly believes the Holy Spirit is vital in the supernatural transformation of learners. By demonstrating the effects of sin and then establishing how Christ restores all of those broken relationships by grace, Esqueda reaffirms the apostle Paul’s message to the Romans and the church at Corinth being: “Christ died for all sinners and His righteousness is imputed to us by His grace, which overflows to the world much more than any effect of sin.” Grace over sin is a continuing theme throughout the Bible and one in which Esqueda has implemented in his strategy in Christian education and spiritual formation.

The overview of the seven capital sins was an interesting insertion and tracks with a modern-day culture that ranks and classifies various crimes on different levels. However, in God’s eyes, sin is sin, so any attempt to provide levels or grades to specific sins seems folly. This is partly the reason Esqueda believes, “Most Protestants rejected this list of capital sins because the Bible does not provide this classification of capital vices and Reformers were also concerned the list of virtues could become a way to earn salvation by works and not a gift by God’s grace.”[5] Despite this, it was very interesting looking at each individual sin in its attempt for: selfish gratification, selfish physical pleasure, attachment to material possessions, selfish sin against temperance, sadness for the glory of another, laziness, and desire for recognition and approval from others.[6] Esqueda seemed to approach this topic with some presuppositions, as he documents the introduction of the piñata in Mexico and Central America. He explains the piñata represented Satan who often wears an attractive mask to deceive humanity, and as temptation. Blindfolded participants represented blind faith, forcing them to look upwards towards heaven.[7]

God created the family and He also ingrained a longing for community inside everyone. Sin, which is often rooted in pride, stands opposed to both of these systems, in an attempt to deny love for one another and towards God. This was one area Esqueda could have covered in more detail, especially since his overall goal is reaching sinners with Christian teaching. Over time, sin erects a wall to further isolate individuals from any sense of hope and grace. While he does mention virtues, which when implemented lead to a regenerated life, his argument would have been strengthened with a solution of how to bridge the gap and tear down the walls of sin.

CONCLUSION

Esqueda does an excellent job explaining if a consequence of sin is isolation, then grace produces community. He illustrates, “When Christian leaders and teachers model grace, they foster a sense of community among their learners.”[8] This is the first step Esqueda successfully identifies in the spiritual transformation process. Esqueda’s conclusions regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching is also shown to be true. He also correctly identifies the Holy Spirit’s role and provides ample Scripture references and multiple references from respected philosophers and theologians. Overall, Esqueda provided substantial content in the importance of grace in teaching and over sin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995.

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Blass, Rachel B. “Sin and Transcendence Versus Psychopathology and Emotional Wellbeing: On the Catholic Church’s Problem of Bridging Religious and Therapeutic Views of the Person.” Spiritus 12, no. 1 (Spring, 2012): 21,42,156, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1019770875?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi:10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi:10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Kruschwitz, Robert. Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil. Waco, TX: Author, 2010.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Pasternack, Lawrence. “Kant on the debt of sin.” Faith and Philosophy 29 no. 1 (January 2012): 30-52. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25652862 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed April 13,2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995), 44.

[3] Robert Kruschwitz, Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil (Waco, TX: Author, 2010), 11.

[4] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 173.

[5] Ibid., 170.

[6] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 167-169.

[7] Ibid., 170.

[8] Ibid., 175.

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Biblical Principles for Teaching

Proverbs_22-6

As Octavio J. Esqueda asserts, “The church and Christian ministry exists to glorify God as its single purpose.”[1] From this premise, understanding how to synthesize and implement the critical biblical foundations for teaching is vital to not only success in ministry, but also in bringing glory to God. The first critical principal is, “God the Father is a teacher because He reveals Himself to humanity… and God’s ultimate purpose of His revelation is that we may know Him and obey Him.”[2] Esqueda shows, “God has chosen to reveal Himself through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation can be found in creation and conscience (Psalm 19) and special revelation is found as God discloses Himself through His Word: the incarnate Word (logos) of God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word of God, the Bible.”[3]

The second principle has to do with the importance of theology, which is the study of God. Esqueda demonstrates how theology is central to the teaching ministry of the church and to every dimension of our lives… and how we cannot serve a God we do not know, and we cannot know God and fail to serve Him.”[4] R. B. Zuck cites three additional factors which define Christian education: (1) the centrality of God’s written revelation, (2) the necessity of regeneration, and (3) the ministry of the Holy Spirit.[5] From this premise, Esqueda argues, “Since the role of the Holy Spirit is essential and God’s work relies primarily on His power (Zechariah 4:6), we would be more effective if we spent more time praying and less time planning or talking, [thus] making prayer the essential element in the teaching-learning process.”[6]

            The final principle that guides the practice of this student is faith and obedience. Esqueda demonstrates how “faith should be our appropriate response to the knowledge of God we receive through revelation and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God [also] expects our complete obedience in love [because] obedience is the purpose of God’s revelation.” Deuteronomy 29:29 reveals, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Frank Gaebelein shows, “The hidden things of the future are known only to the Lord, but His people still have reason for great expectations allied with great responsibilities; they have the things revealed. These are within the area of their knowledge and that of their children forever, and that for a definite, specific reason—that they should “follow all the words of this law.”[7]

The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith and Jesus would add to that loving one’s neighbor as ourselves in Matthew 22:37-40. To be true followers of Christ, one must follow all of His commandments and as Esqueda shows, “The purpose of teaching is our transformation. We need to ‘be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) in order to see life as God sees it [and] only when we adapt our thoughts to God’s can we understand His will.” Ben Forrest does a great job summarizing the two main principles for biblical teaching: “(1) God wants to communicate His message to the world and (2) The goal of teaching is to present ‘everyone mature in Christ.’”[8] When all of these principles are implemented, the teacher becomes the means through which God is able to communicate His truth and love. Teaching should start at a young age and continue throughout one’s life. As parents, teachers, and leaders it is important to realize whenever contact is made with another individual, something is always being taught. Based on this truth, it is vital one’s talk always lines up with his or her walk since the most important lessons in life are often caught and not taught. Forrest then “stresses the importance to always remain relational, intellectual, and practical when teaching and interacting with others because we are the conduits of the gospel message. While we do not possess the power to transform others, we are charged with discipleship, which requires the ability to understand God’s Word and apply it to daily living.”[9]

Within the seven activities template for teaching, Warren Benson demonstrates how, “Our metaphysical and epistemological beliefs and commitments are crucial to the formation of our axiological arguments… [and] the formulation of all three adjudications rests firmly on the Bible, so when these beliefs emerge and are consistent with our scriptural convictions, we are on the way to building a Christian philosophy of education.”[10] Upon this premise, George Knight presents seven hallmarks of a Christian epistemology:

(1) All truth is God’s truth; (2) Christians can pursue truth without the fear of     contradiction; (3) forces of evil will always seek to undermine the teaching of biblical      truth; (4) absolute truth belongs solely to God, which allows room for Christian humility;   (5) the Bible sees truth as being related to life; (6) general and special revelation are   complementary, and (7) to accept truth is a faith choice and necessitates a total      commitment to a new life.[11]

All of these principles remain mainstays in communicating the gospel message and truth remains the dominant principle behind each one. If anything were to be modified in the template, it would the presence of roles each individual plays in the learning process. God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). A paradigm shift must occur in both the church and the foundation of Christian education for these truths to reach the lost and hurting because Satan hates anything God loves, which makes the traditional family a prime target. Only by opening oneself to the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of God’s creation, will the blind truly be able to see. God is continually trying to reveal Himself, but the forces of evil will always stand opposed to the teaching of biblical truth. Lastly, teaching should always lead to transformation because as Benson demonstrates, “A true Christian education should help us understand and appreciate the authority of God’s Word.”[12] It should also allow the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ, thus allowing he or she the ability to align one’s will with God’s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benson, Warren S. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Esqueda, Octavio J. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Edited by William R. Yount. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

Forrest, Ben. “Theological Principles for Teaching.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Zuck, R. B. Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

[1] Octavio J. Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 31.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 33.

[4] Ibid., 32.

[5] R. B. Zuck, Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 2.

[6] Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 77.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 186.

[8] Ben Forrest, “Theological Principles for Teaching,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Warren S. Benson, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 27.

[11] Benson, Introducing Christian Education, 28.

[12] Ibid., 33.