Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do Hard Things - a Review

I read the book Do Hard Things - A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations by Alex & Brett Harris with high hopes. Many people have said great things about this book, and for the first hundred pages, I could see why. Those pages were loaded with exactly what the book promises, a rebellion against mediocrity and a call to do great things for God's glory. That part was super.

With so much good stuff in this book, I had to do a lot of soul searching. I have given positive reviews to other books that had elements with which I disagreed, so why am I about to give a negative review to this one? The two young authors are obviously filled with a great desire to change the world for the better, to recruit thousands with the same mindset. So why would I want to do anything to hinder their efforts?

Because the errors the authors make are so grievous. The flaws literally destroy the very message they seem to be trying to deliver.

Knowing how many people love this book, I risk backlash by criticizing it. Yet, I think a warning is essential, and I hope that readers of this blog will understand my heart in this matter. I don't want to disparage these authors at all. This is as much a plea for them to reconsider their thinking as it is a warning that this book is not what it appears or purports to be.

The authors claim that they want to battle "low expectations." They claim that they believe in teenagers' abilities to do great, hard things for God. Yet, when it comes to one of the most important things they are commanded to do, in fact, one of the most important commands in all history, they reverse course and contradict their own premise.

From page 101:
Quote:
The students who have written to us recognized this and weren't about to hijack their futures just because they'd managed to exceed mediocre standards. They realized that God's standard is not for us to be the godliest person in a youth group filled with halfhearted Christians, but to "be holy" because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). God's standard is not for us to be our teacher's best helper, but to be a "servant of all" (Mark 9:35)
This is great so far. The authors have established God's standards, something that we are clearly told to do, to be holy and be a servant. But what do these warriors against low expectations say next?
Quote:
God set His standards this high so that we won't make the mistake of aiming low. He made them unreachable so that we would never have an excuse to stop growing.
Unreachable? What happened to achieving high expectations? What happened to believing in doing "hard" things? Obeying God completely is not unreachable. In fact, the Bible contradicts these authors with perfect precision:

"And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; If you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach." (Deuteronomy 30:8-11 emphasis mine)

Unreachable? The Bible says it isn't unreachable. Yet, these authors deny that we can reach it. They say God gave the unreachable standard so that we wouldn't have an excuse to stop growing.

That's just plain wrong. God gave us these commands so that we would obey them. We can obey the commands, live holy lives, and still continue growing in wisdom and knowledge.

God expects us to obey His commands, period. If He says to be holy, that's exactly what He expects of us. If He says to be servants of all, then, again, that's what He expects. Fortunately, He has provided the grace and the means to be holy, not just "positionally," as some people claim, but in reality. He gives us the ability to be servants of all.

These authors call us to do great things--fight against slavery, work on political campaigns, feed the hungry, etc--all of them noble and good. But they pale in comparison to being holy. The authors claim that we can do these other things, none of which is guaranteed in the Bible to be "reachable," yet when it comes to holiness, something that the Bible says is reachable, the authors say we can't reach it.

I love the idea of calling upon teens to do these hard things. To the Harris brothers, I say, "Wonderful!" Yet, these are things any non-Christian can do. Only a Christian can be holy, and holiness is the quality that separates us from unbelievers. Without it, we are doomed, as the Bible says, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14 emphasis mine)

The authors, therefore, are leading people to believe that we can't reach what is a manifestation of a saved person, holiness. Theirs is a false teaching.

And, unfortunately, it gets worse. On page 126:
Quote:
Even good, solid, sincere Christians are sinful and imperfect.
What happened to believing in our ability to do great things? What happened to destroying low expectations? These authors have maligned every Christian in the world by calling them sinful. Where is there such a teaching in the Bible, that all Christians are sinful? It doesn't exist. Sure, all have sinned, but Christians have left that life behind. We are not sinful anymore.

Jesus cleansed us from all sin (1 John 1:9). He killed the old man (Romans 6:6) and crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). We are not sinful.

This book's teaching could work to keep readers trapped in chains of sin. Far from destroying "low expectations," these authors are confirming the lowest of expectations in the realm of the most essential truths. Jesus Christ came to set us free from sin (John 8:34-36), but these authors disagree. They say we can't reach what God has freely given.

Not only is the ability to be holy freely given, it's not even one of the "hard things" to do. Jesus said His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Obedience comes naturally to a person who has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 3:9)

So, I believe this book to be harmful. It gives teens something to feel good about--high expectations and success in "hard things," some of which are worldly and will burn in the end. But it strikes teens to the ground regarding perhaps one of the most essential commands in history. They will feel good about doing hard things, but, as Jesus said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) Doing hard things is great, even to the point of helping the entire world, but the effort is worthless if the valiant teenager loses his own soul.

I hope that these valiant young authors will reconsider their position. I hope someday they will produce a printing of this book that will eliminate these errors, because I would gladly recommend such a fine book. As it stands, I can't do so. The errors are too great.

Many, I'm sure, will disagree, and I will allow comments that disagree, but only civil ones that contribute to the topic.
*****
I'm editing this post to add this note.

I am getting several comments that don't relate to the topic of the blog post, so I have been rejecting some of them.

One in particular was very distressing. It expressed strong disagreement, though it provided not a shred of Scripture to back up the disagreement. Not only that, it made thinly-veiled accusations against my character.

Please, my friends, if you want to disagree with me about the doctrines of holiness, then feel free to do so. I understand. I am in a very small minority.

But, I beseech you, do so with Scripture and not with emotional arguments, experiential anecdotes, or personal attacks. It just doesn't help matters.

Also, if you want to discuss holiness, and your point doesn't relate to the book I reviewed or my issues with it, then please email me at bryan (at) dragonsinourmidst (dot) com. Replace the words in the parentheses with the appropriate symbols.

But feel free to post comments that do relate to this post.

Thank you.

33 comments:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I have a variety of thoughts to your post, Bryan, but for now I'll mention my first observation. You quoted from p. 101 in which the authors of Do Hard Things in turn quoted from I Peter: Be holy because He is holy.

You then turned to a passage in Deuteronomy to show that God's commands are within our reach. The problem is, you are taking the verses you quote out of context. These verses are part of Moses's charge to the people after they'd been given the Law. In essence he was telling them to follow the dietary regulations, stay away from idolatry, pay their tithes, and many other things, including keeping the Passover.

The Passover, of course, involved sacrifices.

Clearly, then, Moses was not equating the keeping of the Law with becoming holy, for if the people were holy, they would not need to continue making sacrifice year after year.

In addition, it is clear that none of these people did keep the Law. Otherwise, Christ would not have needed to come.

I'll stop there, for now though I have more to say, as I'm sure you know. ;-)

Becky

Liliannalissa said...

I admit I had to calm myself down in order to read this entire post. I will still have to check my attitude as I comment.
I, a teenager, have both read Do Hard Things and gone to the confrence. I check the blog and underline the verses they quote. And I don't believe any harm has come to me because of it. I have sometimes, especially listening to their father at the conference, wondered if they really understand the completeness of salvation. For we are completely clean of our sins because of Jesus.
However, we do still sin. I doubt that even Enoch, who never died, was perfect. So in that way, many of God's standards are unreachable. Yet again, with Jesus, nothing is impossible. And with Him, we grow toward God's standards.
I have probably stopped making sense, so I will end with this: I see where you are coming from. I could never know exactly what Alex and Brett were thinking as they wrote Do Hard Things. Nor could I know exactly how anyone but myself perceives what they wrote. And, forgive me if this comes across wrong, niether could you.
Everyone, teen and adult alike, should be carefull when they read anything, by the Harris brothers, by you, by me, or by anyone else but God. Thank you for that reminder.

Bryan Davis said...

Becky,

I did not take the Deuteronomy passage out of context. Moses' commands did not only include dietary regulations and the like. He also said, "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut 30:6)

Since the basis of holiness is love, and loving God with all one's heart and soul would fulfill that love, then clearly holiness was within reach.

I agree that the people of that time were not holy, and their lack of holiness meant that they needed to continue making sacrifices year by year. But this lack of holiness in no way means that holiness was out of reach. They just chose not to obey.

Now, under the New Covenant, holiness is not only within reach; it is expected of every believer. As it says in Hebrews 10, Jesus has perfected all believers (verse 14).

So, holiness was within reach for Old Covenant believers, and it is even easier, even essential for New Covenant believers.

Bryan Davis said...

liliannalissa,

As you wrote, with Jesus, nothing is impossible. So, being holy is within reach. Here are a few more passages that indicate that it is not only within reach to be holy, it is the norm in the Christian life.

My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous: he that doeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. (1 John 3:7-9)

And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)

So, when I compare these verses to what the Harris brothers wrote, I see that they contradict the Scriptures. It's possible that I misunderstood them, but their words seem strikingly clear, so I have to make my judgments based on what I read.

Liliannalissa said...

Mr. Davis,
After reading again your blog post, the other comments, and the context of what you quoted from Do Hard Things, as well as discussing these things with my Mom and looking up the definition of holy, here is what I have to say.
You brought up excellent verses from the Bible. And no one can argue with what the Bible says, but only with how it is represented. So I will follow you in quoting Scripture.

Romans 7:15-25
"15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

That is where I am coming from. And I think that is where the Harris twins are coming from as well. I do not claim to understand any part of the Bible comepletely. But you sin and I sin. We pray to God for help. We are clean of this sin and have reached the level of God's holy saints through Him, but our sinful bodies will never reach God's standards. I recongize that this isn't an excuse to willfully sin, and so, I beleive, do the Harris brothers. Thank God we will one day be free from these bodies and this world!

Bryan Davis said...

liliannalissa,

Your quote from Romans chapter seven describes Paul's life under the Law, not as a Christian. The full context proves this to be the case. Compare verse 23:

"but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members."

with chapter 8, verse 2:

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death."

No Christian is in captivity to the law of sin. We are set free. Clearly, Paul was writing about his life under the Law. The contrast between those verses, and the context, prove this to be the case.

And, no, liliannalissa, I do not sin, thanks be to God. Before I became a Christian, I sinned often, but I repented and turned to God. Jesus gives me the ability to live a holy life, and my testimony agrees completely with the verse I have already quoted, " Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God." (1 John 3:9)

So, because we are born of God, we no longer have sinful bodies. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

To say that we cannot reach God's standards means that God commands the impossible and sends people to eternal punishment for something they cannot do. That seems contrary to God's nature, and it is not in the Bible.

Liliannalissa said...

Mr. Davis,
Your last comment startled me, so, once again, I consulted my parents who directed me to the Bible. It is clear that we have very different doctrines. And so with one last verse, I will remove myself from this developing debate until I have done further research.

1 John 1:8
"If we claim to be without sin, we decieve ourselves and the truth is not in us."

The verses around that 1 John 1:8 are quite enlightening, but I didn't want to copy them all here.

Bryan Davis said...

Liliannalissa,

It is the verses surrounding 1 John 1:8 that reveal its meaning. Verses 5 through 10 are the gospel message, how a person becomes a Christian. Verse seven makes it clear that all Christians are cleansed of all sin.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

If we are cleansed from all sin, how is it that any is left behind? It can't be. So verse eight must be talking about a person who claims he doesn't need the cleansing that Jesus does in saving people.

And how can verse 8 be used to say that someone doesn't sin any longer? Are you able to go a single second without sin? I would hope so. Yet, why would this verse not apply to someone who doesn't sin for one second, and then condemn someone who claims a longer time period?

Here is an excerpt from a thesis I wrote concerning this verse:

http://www.dragonsinourmidst.com/FirstJohnOne.pdf

It's clear that this verse cannot be used to prove that all Christians sin.

My statement shouldn't be startling, because the Bible says the same thing without ambiguity, and I will state it again to make it clear that my testimony is Scriptural:

Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. (1 John 3:9)

And another verse agrees:

We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:18)

And there are many other verses that gives us assurance that Christians can and do live a holy life.

We do have doctrinal differences, and I have to stand by what I see in Scripture when I evaluate books I read, and "Do Hard Things" violates Scripture in a very important area.

Ardian said...

I have not read Do Hard Things yet, though I have heard great things about it and joined their Forum. I had planned to read this book and, now that I read your posts, I'm not sure that I will. I am not at all in any disagreement with you; your Scriptural backups have done their job well. Great post! :)

OnTheStraightAndNarrow said...

Sir, I appreciate your honesty when writing from a unappreciated position. Before reading your post I already had my doubt about the message of the book, and now I find my fear confirmed. This book has had a good effect on my life, however. Even after reading the book, I still doubt the spiritual value of physical hard things, but I was able to put certain principals too us that vastly improved my spiritual condition. America is a Titanic that is already sinking. Do Hard Things is a faulted attempt to repair to damage, when really we should be helping people into life boats. Have you emailed the authors about your concerns?

Bryan Davis said...

ardian,

Thank you for the affirmation.

onthestraightandnarrow,

Yes, mine is an under-appreciated position, and that's putting it mildly. Not many people agree with me.

I have not emailed the authors. I'm not confident that it would be a good idea, but I will think more about it. I haven't dismissed the possibility.

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

Hi Bryan,

Very interesting review and discussion here. I certainly am in agreement that no one should be telling Christians that they are sinful.

About claiming that Deuteronomy 30 says the law is not burdensome to obey: When I read Romans, I noticed that Paul expounds on those verses differently. He says, "The righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)"or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:6-9) Paul does not take those verses to mean that obedience to the law is not burdensome, but that man does not have to ascend into Heaven or bring Jesus down to receive the righteousness through faith.

Regarding whether man can obey the law: the fact that the Bible says "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" would foreclose the possibility that man could ever perfectly keep the law. If you have a race of billions of sentient beings with a 100% failure rate (save Jesus who was God in human flesh) then something is wrong. It's not because God gave us a law we couldn't keep, it's because Adam ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and made us accountable to the law. Before, we were completely innocent, not knowing good and evil, and thus not under judgment. We were not made to be under the law (though we are under God's authority). If we were, why didn't God tell Adam and Eve to put some clothes on? We're simply the wrong species to have this law. That's why God promised from the very beginning that Jesus, the seed of the woman, would bruise the heel of the serpent. It was always His plan to send Jesus to redeem humanity, not just by forgiving sins, but by putting us under a new law system we can obey, the law that says to love God and your neighbor as yourself, for with this law no one can work sin.

A word about the Israelities and the term holy. The primary definition of the word holy is to be separated unto God or separated for sacred use. It does not necessarily mean "sinlessness," although it can. When God is laying down the Moasic Law, He is giving them regulations to seperate the Hebrews from other nations. He tells them not to tattoo their bodies because other nations do that. Marking your body was a form of identification in that time period, because we didn't have driver's licenses back then. Similarily, God sets apart the sons of Aaron to be priests in the temple. Leviticus 21 says the priests are to be holy, yet the Book of Hebrews points out the priests had to make regular sacrifices for their own sins, but how could they be holy then if they were with sin? Under this definition, they were, otherwise there could be no high priests to make sacrifices; that was the function of the priesthood. The point God makes to the Hebrews is not to do what the other nations do, because their evil practices will lead them astray and eventually to commit apostasy, which is exactly what happened. At that point, they will certainly not be "separated unto God," but rather, "seperated from God." Similarly, a Christian is holy because he is separated onto God through the blood of Christ.

It does sound as if the authors were trying their best with what they understand. On that level I do commend them.

- Jason

Bryan Davis said...

Jason,

Your comments are thoughtful, as usual. Still, I disagree with your analysis.

First, Paul's treatment of the Deuteronomy passage doesn't say obeying the Law was unreachable, so I don't see how that applies.

Second, the verse, "All have sinned ..." does not "foreclose the possibility that man could ever perfectly keep the law." It is an observation of what has happened in the past at the time of that writing. It doesn't say, "All must sin" or "It is impossible to keep the Law."

Moses clearly said that it wasn't too difficult, so that should be our conclusion.

Still, even if a person insists that "All have sinned" means that it is impossible to obey the Law perfectly from birth, it certainly doesn't mean that you can't obey it perfectly after your conversion to Christ. We, as Christians, can be holy.

You're right that there are various understandings of the word "holy." My point is that no matter what it means, it is within reach.

God made this command, "Be holy, for I am holy," in Leviticus 11:44, before Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 30. So, when Moses said to keep ALL of God's commandments, that command must have been included.

Therefore, since Moses said obedience to all of God's commands was within reach, "Be holy, for I am holy" was also within reach.

The Harris brothers said this standard was unreachable, thus contradicting the Bible.

For Christians, who are not under the Law, attaining this standard is far easier, since the Holy Spirit dwells within. So if it was within reach for those under the Law, certainly it is even more so for us under the New Covenant.

Being holy is clearly an attainable and even an expected goal. To say that we cannot obey the clear commands of God, and to call all Christians sinful, is a dangerous and damaging path to take, especially in a book that claims to uphold high expectations.

Ardian said...

Mr. Davis,

You are welcome. I have yet to read all the comments following mine, however. :)

Galadriel said...

I have not read the book, due to small local libraries, so I'll return after getting more information and thinking.

Sword Warrior said...

Mr Davis,
After reading your post, and the following comments, I must disagree. I will try not to sound rude here, but I would like to point out a couple of things. The first is in answer to the main topic of this debate - can man attain a sinless (perfect) life here on earth? The answer is a simple no. Others have provided some good Scriptures to support this, and I'll use one of those - 1 John 1:8
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."
It is obvious that no one is without sin, even after being saved. Sure, we may be changed as we strive to live for God, but we will make more mistakes and sins. Whether it be making a rude comment (intended or not), thinking something bad, wanting something reallly bad, lusting, or other impure thoughts, or actions, we all sin.

In a homeschool co-op I attend, one of the teachers made a good obersvation about the difference between Christians and Non-Christians sinning. He used the example of a dung pile and how everyone can be represented as that; it illustrates all our sin. While everyone else is a dung pile, like us, God has covered our dung pile with His pure blood. So, that could be represented as snow falling on our dung. Our sins have been washed and covered by His blood. They are still there, but they have been covered and washed away. We will still sin and must ask forgiveness, but there is no escaping our roots in sin, no matter how hard we try.

As to God's standards being unattainable, they are! God did make His standards that way... but that does not mean we should not strive to reach them. We are commanded to follow His commands and do what He says, but we will never be able to perfectly achieve them! If we say we can, we are deceving ourselves, like the verse said. Only God is completely perfect, and that is what makes Him God, and us His followers!

Well, that's all I have to say for now. ttyl! :)

SwordWarrior

Bryan Davis said...

SwordWarrior,

When you restate 1 John 1:8 without countering what I already wrote about that verse, it really doesn't add to the discussion. I explained why that verse can't be used to prove what you're saying. That verse, in context, isn't saying that Christians can't stop sinning.

Also, the Bible clearly says that Christians don't sin, and I quoted verses that say exactly and precisely that, yet you have not addressed those.

You provided a vivid and graphic illustration from your teacher, yet it doesn't relate to biblical truth at all. The blood of bulls and goats were a covering, but the blood of Jesus cleanses all sin. How can that dung pile still be there if it is washed away? That doesn't make any sense.

You re-state that God's standards are unattainable, yet the Bible says the opposite, as I have already shown. You wrote nothing to refute the clear teaching of Scripture that God's standards are attainable.

Your argument is against the Bible. Merely stating your opinion without biblical proof isn't helpful.

It saddens me greatly to see how the errors of writers like the Harris brothers have so infiltrated the church. The Bible's teachings on holiness are being ignored and replaced by a false sense of hope that people can go on sinning and still be saved. Yet, the Bible says,

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

The Bible says over and over that we are free from sin (Romans 6:18), the old man is dead (Romans 6:6), the flesh is crucified (Galatians 5:24), the flesh is removed (Colossians 2:11) yet people want to cling to slavery and chains. This is a tragic circumstance.

That's why I so strongly oppose this book. It perpetuates a dangerous teaching that will cause eternally damaging consequences, and young people seem to be eating it up. They are given a false hope, and they feel good about themselves when they do "hard things," yet when it comes to a far more important issue, that is, obedience to God, they are told it's impossible, in direct contradiction to the Bible. This teaching, once accepted, puts the readers in great peril to the point of losing their souls.

Bryan Davis said...

SwordWarrior,

I received your most recent comment, but I decided not to publish it because it contained a link to a John MacArthur article. I don't want to link to or promote that site.

If you want to resubmit your comment without that link, feel free to do so.

Mrs. Wright said...

In Romans 6:6, Paul said that our old self has been crucified with Christ so that our body of sin might be done away with. In Romans 8:13, he says that if we are putting to death the deeds of the body, we will live. Why would we need to be putting to death the deeds of the body if the old self has been done away with, leaving nothing to put to death? Why the apparent contradiction? God does not contradict Himself!

We must consider that God is outside of time. We are still here in this time, putting to death the deeds of our bodies but, outside of time, our flesh has already been crucified. We are both being perfected (our time) and are already perfected (outside of time, from the before the foundation of the world to eternity). That’s my take. Assuredly, I will be continuing to study this out and will seek the counsel of wiser persons than myself.

By the way, what is the problem with John MacArthur's website?

Bryan Davis said...

Mrs. Wright,

Thank you for your contribution.

First, I see no contradiction between Romans 6:6 and 8:13. The old man is dead, and we put to death the DEEDS of that man. In other words, we stop sinning.

Second, when you talk about truths existing outside of time and not in our reality, you are appealing to an idea that isn't in the text.

The Bible says (Galatians 5:24) that the flesh has been crucified (past tense), not "crucified outside of time," as you have asserted.

The Bible makes it plain and simple. The flesh has been crucified. The old man is dead. There is no need to see it any other way than as being actually true in our reality, for Paul gives us a practical, down-to-earth reason earlier in the chapter.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

If the old man wasn't really dead, this practical application wouldn't be possible. The old man is really dead, so we can't live in sin.

Bryan Davis said...

Mrs. Wright, I forgot to answer your last question. I don't want to link to the Dr. MacArthur's article for a number of reasons.

First, I think he's absolutely wrong about this issue, so I don't want to lead people to an article that I consider false.

Second, if someone wants to use an external article as proof for a point, it's extremely difficult for me to write a rebuttal that refers to an external source. It would be a nightmare to make it all make sense.

Finally, I welcome civil comments on this blog that disagree with mine, but I want the opinion expressed by the person commenting, not by a different person who wrote an article somewhere else.

Revan said...

You said:

"Finally, I welcome civil comments on this blog that disagree with mine, but I want the opinion expressed by the person commenting, not by a different person who wrote an article somewhere else."

Fair enough!

As for putting to death the deeds of the old dead man, is that a one time event or a continual event? If he's dead, what deeds are there left to put to death?

Also, if it's not too personal, one of my sons would like to know if you ever have any sinful thoughts?

Bryan Davis said...

Revan,

Thank you for your question.

While I welcome comments that disagree with mine, we are continuing on a tangent that is drifting away from the main post. You, of course, didn't start that drift, but I will close it off after this comment.

Regarding Romans 8:13, the Greek doesn't allow us to say for certain if this is a continuing action or a single action. The present tense allows for either, and we could get into a long debate about that, but this isn't the place, and it's not truly relevant.

Why? Because, for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't really matter. A deed of the flesh might be to lust. Putting it to death would be not lusting. Whether we put it to death once or continually, we still don't lust. If we ever lust at all, then we haven't put it to death, and we are not putting it to death.

So, putting to death the deeds of the flesh means that we don't sin. That seems pretty straightforward to me.

Another reason this nuance doesn't matter is that this isn't framed as a command but rather as an identifying quality that tells us who is and who isn't a true believer.

In other words, Paul isn't commanding us to put to death the deeds of the body. That is a given for a true Christian. He is saying that if we put them to death, then we will live. If we live by the flesh, then we will die. So, the person who puts them to death (i.e. doesn't sin) is the true believer.

Thus, his conclusion follows: "For all who are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God." Paul has established a way to know who is and who isn't a son of God. The one who doesn't do the deeds of the flesh (doesn't sin) is a son of God.

Regarding your son's question, before I became a Christian, I had many sinful thoughts, but I no longer have them, thanks be to God for giving me the power to overcome that. The God who gives us the power to overcome all temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13) is the same God who cleanses our thoughts as well.

Regarding future comments on this particular blog post, I ask that everyone focus on the main topic. So far, no one has refuted the fact that the Bible says that being holy is reachable. The Deuteronomy passage states that precisely and emphatically, and surely New Covenant Christians are even more able to reach it.

The Harris brothers state that being holy is unreachable. Therefore, their teaching contradicts Scripture.

They also say that all Christians are sinful, yet they provided no proof, and no one here has either.

Because of these two alarming errors, the book could well lead readers to a false sense of security regarding their spiritual condition. That would be truly harmful.

Thank you all for returning to the topic at hand.

Mrs. Wright said...

I apologize for posting my last comment under my son's username, Revan.

Since your review focused on the subject of holiness, I believed my comment and the comments of others here to be relevant. It has certainly brought some interesting Biblical discussion in my home today.

Bryan Davis said...

Mrs. Wright, your questions are certainly relevant, but, as you can imagine, if we continue the discussion by examining all possible relevant passages, we could go on for weeks, and that really isn't a good idea for this blog. That's why I want to return to the focus of the post.

If you want to continue by email, feel free to write to me bryan (at) dragonsinourmidst (dot) com. Of course, replace the words in parentheses with the appropriate symbols.

Caleb said...

I would like to come at this from a slightly different angle.

I believe, Mr. Davis, (correct me if I'm wrong) that you are saying it is possible for a Christian to achieve a holy life THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, rather than through our own human power.

It is God's eternal love and power, not our own strength of will, that cleanses us of our sin and makes us holy.
I have no arguments there.

Yet I do have a question. Based on your view of Scripture, is a Christian who sins irrevocably cut off from the presence of God, or can there be forgiveness for him/her?

I agree that we are called to live holy lives. I believe that holiness comes from the one is Most Holy. I do not believe that we are necessarily called to live PERFECT lives.
I'll stop there before I dig myself into a hole I can't find the Scripture to get out of.

Thank you for your time.

Bryan Davis said...

Caleb,

I appreciate your thoughtful question.

If not for the Holy Spirit, I would not be able to do anything, as the Bible says, apart from Him we can do nothing. Yet, we can do all things through Him.

Regarding being holy and being perfect. If by "perfect" you mean never making a math error, forgetting what day it is, unintentionally hurting someone's feelings, then, no, we are not expected to do that. We are, however, expected to live without sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, that is within reach.

Regarding the state of a "Christian who sins," in my mind, I don't understand why a real Christian would do that, so your question appears to be a hypothetical. Still, the Bible addresses this hypothetical question in Hebrews 10:26 and 27.

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries.

I will leave my answer in the hands of that passage.

Since we're drifting again on the tangent, I'll bring it back again to the post topic. Here again is the bottom line. The Bible says obeying all of God's commands is within reach, and that would include being holy, whatever that might mean. The Harris brothers say being holy is not reachable. They contradict a crucial biblical doctrine and potentially endanger readers.

I think the case is closed.

I want to avoid using this comment forum to delve further into details about my beliefs concerning holiness, so people can email me for clarification. If anyone wants to pursue the issues I have with the book, please feel free to comment.

cherub's grip said...

i remember this being a subject in the message forums.
I also remember Mr. Davis saying something to the effect of, "If you were to ask the authors about this, if you were to ask them if all Christians were sinners, then they would 'yes'."*
i actually askedthem this question in an email. sadly, i do not have a reply from them, and it has been about a month since i sent the letter.
This book does seem to have very good qualities to it, but because of these two quotes, i dont think im ever going to read it....
*if this quote if completely wrong, i apologize, i was trying to remember it from so long ago.

Princess Jasmine Geo said...

Mr. Davis-
I am a Catholic and as you probably know, that is a branch of christianity. I am not ashamed to say that I probably sin (unintentionally) on a daily basis.
However, in catholicisim, we have reconciliation, in which we confess our sins and open our hearts to God and pray for forgiveness. I feel like I am a plate. For every sin, a new crumb is added to me until I become covered with grime and filth. I stay that way until I ask for forgiveness and am wiped clean again. Almost every plate is dirtied and cleaned over again. We are God's sheep and sometimes we go astray. He is always there to bring us back again. If you are saying we become sinless when we accept Christ into our hearts, yet I am still sinful, does that mean I am not really saved?

Bryan Davis said...

I am getting several comments that don't relate to the topic of the blog post, so I have been rejecting them.

One in particular was very distressing. It expressed strong disagreement, though it provided not a shred of Scripture to back up the disagreement. Not only that, it made thinly-veiled accusations against my character.

Please, my friends, if you want to disagree with me about the doctrines of holiness, then feel free to do so. I understand. I am in a very small minority.

But, I beseech you, do so with Scripture and not with emotional arguments, experiential anecdotes, or personal attacks. It just doesn't help matters.

Also, if you want to discuss holiness, and your point doesn't relate to the book I reviewed or my issues with it, then please email me. My address is at the end of the main post.

But feel free to post comments that do relate to this post.

Thank you.

Bryan Davis said...

Princess Jasmine,

My wife was raised Catholic, so we are familiar with your experiences and what you have been taught.

Please email me so we can discuss your questions. bryan (at) dragonsinourmidst (dot) com.

caleb herman said...

dear mr. davis
this is an interesting question can man be holy and sinless? on his own the answer is a resounding NO. but through god all things are possible.
i dont think perfection is about having a big plan for the future. to me its about the here and now its about weather i chose to trust god or sin with each choice that comes my way. so the question is not can you be perfect you whole life its can you be perfect right now. and the thing about god is that he fixes it to where the answers always yes.

sorry if i wandered off subject a bit

Kriegel said...

I didn't know Mrs. Davis was raised Catholic. Learn something new every day, as the cliche goes. Anyway...

I've not read the book yet, so my comments are limited here. There will probably be much more to say once that's done.

If the authors say that it is impossible for Christians to reach God's standard for holiness, that is indeed troubling. Because the Bible contradicts that. 1 John is filled with evidence that Christians don't sin. And the author of Hebrews said what would happen if a Christian sinned. The consequence is not pretty.

I wonder...Since God has commanded us to be holy ("Be holy, as I am holy"), wouldn't it be absurd to say that His command is impossible to follow? Any effort to make that claim sounds like a subtle attempt to excuse sin.

Of course, the Christian's sinless life does not originate with himself. The ability comes through the Spirit.

What greater testimony is there than a life of holiness? And these authors want to brush it aside?

Not good at all.