Archive | Questions and Answers

Did Jesus Have a Middle Name?

Did Jesus have a middle name? This is one of the five most frequently asked questions online regarding Jesus. Although we get into some deep theological issues on Parchment & Pen, it’s good to step back once-in-a-while and listen to the questions being asked by our society. Here’s a quick answer to this frequently asked question:

Jesus lived in first century Israel. People during that time were mainly given only a first name. Any additional names would be connected with their village and/or their immediate family. For instance, the apostle Paul (before his life change and subsequent name change) was named, “Saul of Tarsus”. Saul was his first name and Tarsus is the city he was from. The theory is there was probably only one well-known Saul from Tarsus. This naming convention works in a small city. It would not work calling someone “Bill of Chicago.” That wouldn’t be specific enough.

For other people their name came from their family lineage. The successor of Moses, Joshua, his official name in the Bible is “Joshua son of Nun.” Yes, his dad was actually named Nun. Be thankful, unless of course your name is Nun, if so I’m very sorry.
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How to Lose Your Influence in Theology

Here are a few ways that you increase your chances of diminishing your influence in the marketplace of ideas.

1. Be imbalanced: Militantly focus on a particular non-essential issue. Whether it be in defense of a particular Bible translation or a particular view of the end times, make it your purpose to push for the necessity of accepting something that is not part of the historic Christian faith. Oh, and be passionately relentless about it.

2. Overstate your case: Always use phrases such as, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard” or, “Nothing could be clearer.” That way, your audience knows you have never really studied the issue. While your goal is to distance a false position from one that is true, you have really just separated yourself from having a true impact.

3. Misrepresent your opponents: Often called a “straw man argument,” this is the case in which you represent your opponent in the worst possible light, bringing up their worst arguments, thus making their point of view very easy to dismantle.  Using this tactic indicates your fear of addressing your opponent’s actual position on an issue.

4. Obscure the options: Act as if your belief is the only viable option out there. Don’t ever let those under you know that there are others who disagree, or that other positions even exist. If you do, make it sound as if they are flat-earthers and preemptively poison the well, making them look really stupid. Continue Reading →

Why is God So Silent in My Life?

Mr. Patton,

I have been a believer for quite sometime – since I was eight. It’s a miracle, however, that I believe at all. I grew up in a Oneness Pentecostal home that was very legalistic and rigid. Since then I have changed a great deal in regard to my beliefs. I very much believe in the Trinity, justification by faith, etc. So you could say I’m pretty much orthodox now. But with all that said, I have been having a bit of trouble with my faith. I’m kinda having a hard time believing in God or praying to him because I just don’t see the point in it anymore because I feel like he doesn’t answer. In fact I feel as if it pointless because he isn’t here – right here, spatially – to speak with me. I dunno I just feel like with all that I have happening in my life a face to face relationship – a person to person to person conversation – is what I need from him. And I can’t have that. I mean it is as if God is a distant uncle to whom I send letters (prayers), and he sends a postcard. Is it enough to just say that God has spoken through his word so he doesn’t need to speak now? I don’t feel like it. Why couldn’t Jesus have just stayed here, albeit in a ubiquitous form? That way I could talk to him. I know he is the Father’s representative to man and for man so why not stay here where he can be physically accessible?


My friend,

Thanks so much for writing and for your honesty. Your thoughts, it might comfort you to know, are not uncommon. The problem you speak of is called the “hiddenness of God” in theological circles. Why is God so hidden? It is hard to know exactly why, but the fact of his hiddenness is something the Bible speaks to very clearly. In Acts 1 the angels say, “Why do you stare into heaven. . . He will come back just as you have seen him go.” In other words, you will not “see” him again until he comes back. Christ told his disciples in the upper room before his death that it is “better for you if I go because I will send the Comforter.” I often think “it is NOT better for you to go because I cannot see or hear the Holy Spirit.”

I believe that naked belief (i.e., without empirical experience) is what God calls on us to have right now. We do have to “limp” through this life without having seen God or Jesus, yet believe in him. I don’t have any perfectly sound theological reason why God is not more empirically evident in our lives (though I will give some thoughts below). My more charismatic friends would disagree, as you probably know. However, I have called and called to God to show himself to me. In my darkest times (and against my better theological judgement), I have groped for a sign of his presence, love, even his very existence! Angels, Jesus, a sound, or some type of miracle would be sufficient. I remember two years ago when I was going through my depression. I stayed up all night crying, sitting in my car in the garage yelling at God, asking him to just do something – anything! The silence at that time was deafening. It was painful. It hurt my feelings at a very deep level that the all-powerful God would not perform the simplest of tasks. I thought, “God, if you are so great and love me so much why are you so silent? Why now? Why when I am this depressed? Just do something!” Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged : Why is God so Hidden?

Join C. Michael Patton and Tim Kimberley as they discuss why God is not as emperically evident as we sometimes desire.

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  • What is the Witness of the Spirit and Why Don’t I Have it?

    What is the witness of the Spirit spoken of by Paul in Romans 8? This is something that I have not come to a definite conclusion on both exegetically or personally. Bare naked thoughts bring to mind some sort of subjective feeling that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers. Maybe a sort-of voice inside you that says at all times, “You are God’s child.” If that is what the witness of the Spirit is, I don’t think I have it.

    Paul speaks to the Romans:

    “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Rom 8:14-17)

    That was from the New American Standard. However, the NET Bible takes the dative a bit differently at a key point saying, “The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8:16; emphasis mine). However, most other translations elect the word “with.” Regardless, the Holy Spirit is in view here and there is a definite testimony which believers should have.

    Most of the time the connection sought here is between the cry of “Abba” and the witness of the Spirit. Certainly this should be kept in view, but my thoughts extend to the broader context which follows. The question is one of dependency. Hang with me here. Paul is often very hard to understand because of his syntax. (Translation: Paul gets excited and off track here and there.) I am not really saying that he is off track here, but when he uses the qualification “if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we might be glorified with Him,” it is hard to know what is the conditional referent here. In other words, we don’t get something if we don’t suffer with him. What is the something?

    I think the text allows us one of two answers:

    1) We don’t get salvation if we don’t suffer with him. This would take the condition to be dependent on the statement immediately preceding. We are heirs of Christ if we suffer with him. In other words, we are saved if we suffer with Christ. This could be the case and does not really present any theological problems as Christian suffering is presented as a norm for the Christian and, therefore, a sign of being God’s children. However, there is another option.

    2) The condition is relevant to the witness of the Spirit. In other words, Paul could be saying that we receive this witness (whatever it is—we have not gotten there yet) only if and when we suffer. If we were to take it this way, the syntax might be changed in this way: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ) if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Continue Reading →

    Are You Orthodox or Heretic?

    Well, this is quite a question. Are you orthodox or a heretic? Let me offer you my thoughts and then open this up for some discussion.

    The term orthodox can be defined in a few ways:

    1. Historic Christian Orthodoxy: This refers to the sine qua non (the “without which not”) of Christian belief. This belief is held, to paraphrase Augustine, “by all Christians, of all time, everywhere.” In other words, it is not limited to time or geographical region. Therefore, it would be found very early in some sort of articulated fashion, though not necessarily in formal document, in the early church. Historic orthodoxy did take a few centuries to articulate in thought and word. It is unthinkable that in the first few centuries Christians would have developed in their understanding beyond a seed form of the basics below. They were too busy trying to stay alive, legitimize themselves to hostile Jews and Romans,  and encourage the local congregations. These basics were handed down in tradition (the regula fide) and Scripture. Continue Reading →

    Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain: What Does it Really Mean?

    What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain? This is a question that might seem self-evident to most people in western society. Whether you are religious or not, you would not even hesitate with your answer, “It means to say G-D.” I am sure that there are more people that can answer this than there are who can list the ten commandments, name the Gospels, or tell you the difference between the New Testament and the Old Testament. With all the talk about cursing pastors and the evolution of swearing going on in the blogsphere, I thought that I would try to contribute once more to this discussion by asking the question “What does it really mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?”

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