A question and response episode on the biblical theme of holiness
We’ve gotten requests to take the live Q+Rs on our YouTube channel and put them here on our podcast. This is our Q+R on Holiness.
You can view the original video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqDBCl-5C4c as well as our Holiness theme video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9vn5UvsHvM Enjoy!
Here’s a list of questions discussed along with their timestamps.
In the Bible, does holiness mean “perfection” or does it just mean separated and cut off from? (4:05) Moses and Joshua have encounters with God on “holy ground” but if God is always present in all of creation, isn’t all ground holy all the time? (15:02) In the New Testament, is the focus on holiness a call to moral purity? What is the difference between ritual and moral purity? (18:28) Does holiness only have to do with separation of heart? Or separation of lifestyles? (29:23) Since God’s holiness is dangerous, how were people in Genesis able to interact with God before the laws were given? (33:05) John says God is love, but Isaiah says God is holy holy holy. Is this a contradiction? (37:50)
Show Music: Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music
Podcast Date: February 18, 2016
Speakers in the audio file:
Jon: Hey, this is Jon from The Bible Project. Today, we're going to release another
question and response episode that we did on YouTube here on the podcast so that
you can listen to it and enjoy it without watching a YouTube video. This question
and response was on the topic of holiness.
Some of the questions we answered were, does holiness mean “perfection"? How
could some ground be holy ground like Moses and Joshua encountered in the Bible
when God is everywhere? Shouldn't everywhere be holy? In the New Testament is
the focus on holiness, mainly moral purity. Since God's holiness is dangerous, how
are people in Genesis able to interact with God? John says, "God is love" but Isaiah
says, "God is holy, holy, holy." Is this a contradiction?
Let's jump into all of these questions. Looking forward to it? Here we go.
Jon: So we're going to talk about holiness today. That's why we got this poster.
Jon: We're going to talk about this idea of God's holiness and what is this sun with circles
around it mean. If you've watched the video you know what that means. We're going
to answer your questions which are coming in. Keep sending us, live chatting your
questions and we'll look at those.
Tim: I'm really happy with it. Holiness is one of the biblical religious words that nobody
uses the word except religious people, or about religious people.
Jon: Oh, it's a negative thing.
Tim: "He thinks he's holier than thou," is a phrase that many nonreligious people might
use to kind of make fun of religious people. But the biblical concept itself is just
completely foreign. Unfortunately, I think for most religious people, it gets to reduce
to moral goodness, which is why we started to think about.
Jon: That's what I think about when I think about being holy. So when Jesus says, "Be
holy, as God is holy"...Did he say that?
Tim: Well he said, "Be complete or perfect."
Jon: But Jesus says we're holy, right?
Tim: Peter in his letter says, "Be holy as God is holy." He's quoting a line from Leviticus.
Tim: Yeah. It's in the Bible.
Jon: Jesus doesn't say, "Be holy?" He doesn't use the word "holy?"
Tim: He uses the word "pure" and "impure" to talk about foods and then the state of
people heart. But holiness off the top of my head, a teaching of Jesus where it says,
Jon: He says, "Be perfect?" That's what I'm thinking of.
Tim: He said, "Be perfect," in the New International Version translation. "Be perfect as
your heavenly Father."
Jon: And that's not the word "holy."
Jon: Different word?
Tim: Different word.
Jon: But regardless, Peter says, "Be holy." He's quoting from Leviticus. Growing up in the
church, to me, that meant be a good person, don't do lame things. And that's being
holy. It is moral purity.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. With most of biblical concepts, usually in the popular imagination,
there's some truth reflecting what the Bible says about it. But it's usually a half-truths
or it's a really reduced version of it. And so common assumptions about what
holiness is, there's a good example of that where it's such a big, huge, rich idea in
Moral goodness is one piece of it, but it's a piece that only comes and you can really
only understand what it is if you get the whole big story and idea around it.
Jon: Well, Shawn Horton actually has a question that will help to that.
Jon: Shawn Horton asks, "In the Bible, does the idea of holiness mean perfection or does
it just mean separated, cut apart from?" I've heard that before growing up in the
church that holiness means being set apart.
Tim: That's the most basic meaning of the word. In Hebrew, three-quarters of the Bible,
the word's "kadosh" for holiness. So that's the main one we're operating with. The
idea at its core, yes, it means to be distinct or unique from, set apart. Something that
set apart. So that's where we actually began the video was with this metaphor of the
sun, because that, you know...I don't know.
Jon: The sun?
Tim: Yeah, the sun.
Jon: This is a sun?
Tim: Holiness can refer to all kinds of things in the Bible. It can refer to a day on the
calendar, a room, a space, certain kinds of people. Forks can be holy. But
why is something holy? Something holy in the Bible always, because it's in some
close relationship to God.
And so, anything that's holy, its holiness is derivative. It's set apart because it's
connected closely to God, who is the ultimate holy unique one of a kind of set apart
being. There is a place in the Old Testament where all of that gets condensed into a
really helpful place. We made it a centerpiece of the video - That's the prophet Isaiah
has a vision of God's throne room.
He hears these angelic creatures screaming out that God is kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
He's holy, holy, holy. Then those creatures explain what that means. They say that
the whole earth, all of creation is filled up with God's kavod. With His glory. So
there's a lot of concepts overlapping here. But it's God's role as creator. So God is
the one and only being with power and creativity to make everything that is so that
creation is a testament to God's honor, and glory, and goodness. And so, what is it
that makes God kadosh?
Jon: What makes Him set apart?
Tim: He is the Creator.
Jon: Yeah. Like no one else in the planet, or in the universe that we know of could create
Tim: Yeah. To live in the universe is to be a created thing.
Jon: A created thing?
Jon: So everything has something in common, which is we've all been created?
Jon: Except for God. So that sets them apart.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: Which is really significant.
Tim: That's right. So what's important about that vision of Isaiah is it's giving us the core
grounding idea of what it means for God to be holy. He's set apart His other from all
created things as the author and creator of all of life. So that's the core idea. And so
that's good. God's holiness is good. We exist because of it. It's his power and
Jon: Let me bring it back to the sun. The sun's a good metaphor because there's only one
sun in our solar system.
Jon: And so it's unique. It's only one. But it's unique also because it's emanating an
energy that gives the ability for life.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: And so the metaphor breaks down, but it's not perfect metaphor.
Tim: It's not perfect, but it's a good one.
Jon: But the same way the sun creates life, the originator of life's...it's not really the
originator, but the source of life—
Tim: The source of life.
Jon: The source of life. It sustains life here. No sun, we are gone. Right? I don't know how
We would all disappear. It would take seven minutes for us to notice the sunlight
was gone because that's how long it takes here. Anyways
Tim: Oh, that's a good one.
Jon: That's how God is Holy. So let me ask you then. How are we supposed to be holy?
What does that mean? We can't be a creator, originator, sustainer of life like God. So
what does that mean?
Tim: The idea of holiness then is that for something to be wholly like in the Bible and
Israel, it means for somebody to have some kind of special relationship with the
Creator God that brings you into proximity of God's presence. And that gets
concentrated in all of the ideas around template in the Bible.
The temples are this unique place where the one and only Holy God takes up the
unique and special kind of residence. And if you want to go close to the temple
where God's holy presence is, you can't just walk in there as if it's any other place.
You have to acknowledge its uniqueness.
Just like you would probably wear a suit if you got invited to have dinner with the
president or something like that. I never wear suits. I hate wearing suits. I think they
are the most oppressive clothing in the world. But I would wear a suit to
acknowledge the unique status, the holy status—
Jon: Would you wear a tie?
Tim: Totally. Wouldn't you?
Jon: It's a little baller just to kind of have a collar open.
Tim: Yeah, no dude, you don't pull any creative stuff when you have dinner with the
President. So it's the same idea. I acknowledge God's uniqueness by treating this
space as sacred holy. And so any person who goes into that space, the clothes that
you wear, the state of being that you're in, all of that has to be unique.
Jon: So when we're called to be holy in Leviticus when the ancient Israelites were told to
be holy, that was them not trying to be like God and create universes. It was to put
themselves in a state in which they can respect and honor God's holiness.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: So it's different for human to be holy than for God to be holy?
Tim: Yeah. Human holiness is always derivative. It's a response to—
Jon: Derivative. Explain what that means.
Tim: It means God is the source of holiness and if I want to become holy, it's by honoring
and acknowledging God is the Creator and author of life, and I'm going to
disassociate myself from anything that is anti-life. So Israel had a whole set of
cultural symbols to this that the Book of Leviticus talks about. So if you've touched
dead bodies or reproductive fluids or blood or mold, you can't just waltz into the
temple courtyards. That is wrong.
It's not wrong to have touched those things and be impure. What's wrong is to be in
an impure state and waltz into holiness.
Jon: I just want to make sure I'm really clear on this. For God to be holy, he's uniquely the
creator, sustainer of life.
Jon: For us to be holy means something different. Which is yes we are putting ourselves
in a position that honors God status of creator and sustainer of life so that we can
then connect with God in some way.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. The idea of the temple is if I want to enter into the closest space
and proximity to God's holiness I need to acknowledge it in a special way, become
holy by shedding any associations with death or mortality and corruption.
Jon: I feel like it's kind of confusing as the same word.
Tim: What's that?
Jon: For me, to be holy, God is holy, I'm holy.
Tim: That's interesting.
Jon: Because God's holy and then I'm disrespecting that holiness by being pure, right?
Tim: Well, correct. There are different words for it. Purity or cleanness is about... but when
I put myself in a state of purity or cleanness, I am becoming holy.
Tim: Sharing in God, that's how. That's the core ideas to be set apart. A priest in the Bible
is somebody who is set apart to live uniquely near God's presence and work in it,
and so on. Like the incense bowls, and all of those things are holy. There's a certain
kind of holy oil that's burning in the incense burner in the temple and you can't
make that oil for your own home.
Jon: It's set apart, be apart.
Tim: It's set apart. That's the idea. So there you go. That's the core idea is set apart. To be
in the presence of the one who is ultimately set apart as the author and creator of all
of life, that's the core idea of holiness. Which then in the video we create a storyline
out of by introducing a plot conflict.
Jon: Which is?
Tim: Which is a way of thinking about the story of the Bible, that God is the author and
creator of all of life.
Jon: And we need to respect that?
Tim: That's right. But humans have done something to each other, and to our world that
have corrupted it.
Jon: And disrespects it.
Tim: And disrespects God's holiness. And so, paradoxically, God's holiness, which is good,
and the source of all life actually becomes a threat.
Jon: Becomes dangerous.
Tim: Dangerous. And that's why...
Tim: ...the sun is great. The sun makes everything grow.
Jon: It's beautiful. But get too close to it and it's going to destroy you.
Tim: Or spend the day at the lake, at the beach without a sunscreen on and the sun will
wound you, like hurt you. And not because the sun is bad, it's just because the sun is
what it is.
Jon: The sun is so good.
Tim: It's so unique and holy and powerful, its power and goodness are dangerous to me
as a mortal creature.
Jon: Yeah, it's a great metaphor.
Tim: So sunscreen is how you become holy. That's how we become holy.
Jon: Now, what's interesting about the metaphor is the sun is...Well, let's talk about
temples. Because temples were specific place you had to go to experience God's
holiness in a very specific tangible...You wouldn't experience God's holiness in your
house in the same way as the temple.
However, we also know that God is everywhere. God's presence is everywhere. So
Dennis, ask the question this way. "Moses and Joshua have encounters with God in
"holy ground," - holy because God's presence is there. But if God's presence is
everywhere, are we always on holy ground?" Talk to me about why is there specific
places like temples where God's presence is particularly present in holiness but as
Christians we believe that God's everywhere?
Tim: Yeah, it's a good point. The biblical authors acknowledge that. Genesis 1 is depicting
all of creation as a temple, as sacred space. That's another topic. But that is how
Genesis 1 with its seven-day framework is depicting all of the cosmos as a temple.
But there are other places where that's acknowledged. Isaiah 6, the vision, all of
creation is God's handiwork. Psalm 139, David's like, "Where can I go and not be in
God's presence? I go up to heaven, I go down to the depths of the sea." So there is a
sense in which God's holiness and presence permeates all of creation that's true. So
all ground is holy ground in that sense.
But then there are moments and places in the story of the Bible where God's
presence will become more tangible. We struggle for vocabulary here, but more
present, or more tangible, then at other places and moments. And that's what Jacob
encounters in this dream in the middle of the field. That's what Moses encounters in
the burning bush.
And when God's presence shows up, usually it's traumatic, usually, it's some kind of
crazy natural phenomenon associated with a fire cloud and thunder and lightning.
So that's why the bush is on fire for Moses. There you go.
I don't know what else to say other than that's how the Bible depicts God's unique
holy presence showing up in specific places. And so, then what's happening in the
burning bush is then just a microcosm of what's happening in the whole story of
God's whole universe? It's a good point. If God's whole universe is holy, then people
who corrupt it don't really deserve to be there. They should be removed.
But God is committed to sharing His holy space with people even though they're
corrupt. So how is God going to reconcile that out of squared to make that happen?
And that is one way of thinking about the storyline of the whole Bible is how a holy
God is going to share his holy creation with corrupt screwed up human beings
So the storyline of what happens with the temple in Israel becomes like a little
microcosm - the test case of what God wants to do with all of creation. I don't know
if that makes any sense.
Jon: Yeah. I'm trying to feed off of what people are talking about on the live stream a
little bit too. Garen Forsyth, second in the bottom there. "I get the whole ceremonial
purity thing. How does moral purity fit into this idea of holiness? Does the New
Testaments call to be holy refer primarily to moral purity?"
Again, I think I get so stuck thinking holiness that just means being morally pure and
so we have to take a step back first and say, "Well, okay, holiness means God's
unique position as a creator and sustainer, but for me to interact and respect God's
holiness for the Israelites, it meant two separate things or two different categories.
Tim: Yeah, that we talked about in the video. There's ritual purity and impurity and then
Jon: So ritual purity is the things I should touch and not touch and that kind of stuff.
Tim: Yeah. And the core symbol under those rituals is God is the author of all life. And if I
want to live in proximity and closeness to that being - which is who doesn't want
that? It's good - then I need to disassociate myself from these things that are
associated with death.
Jon: And us as modern non-Israelite followers of Jesus, we don't have that category.
Tim: Except for - we talked about this in Leviticus - brushing your teeth in the bathroom.
Jon: Yeah, we have an idea of appropriate or inappropriate—
Tim: The bathroom is a holy space in people's homes.
Jon: A holy space?
Tim: It's holy.
Jon: It's set apart. And you don't eat in the bathroom.
Tim: It's unique and set apart for showering and evacuating your body of waste.
Therefore, if you're going to get the waste out of your body in that room, you don't
put food in your bathroom.
Jon: So we don't have a category.
Tim: Totally irrational.
Jon: But what I'm saying is we don't live that way. When we go to church, we don't think
like, "Wait. Did I touch a dead body?”
Tim: Maybe my grandfather did. He had this thing about never wearing hats in church?
Jon: Sure. Okay.
Tim: When I was a teenager, I were a lot of baseball hats.
Jon: You don't cuss at church. There are some things you just don't do in church. So
that's ritual. That's ritual things you do, don't do. And one of the things that you
talked about was that it's not wrong to touch a dead body. That's not a sinful issue.
It's not like, "Did you screw up?" It's just a ritual practice back to respect the space.
Tim: What's wrong or sinful is to be in that ritually impure state and then just waltz into
the temple, even though that's breaking the rules of what God asked me to do.
Jon: But then there's also moral purity.
Tim: Yeah. What happens in Leviticus specifically then is that language of pure and
impure or holy and unholy, that gets applied to moral behavior. So Israel was
supposed to do the ritual purity stuff but they were also supposed to be pure in
their moral behavior. That is a way that holiness can refer to moral goodness in the
So with regard to justice and business practices, treatment of the poor with sexual
integrity, these were always that Israel was to be set up holy and set apart from the
Canaanites is how its framed in Leviticus 18, 19, and 20. What morally corrupt
behavior does is it introduces more evil that creates more relational conflict and
death. It releases that into the God's good world, which defiles God's world. That
whole language of defiling or making impure.
If I bring a corpse into a temple, I've made it impure. If I go sleep with my neighbor's
wife and steal his donkey, living in the land of Israel, which I say is, you know, I'm
part of God's holy people, what I've done is unleashed corruption and death and
relational fracture into God's world. And so that is defiling the land. It's defiling
myself and that person. That's where the language of moral purity comes into play.
Jon: So there are two different kinds of purity in a way. Now, is there a distinction? In the
Old Testament, it talks about both. In the New Testament...I mean, let's just look at 1
Peter because first Peter, he says, "Therefore, with minds alert, fully sober, set your
hope and grace to be brought to you in Jesus Christ is revealed as coming. As
obedient children don't conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in
ignorance." Evil desires, so like bad things. Not like, "Should I touch a dead body or
not." But like, "Should I punch that guy in the face or not?"
Tim: Yeah. Should I cheat my neighbor?
Jon: So don't conform to evil desires, but just as he who called you is holy so be holy in
all you do. In Paul, it is written, "be holy, because I'm holy." And that's him quoting
Tim: Quoting the book of Leviticus.
Jon: It seems like he's drawing a parallel between "don't punch your neighbor in the face,
don't be immoral and being holy." He conflates the two.
Tim: That's correct. And he's being faithful to the book of Leviticus when he does that.
Jon: Well, when Leviticus, "oh, that's one sense of being holy. The other sense is don't
touch dead bodies"...
Tim: That's right.
Jon: But he's not talking about whether or not you touched dead bodies.
Tim: No. One of the ways the apostles, the earliest followers of Jesus worked out is that
Jesus was the very embodiment of God's holiness. And so, in Jesus and the gift of
the Spirit to his followers out in the world is that all creation is now truly God's holy
Jon: It's no longer just the temple.
Tim: God holy space isn't limited to one geographic place because of Jesus and the spirit.
And so, that's why in 1 Peter, before then he talks about the church - Jesus' followers
as the temple, as being the stones under this temple.
And so, if we are the temple as Jesus followers and if we are the priesthood who
serves in the temple, what kind of behavior is appropriate? Then he quotes Leviticus
being holy. Which for ritual purity then it doesn't apply. That was the part of the
story specific to Israel, living in the land, with the priesthood serving in the temple.
But the early Christians, Jesus Himself said that he came as the fulfillment of all of
those realities. But the moral purity is about being human. It's about a way of life
that fits with the grain of God's good world. It's about a way of life that brings and
And so behaviors that destroy relationships, behaviors that distort my humanity, that
defile someone else's dignity as an image of God, human, those are impure
behaviors. That's how the language of holiness gets applied to sin and injustice and
that kind of thing.
Jon: So there isn't a separate concept of holiness between Old Testament and New
Testament. Same concept.
Tim: Same concept.
Jon: But in the New Testament, when they say, "Be holy," no longer is it really a ritual
thing anymore, because there's no temple anymore. And we are the temple and
Jesus is the temple and everywhere is God's presence.
Tim: Yeah. Here's the game. I think, in the New Testament, moral purity, holiness does
refer mostly to moral goodness. But why? And what's underneath that? What's
underneath it is this concept of life and death. That behavior that creates goodness
and life and beauty, that is appropriate behavior for people who live in the universe
of a holy God. Behavior that destroys relationships, that distorts my own humanity,
this is behavior that causes death in God's good world. And so it's inappropriate.
And so, it takes holiness and it puts it into the framework of a much larger story. Not
just like, "Be a good person. That's the bad person."
Jon: "Be a good person. Check off this list of things. Do the right thing because you're
supposed to do the right thing." And it just becomes rote. It's like, "Why?" But
instead, this more captivating picture of "live a life that celebrates God's creativity
and God's goodness, and don't live a life that fights against it and creates death.
And so by me having an evil desire and giving into that evil desire is playing into this
world of death.
Tim: Yeah. Speaking as a pastor, we all know what those...when we each have a decision,
and we know it, we know if I say this or do this, that person is going to be bummed,
it’s selfish, they're going to be hurt, but I don't want to do it. Well, actually, I do want
to do." And then you do it. And then you have this relational rift, you've hurt
somebody, you've acted in a way that actually in the long term is going to be
destructive for you, but we do it anyway.
On a visceral level, we know that when we behave in these destructive ways, we're
participating in death and in subhuman ways of behaving. That's what this is about.
It's that holiness is actually the way that I'm becoming truly human, because I'm
becoming like the author of all of life, and participating in love and beauty and
So this is a very, very powerful concept that gets trivialized, I think when we only
think about holiness as just be a good person. This is about what it means to really
be a human who lives in a world made by the holy and good God.
Jon: Here's another question. Lamide King. "Does holiness have to do with just a
separation of heart or also a separation of lifestyle?" I think embedded in this
question is knowing that holiness means being set apart. So when we're holy, are we
trying to separate ourselves? Because that's something that we talked about at the
church of being a city on a hill, being set apart so when people look at you, and the
way that you are living, they see God in that.
Is that why to be holy is just to go, "Okay, well, I'm going to be different than the
rest of this world, and in some way now I'm separated." There's almost like a caste
system now in a way of like, "You're unholy, I'm holy."
Tim: In Leviticus right on through the New Testament, there are some things that Israel
and then followers of Jesus were to not do to set themselves apart from the culture
around them. And that was one way of being holy. So the main ones highlighted,
actually, in the Old and New Testaments is what God's people do with money, what
they don't do with money, and what they don't do with sex. There's something
about sex and money that tell the truth about a person's ultimate value system.
So Israel was to be a nation known for extreme generosity and care for their poor
and vulnerable and they were to be a nation of people committed to monogamous
covenant relationships as the only place where people have sex in to reproduce
other humans in the context of covenant families.
So that set Israel apart, it sets the followers of Jesus apart in the first century, and the
21st century still today. And that's because there are things that humans do with
money that are extremely destructive. I don't think I need to make an argument for
that. There are things that people do with sex that are very destructive. And God's
people are not to participate in that.
But then on the flip side, there are things that God's people are to do, not just not
do, but they are to do them because, and that will also set them apart. So if they're
not to be unjust, or corrupt with money, they are to...Like generosity for the poor.
Generosity to the poor is to set apart God's people in the Old Testament and the
That's a good example. That's something God's people do that sets them apart,
whereas sex and corruption and theft and so on with money, those are all ways that
you don't do something. Does that make any sense?
Jon: Yeah. So there is embedded into being holy is being separated because to do these
things, it's going to separate you from...
Tim: Yeah. Lamide, it's more than just a heart disposition. It's a way of life.
Jon: It is a lifestyle.
Tim: God's people are set apart as a way of life by things that they don't do that
everybody else is doing and by things that they do that no one else is doing. That's
how God's people mark out themselves as holy.
Tim: Yeah, good question. Arelia D, you've asked great questions in the last couple of
months. You raised an issue about holiness in the book of Genesis specifically. "Since
God's holiness is dangerous in a good way—
Jon: What thing ever dangerous in a good way?
Jon: What's a quote from—
Tim: Oh, yes. Is he safe? I forget—
Jon: He's not safe but he's good.
Tim: Is he a tamed lion? No, he's not timed lion, but he's good.
Tim: Good quotable. Very similar. So since God's holiness is dangerous, how are people in
Genesis able to interact with God before the laws about ritual purity were given. It's
interesting. Here's what's interesting is that you're right.
Abraham, for example, is depicted as just by hanging out with God. The stories are
condensed from decades of his life. And there's just actually a handful of times. But
very rarely that he had these conversations with God. But he did. Like Genesis 15,
God shows up in a flaming appearance.
Jon: And he didn't have to make special sacrifice? He didn't have to wash his body.
Tim: Well, he did have to sacrifice some animals.
Tim: And they have this covenant-making ceremony where he cuts the animals in half.
And then he passes out on the ground. Interesting story. I think the point, it's a good
question like, "Why wasn't Abraham incinerated? Or why didn't he have to do what
There's a point the Torah is trying to make about how God related to Abraham. It
was a very simple, natural, intimate relationship that in that story in Genesis 15, the
author describes the Abraham's posture towards God was that of faith or trust. And
so the Torah is portraying Abraham is this model of what a relationship with God
and looks like.
It's a day to day life interaction, conversing with God along the way, and then unique
moments and milestones where God interacts with Abraham. Abraham's posture is
just open handed faith and trust. That's in contrast with Moses who had the great
privilege of getting closer to the sun, so to speak, and Moses who had this unique
privileged position to be right close to God's holy presence that doesn't trust God.
That's what that strange story in the book of Numbers where he strikes the rock
instead of speaking to it that God says, "Yeah, you don't trust me, Moses." And so
the Torah is giving us two different paradigms of how to relate to God. Abraham
who related to God simply on the basis of faith and trust and then Moses who didn't
trust even though he had special access to God's presence.
To go all the way back to your question, Arelia is that the way that the story of the
Torah works it's showing the Abraham was someone who if the temple existed could
have walked right in. Because of his trust and faith in God's character, he was
somebody who could be in God's presence but not have to do the rigmarole.
Jon: He could have just walked straight in?
Tim: I think that's how the Torah presents it. Yeah.
Jon: He could have ignored all the other stuff?
Tim: We're not to that point in the story. But it is to portray, here's Moses who could go
into God's presence and he doesn't trust God. And then you have Abraham who
didn't need any of that. Which is why the author of the Torah—
Jon: But Abraham he wouldn't have just walked in. He would have gone through the—
Tim: Oh, that's true. That's right. Exactly. But he didn't have to.
Jon: He didn't have to. It's interesting.
Tim: And so that's a part of the way the Torah is emphasizing the faith theme that the
ideal way to relate to God in the Torah is that you will naturally obey God's laws if
you live a life of faith and trust. I don't know if that really helps you Arelia but it taps
into a really important way.
John Sailhamer, his incredible book on the Pentateuch, "The Pentateuch as
Narrative" explorers this in a really helpful way. There you go.
Tim: Robin Rimple asked a question I thought would start a cool conversation. "John in
his letters in the New Testament says that God is love, whereas in Isaiah and other
places, we hear that God is holy, holy, holy. Is this a contradiction or how are those
Jon: How could a God who is so holy that it's dangerous to humans, also be love?
Tim: I was trying to think. These words are different ways of talking about aspects of
God's character. It's not that God is either love or holiness. Those are both ways of
talking about the core of God's being just like for you to be wise and good and
loving, and just...If I said, "Jon is love, but I could also say Jon is just or Jon is fair, or
Jon: We wouldn't say that in English, "Jon is love." But you wouldn't say Jon is Just."
Tim: You could say John is loving.
Jon: John is loving. Is that what that means when it says God is love, God is loving?
Tim: John's making a larger claim. I think he's saying the ultimate...if you want to define
the very essence of God's being that motivates everything God does, it's love.
Jon: So Love is the motivation, but holiness it's not a motivation.
Tim: It's almost like the essence of God's nature.
Jon: It's His nature.
Tim: His nature is being the unique one and only set apart.
Jon: That's helpful because then it complimentary. I mean, my nature is just I'm a
Homosapien and I've got whatever my needs and desires and whatever. That's my
nature. God's nature is the creator and sustainer of life. And we will call that holiness.
My motivation might be I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm angry I want money, whatever
my motivation is, or I want friends or I want whatever. God's motivation is love.
Tim: Correct. Yes. Because a holy God could act in all kinds of different ways.
Jon: Oh, yeah.
Tim: A God who's truly holy and set apart from death—
Jon: Doesn't have to be loving.
Tim: He doesn't have to be loving. But Holy God could wipe us out for everything that
we've done to His world and to each other, and He would be good and just in doing
it, but He wouldn't be loving. So love is something about the holy God's posture to
people who are screwed up. The reason John says that is because, in Jesus, the Holy
God is revealed as a God of love.
You could say that from our best vantage point they are in tension with each other,
because we think will either you're going to be holy and eradicate death and evil, or
you're going to be loving, which is to forgive your enemies. And the story of the
Bible is a revelation of how God is both of those perfectly.
Jon: I'm almost realizing it was a really great question from Robin because the way she's
saying is there's a contradiction. But it's not a contradiction, but there is tension. And
that tension, if you explore that tension, that is in one way a filter you can think
about the entire story of the Bible is that tension. How does a holy God who's
motivated by love and wants to live with humans and to create with humans, how is
He going to do? How's that going to work?
Tim: Because God is committed that His Holiness permeates all of creation and all of
humanity. He's committed to that purpose for His creation. The question is, how will
He bring that about.
Jon: In a way that honors love.
Tim: Yeah. And so one way could be to, you know, wipe everybody out. Just like if he flew
a rocket to the sun it would destroy it.
Jon: Which He kind of did.
Tim: And so that's what we tried to do in the video. The way that Jesus reversed what you
would think a holy God would do, but in fact, what this holy God wants to do is
unleash His holiness into the world in a way that it transforms and heals people
rather than destroys them. So you're right. It's a way of thinking about the storyline
of whole Bible.
Which is why in the book of Isaiah, there's this vision of God's holy presence. Holy,
holy, holy. And so Isaiah, he's freaked out because he's like, "Oh, no, I'm in the
presence of the sun without sunscreen." But then what God actually does is come to
him with his holy presence and heal him of his moral corruption. Specifically, Isaiah is
he repents for it.
Jon: This is really hitting a nerve with people watching the chat because there's this
tension of like, well, what's going to win out? God's love or God's holiness? And then
Beats just Beats just wrote this. Beats on Beats, that's a great name. "Is God more
concerned with His Holiness than with His love? For example, is love the method and
holiness the priority?"
So if one had to win, which one will win? And in a way, this is another way to say like,
"How big is hell?" That's another way to talk about this.
Tim: Part of this is it's a way of...We didn't get to this in the video because it would add
another three minutes to it. It wasn't part of the purpose. But it's the way that the
cross fit sin to the storyline, because the death of Jesus becomes the way that God
justly deals with death and evil and corruption. He destroys it. He puts it to death by
taking that death into himself, through the death of Jesus.
Then in Jesus' resurrection from the dead, it's about life. It's Jesus being recreated to
be a part of the new holy creation. And so, the way that God's holiness and love
meet together is in the death and the resurrection of Jesus. So God does eradicate
evil from his world by punishing it justly. It's called the crucifixion. That's what
Christians believe about the cross. And that God did that instead of doing that to all
And so, even though there's a tension, I think part of the core Christian belief is that
in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God's holiness and love meet together
perfectly so that He can spread his holiness through Jesus to permeate all of his
The question after that is simply, for me, living post-Jesus, am I going to submit
myself to Jesus and what he did on my behalf, or would I rather not be a part of the
holy creation he's trying to make?
Jon: Yeah, resist it.
Tim: And if I resist it, then God will honor that choice? And here, we get into the Bible's
depiction of the existence - what it means to live in the contradictory...It's a
contradiction. It's living in a contradiction because I'm choosing not to participate in
the very thing that sustains my life and existence.
Jon: And you're choosing not to participate in the very thing that will one day permeate
all of creation.
Jon: So what's going to happen to you? Like you're fighting against something that can't
be defeated at this point.
Tim: That's why in the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the apostles, hell is not only a
future reality. It's something that I participate in and create now. That's why James
says that when you insult your...James chapter 3, that whole thing about the tongue,
he says, when we curse and insult other human beings, we unleash hell into God's
world. We defile people. We unleash death.
And so, the whole thing about the living dead and zombies in the New Testament,
you can live in a state of death right now or you can live in a state of holiness and
true life right now. Then whatever future destiny is all about, it's just following
through on the trajectory that person's already on in the present. That's why Peter
says, "Be holy, as God is holy." It's way of becoming truly alive. Wow. So have we got
on that tangent?
Tim: But you know, if anybody's interested I have up on my web website, timmakie.com a
four-hour set of lectures on heaven and hell and final judgments and so on, with
tons of notes. It was for me kind of concluding a few years of just intense reading on
all of that stuff in the Bible and trying to pull it together in some classes. That's free
online at timmakie.com. I really want that material to get turned into some of the
videos that we make one day.
Jon: Oh, really?
Jon: Is that on my list?
Tim: Well, when we get to creation, new creation. I think we talked about when we talked
about the Day of the Lord that we should probably do something on judgment or
final judgment. I think it's hit such a nerve is because the way that I was introduced
to Christianity and in most people, is it's the story of are you going to go to heaven
So that question is just so much a part of our psyche, is like, "Who's going to
heaven? Who's going to hell? How does that work?" And so we started talking about
these things like God's holiness, I start to think like, "Okay, cool, what does that have
to do with judgment?"
Tim: The Bible's way of telling the story is that God's committed to making all creation
holy again. And for people who don't want to participate in that new creation what
is their status? That is a way that's more faithful to the Bible to frame it than our
traditional ideas of where do you go after you die?
Jon: Thanks for listening to this podcast episode. We're really thrilled to be able to put
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