Eating of the Tree of Life? Watch Out!

A strange new doctrine has emerged over the last decade to support the old dualism of everything being about my personal, subjective relationship with Jesus – to the exclusion of any transcendent, objective moral code or (in some extreme cases) even Scripture itself.

Choosing Moral Autonomy

The new doctrine goes like this:

God wanted us to eat of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, however, rebelled and chose instead to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life, they say, is Jesus (which I think is questionable, given that Jesus walked with Adam in the cool of the day and obviously was not a tree, but that’s not my point).

This new doctrine goes on to say that we should only want the subjective, relational attributes of Jesus and not let any objective concept of what is true, real and right get in the way. This is because, they say, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents things like morality, objective standards, Scripture, commandments (again, this is of dubious exegesis, but again, that’s not my point), and anything else that may contradict their feeling-driven experience of Jesus .

Like all great errors in Church history, this one has enough truth to be tempting. But truth out of context is deadly.

Let’s look at what the Bible actually says. (Oops, I hope that doesn’t offend anyone.)

The Sin of Autonomy

The sin committed by Adam and Eve was not in choosing some new, external standard of right and wrong over Jesus. Rather, it was choosing autonomy – the right to decide for themselves what is right and wrong – over the right of Jesus alone to define right and wrong.

In other words, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil did not create some oppressive burden rooted in a moral code from which Christ has now delivered us. Rather, it was humanity’s attempt to become autonomous moral agents who can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong – on our own terms apart from Christ.

When we decide to embrace some presumed definition of the Tree of Life to justify what God says is wrong, or to escape His commands, then we sin by also choosing autonomy over Christ – just like Adam and Eve. Relying simply on our own subjective but error-prone sense of WWJD (what would Jesus do) – under the guise of the Tree of Life – is choosing what in fact is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Thus, the irony of the Tree of Life teaching going around today is that it chooses autonomy – and falls prey to the same sin committed by Adam and Eve. It does this by rejecting what Jesus has defined as right and wrong.

And where does Jesus tell us right from wrong? Well, not simply in our hearts (although He is active in writing His laws on the hearts of those who love Him – see Heb. 8:10), but also in His written word.

The Tree of Life is Still Off Limits

The other irony is that the Bible says the Tree of Life is no longer available to humanity. God now guards it from humanity with an angelic being and a flaming sword to keep us from accessing it. Gen. 3:23-34. So how come some teach that we are to be eating of the Tree of Life today?

That sure ’nuff is one weird doctrine! Unlike them, I really have no interest in trying to eat of the Tree of Life (however they define it), only to be killed by some big bad angel dude bearing a flaming sword.

In Revelation 22 – the vary last chapter of the Bible – Jesus says we will not be allowed to eat again of the Tree of Life until after the final judgement and the new heavens and the new earth are established. It then will be planted in the middle of the New Jerusalem, where Christ will reign forever. Furthermore, the only ones allowed at that time to eat of its fruit will be those who – now get this! – overcame by obeying God’s commands.

Here it is, in plain English: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Rev. 22:14.

Embracing Sound Doctrine

Be careful of crazy theology. Be careful of new age mysticism and postmodern relativism masquerading as sound Christian doctrine.

Jesus is imminent and personal, yet transcendent and objective. He bids us come, but He also bids us to “be holy for I am holy” (both in the Old and the New Testament).

Anyone who tries to create a false dichotomy between Jesus the living word and His God-breathed written word has chosen autonomy by rejecting Jesus as He Himself has chosen to reveal Himself to us…

Anyone who has chosen to separate the person of Jesus from His commands – including the moral code and precepts He has revealed in His God-breathed (i.e., “inspired”) written word – likewise has chosen autonomy….

Some want a purely subjective Jesus of their own creation, and thus have fallen prey once again to the sin of autonomy…

For me, however, I want all of Jesus: Both the living word and His God-breathed written word; both His person and His commands; both His presence and His precepts.

I am not talking about legalism, nor about seeking justification through a moral code.  Nor am I advocating fidelity to the Mosaic law between God and Old Testament Israel.

But I nonetheless understand that those who truly know and love Jesus also will keep His commandments – His moral code regarding right and wrong which is both written on my heart and written in His Word. And by so doing, we then have the promise of some day – not now, but some day – eating from the Tree of Life.

Unlike some, I’m willing to wait and do it God’s way, and not my way.

~ Jim Wright


36 responses

  1. Haven’t heard of this new “truth” but agree with your analysis and response, as He said: He did not come to do away with the law – it has not been superceeded. It is just that no one can be justified by it, we need His grace and the forgiveness possible by His work on the cross. We truely have an awesome God – one much bigger than our finite minds can comprehend. Simple obedience to the complete cannon of scripture is what we need to pursue, along with a loving relationship day by day.


  2. I think you are being very critical of something may have failed to understand. Jesus is life, eternal (God’s) very life. Those who live out of Him via the Holy Spirit are free from the Law, and moral codes. Our life in Christ has nothing to do with morality, or keep commandments. If we live out of Christ who is our life, we will live free indeed. Sin will not be on our mind as we mature in Him. Sin, as a means of getting our legitimate needs meet, outside of Christ, will soon lose it flavor as our Father leads us via His Spirit into maturity. I know this type of freedom scared the wits out of many who are only acquainted with fear based living, but give it some time, and you will come to trust the One who keeps us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I knew of some Scripture to support your position. I agree that we are not under the Mosaic law, because that was a covenant between Old Testament Israel and God. But I am not aware of a single verse that says we are free of God’s timeless moral law, rooted in the Old and New Testament command, “Be holy, for I am holy”. Historically, your position is known as antinomianism. It has been roundly rejected throughout church history, given its lack of Scriptural support and even Jesus’ command to keep His commandments. The reality of moral standards is amply illustrated by the morality embodied in all that Jesus taught. Like I point out in the blog, Rev. 22 I think very vividly disputes antinomianism.


  3. At first I thought that this was on the perspective of Biblical Horizons regarding the two Trees and God’s purpose for them and man. It does not seem that this is the case, unless one of us has grievously misunderstood the doctrine. What group is saying this? Not to sound skeptical, I’m curious as to where you found this.


    • I run into this all the time on Facebook (at least weekly) and in other blogs, mainly coming from the mysticism branch of the organic/simple church community. I’m not sure the extent to which it has taken root (no pun intended) elsewhere. I have run into it several times over the last five years in Charismatic circles. If you do a blog limited Google search, it will repeatedly come up. You may be fortunate in that it may not be present in your circles. Usually, it is used to justify antinomianism.


      • Ok, yea that’s not the same thing at all. It seems (from the perspective I mentioned above) that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Wisdom) was *eventually* going to be a tree good for food (as was every tree in the garden). The Tree of Life had no prohibition on it prior to the Fall. So it seems that Adam and Eve would have been allowed to partake of the Tree of Wisdom had they not been impatient. Once they fell, if they had partaken of the Tree of Life, they would be “stuck” in death, as it were. So they were driven from the Garden.
        If you’re further interested, I recommend James B. Jordan’s stuff on this, as I’m afraid I’d do a terrible mucking up of the doctrine.

        In some ways it seems a minor point of doctrine, but then again, it deals directly with the Fall and the nature of sin and of death, and therefore is actually important.


  4. Jim, I love your admonition to “Be careful of crazy theology. Be careful of new age mysticism and postmodern relativism masquerading as sound Christian doctrine.” Unfortunately I see this all too often with people I know who are believers, many of which fall into this because Christ and His Word alone seem to not be enough for them to feed on, or they are always talking about ‘going to the next level’ and let’s never rest until we are victorious and all devils are ‘under our feet’. This kind of Psuedo-Christianity wears me out!. This definitely falls under what is described in 2 Tim. 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” I wonder if all this extra-biblical teaching is almost a ‘self-fulfilling’ prophecy that people’s feelings and passions so strongly desire, so someone creates a teaching so that a void is filled.

    ALSO: on another note, Have you or would you be able to do a blog about the false teaching of ‘sinless perfection’. I actually have a close family member who believes this error and I would like some answers on this subject from a more scholarly perspective. Thanks!


    • Thanks. I agree.

      Regarding “sinless perfection”, is this the doctrine that as Christians we are incapable of sinning, or that we will be perfected in this life until we know no sin? I have often seen the former, but it is rare to see the latter anymore.


  5. MadDawg, No one ( I know of ) is saying what Jim is saying here. He wrote it in reference to something I said and in the same post on Facebook he accused me of presuming too much.

    Jim is misunderstanding and making up assumptions. He isn\’t interested in a fair reasonable dialogue because he says that he has heard enough, makes ugly unfounded accusations and then says he is ending the conversation. Only to go a write a blog about the very same subject and post it on the thread where he walked away from the conversation.

    I can\’t help him see it… God will have to show him, but Jim is reading lots of scripture through a lens of law and some he is clearly reading through a lens of dispensationalism as well ( whether he knows it or not ) … a creation of 1830\’s theology that wasn\’t heard of prior.

    Jim, if you change your mind and would like to have a real dialogue… let me know. It is clear to me that you are seeking truth, and I guess you\’ve been trained to seek truth in a dogmatic way. Patrick Lencioni says \”Conflict with trust is only a pursuit of truth, without trust it is politics.\”

    I\’m choosing to trust you and believe that this conversation is a search for truth… if you\’ll do the same and not accuse me of chasing some new age crap, maybe we\’ll be able to be iron sharpening iron to one another.

    By the way… obedience is impossible if we aren’t living in Christ (hence eating from the Tree of Life). So your journey toward the tree of life, will only happen if you eat and feast on Jesus! By the way, Jesus is the tree of life… that (small) part of your blog you got right. You missed the heart of the whole message though.


    • Josh, although your FB comments (along with some from others earlier today) prompted me to finally write this blog, it is something I have been intending to write for several weeks now. I told you that on FB. It really is not a response to you, per se. Sorry you see it as personally directed at you. I don’t even know you, so that presumes too much.

      So folks see what you believe, as stated on FB (since you brought it up here, I believe you’ve made it relevant), here’s a quote:

      “I say following a book… is a mistake, for a Christian. If a lost person wants to follow the principles of the 10 commandments or some other portions of law-like directives – it would benefit them. But Christians need to follow Jesus, not a leather bound collection of good historical documents. The scriptures weren’t written to you and I, I love them and read them daily but I read them in context and I avoid reading them as if they were God’s words to me today…. they are usually man’s words ( a single man or in some cases the words of a group ) to another individual or group. The scriptures are like a journal of people in history attempting to know and hear and understand God. Inspired, sure but inspired from one man or group to another. We read and benefit from the scriptures, but we shouldn’t follow them we have to follow Jesus the living Word of God. The concern I had with your response was an encouragement for following the bible.” (By the way, this is verbatim – the … are not from me.)

      Josh, you can try to debate me all you want, but you will not persuade me of your position. I suspect the same is true in reverse. In your defense, though, you did not bring up the dual tree issue on FB (at least, not that I recall). However, that often is used by others to justify the positions you take, as you now do in your comment above.

      Also, just so you know, I am not dispensational in my theology – but given that Scripture is not authoritative for us today I’m not sure why that’s relevant. I understand dispensationalism very well, and have taught on those topics at the graduate level and also written on them. Instead, I tend more towards the dual overarching covenants of law and grace from a covenantal perspective – again, not that it should matter from your perspective.


      • Jim, you really don’t get it do you…. I’m not trying to debate. I have no desire to debate, I’m not trying to win. The point is if you are willing to think, and listen to fellow followers on a journey you’ll grow in Christ-likeness.

        You cut and pasted my words from Facebook but not all of them… you stopped before this part:

        Too many people who claim to follow the bible see justification for hate, war, capital punishment, etc. Jesus said put down the swords and we said ok… I’ll put down the sword and pick up a gun and follow the bible. Follow Jesus, if He ever tells you to pick up a sword… he’ll probably have you put it down pretty quickly. Remember Peter… buy some swords, we’ve got two, that’s enough, Peter put down the sword don’t you know that will get you killed! Following a book doesn’t work, you need Jesus’ daily, second by second direction. If you follow a book you read and put it down and think you’re set for directions for the day… When you follow Jesus, you can listen to His voice all the time. I don’t do this well…. but I’m trying. I’m sure you are a great guy and are following Jesus, I’m just saying… let’s tell it right. Jesus is the one to follow, read the bible, worship and follow Jesus.

        There is the additional part of that facebook statement.

        Jim, we’ve been trained all of our lives to live by the book, be people of the book, etc, etc, etc. But Jesus never once said – live by a book. He never spoke of a bible, He never told us to choose the best 66 books and make a cannon. I’m thankful that I have the bible and I read from it and discuss it daily, I LOVE the bible… but we must see it for what it is… and that’s certainly not a replacement for the voice and direction of God.

        As I listen to modern day “Christians” and religious people I wonder why on earth and what good is the Holy Spirit to them…. they don’t listen to Him they only read and live by a book. By the way Jesus did say and speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and He didn’t speak of the coming of a great book or collection of letters. If we are going to be people of the book, at least let’s talk about listening to the Holy Spirit as much as we talk about the bible. If Hebrew is right then why do we ignore the parts where the author tells them that the truth will be written on their heart… Why do you accuse me of being post-modern if I encourage hearing from God?

        By the way, I’m very willing to persuaded… and I’m sure you are sensitive enough to be persuaded to. I have higher hopes for you than you do of yourself. The Pharisees weren’t willing to be persuaded, they were certain that there views were right and when they didn’t like another view they crucified it…. but you aren’t like that. Surely you aren’t… surely you want to think, pray, listen, and read your scriptures again. Surely we can have a disagreement and have real conflict and learn from it… can’t we. I’ll trust that you are a believer, and a follower of Jesus, and we’ll help one another. But if you are intent on just ignoring the other parts of the body of Christ and focusing instead on teaching a book… I’ll stop trying to have a dialogue with you. Jim be careful though as you ignore people who you disagree with… be careful that you aren’t ignoring the family, and ignoring the Spirit, and worshiping an idol called the bible.

        One more thing Jim… the readers here should know, since you are mentioning what was on Facebook, a mutual friend of yours and mine posted the following on Facebook and you started this conversation by calling out the original post.

        Original Post: (not mine, but I liked it)The Word of God is not the Bible, it is a person-Jesus-the living Word! Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star. The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life!

        You Jim then said, “It is both. Why do we need to embrace such false dichotomies?”

        No the Word of God, is Jesus. When you place Jesus and “the bible” on equal footing, you are making an idol of a collection of letters, poems, and books. I don’t disagree with Paul about scriptures inspiration, but inspiration is far from godhood. I see God as Father, Son, and Spirit… not as Father, Son, Holy Book, and Spirit.


        • I just read your blog titled Directed Church verses Participatory Church: A Dialog… I LOVED IT. These men you are ministering to, it sure sounds like they are hearing from Jesus and learning from Him. If they had to lose one thing… access to the bible or communication with the Holy Spirit, which would you rather them lose. I’m guessing you would say the bible for sure… that is all I’m trying to say! That’s all, that’s it! Nothing more…

          I’m afraid we are seeing what happens when “Christians” live by a book and ignore the Spirit of God…. I’m not a charismatic and I grew up believing charismatics were crazy, but now, I realize I’d rather be crazy than dead and that’s what you get if you have the bible alone and never seek to hear from and live by the Spirit of God.

          What if the Tree of Life did represent living in relationship with Jesus… what if Jesus is the Tree of Life? We know He is the source of the Zoe life that John wrote about, so what if Adam and Eve were to live by the fruit of relationship with Jesus?

          Could you study that out and think that through? I will be… if thinking of Jesus as the “Tree of Life” is wrong… I want to see it, so I’ll be very open to being changed by this conversation, and I’m betting you will be too after reading a few more of your blog entries. You know that sometimes we believed stuff and later discovered that we were totally wrong. You did it too… :)… you used to dominate the church meetings with your sermons like I did…. only to later realize that your position and practice were wrong. Now, I know that the less I talk the better the time together is going.

          That’s why I’m so long-winded here… my preaching for an hour days are over. but I don’t miss them.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the way Deverne Fromke put it in his book “Unto Full Stature” – – – “As Adam stood at the open gateway there were two trees — representing two ways — before him. He could choose God’s way or his own way. There was opportunity for development along two mutually exclusive lines . If he chose to go his own way, by eating of the tree of knowledge, it would mean the development of his soul-powers independent of God. To choose God’s highway would mean cooperation with God – – a living union through eating of the tree of life. Either choice would bring a development in stature, either soulish or spiritual. Since Adam and his posterity have tasted of the tree of knowledge, this fruit has ministered to the expansion and development of the soulish powers. The soul with its independent power of free choice has taken the place of the spirit which was intended to be the animating power of man. Before there can be any true spiritual development unto full stature, there must be radical deliverance from this wrong development of the soulish powers.”


  7. the only thought that comes to mind is “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” 🙂


  8. I think the picture of two trees is very useful and deep in meaning. Just because some go to extremes or twist meanings should not cause us to shy away from these concepts.
    I don’t mind if someone struggles to see Christ throughout scripture. If a spiritual rock can be Christ, then so too can a spiritual tree be him. 1cor10:4. The literal reading of scripture misses so much but if it works for you thats fine, just don’t impose it on everyone else. Like reading revelation literally is fine but for many of us we read it as spiritual pictures of present realities not just something to wait for 1000s of years in the future.
    So I think ironically in pointing out so called crazy or false doctrine, you have also shown your cards in that you come from a particular background and way of reading scripture which doesn’t leave room open for certain interpretations.
    As others have said its all very well to talk of the objective and moral truth of jesus, but its no simple matter fleshing that out in a moment by moment way.There is literally no moral code or law or principle that is black and white except in the minds of fundamentalist judgemental religious people who judge everyone else according to their private interpretations of the ‘commandments’.
    I know some have gone off on tangents but I do think many of us are waking up to the reality that all the good principles, teachings and commandments in the world are severely limited if not saturated in love and relationship.
    I mean if we want to nitpick… where does jesus or the apostles talk about the written word or god inspired word… they dont… those are terms we’ve created which have dilluted the concept of who the Word is. Christians have been afraif of the authority of scripture being challenged so have inadvertedly diminished the effective authority of the liviing word.
    If you’re merely addressing those who reject all morality in favor of mystical relationship fair enough.
    Isn’t a huge part of the rub for many of us that the institution or leaders have told us what is right and wrong according to jesus and the bible only to discover its not so clear cut or they were completely off the rails. So talking about the subjective and objective truth of jesus in the way you’ve framed it is a false dichotomy as if subjectivity is not present when interpreting scripture. Its all subjective hence we should all walk humbly knowing whatever we are presently convinced of is subject to change. If not we only serve to further distance ourselves from one another and continue being a laughing stock to outsiders.


    • Thanks for your comments, Eli. I agree that the trees are appropriate topics for today as we seek to understand what they are all about. I’m not sure I understand what they are all about, and I’ll be the first to admit that! Thus, I’m not discounting them as sources of understanding and discussion today.

      I am, however, going against the antinomianism that some are advocating these days, using an unsupportable interpretation of the trees, as well as those who want to draw a dichotomy between Jesus as the living word and Jesus as who has given us His God-breathed (i.e., inspired) written word of Scripture.

      Beyond that abuse of the trees metaphor, I’m good to go with figuring out what the trees are all about!


      • yeah I think your post is timely and relevant. I’ve heard it said heresy is often truth overstated. So for sure I see how over emphasizing living by the tree or by indwelling christ or relationship can be overstated to exclusion of other important realities. It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what people mean from blogs and teachings until we see them apply their beliefs in real life.


        • I’m going to continue to over emphasize living by the indwelling Christ. If I overstate that to the exclusion of other important realities… I’ll just have to take the punishment due me.

          Regardless of what the “tree of life” is supposed to represent, I’m going to continue to focus on living by the indwelling Christ.

          I’m really confused here, Eli. Are you being sarcastic? Truth overstated… over emphasizing living by the indwelling Christ…

          I almost feel like this is a joke, is it possible to over emphasize living by the dwelling Christ?

          Please tell me that was an attempt to point out error somehow with a backward statement.

          If you weren’t speaking somehow opposite of what you were meaning… this is the strangest post I’ve ever read.


        • by truth overstated, i mean going on about a particular truth to the extent that we neglect and minimize other truths. Of course if living by the indwelling christ is an all encompassing descriptor of the christian life then the risk of overstating is lessened. No hidden meaning in my words.
          It all boils down to how we live out and apply what we’ve come to believe, no matter how it sounds on paper to certain hearers.
          I’m with you… the ‘authority’ of the bible and its place as the ‘word’ has been promoted to such an extent a huge part of what it means to be christian is lost on many people. In large part because its easier to control and contain the bible than the wind of the spirit.


  9. WOW! You hit a land mine this time, Jim!

    I have been living around what I now call ‘extreme’ charismatics, and discover that they love to hear a new thing or a new twist on Scripture…a sort of Spirit-revealed hidden truth that they are the first to understand. Reading a book on interpreting scripture (hermeneutics) I was surprised to discover that they are sailing close to the wind of the Gnostics were a strong part of the first few centuries of the church and their ‘knowledge’ consisted of non-context meanings revealed in the text, as though God were a secret agent burying coded messages in the plain text.

    Whether eating of the tree of life has a spiritual significance to modern-day Christians is open to debate, although it would seem it was not in the mind of the original Jewish readers.

    What concerns me is the sense in some of the comments that ‘the book’ is just a collection of writings of some men and is irrelevant to living the Christian life because it has condoned slavery, war, etc. etc. To my mind that is just one small step from falling into errors that far exceed simple theological disagreements.

    As it says in Scrupture, (Ecclesiastes 1:9) “…there is no new thing under the sun” and that includes most errors.


  10. Pingback: Eating of the tree of life | Revisiting Scripture

  11. Hi Jim,
    Excellent article! I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful approach to the great issues of our day. Living and ministering in rural South Africa, I am always interested in how these beliefs and discussions play out in the day to day lives of the people I live with. We don’t want to become “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14 NIV)

    One such area is how we view and approach the Bible. just josh posited the question; “If they had to lose one thing… access to the bible or communication with the Holy Spirit, which would you rather them lose.” In my opinion, that is an unrealistic choice. When I taught at the Naval Academy (1981-84), I worked with pilots who spent years as Prisoners of War in the Hanoi Hilton. As you remember, the guards wouldn’t allow books, let alone the Bible. But, because the Holy Spirit cannot be kept out with bars and rules and regulations, those prisoners with knowledge of the Bible began to compile the verses they remembered. Psalm 23, 1 Cor 13, John 3:16, David & Goliath, the creation account … those Bible accounts were life and hope for the prisoners.

    Another quote just josh referred to was “The Word of God is not the Bible …” Ok, whatever that means. But is the Bible the Word of God? YES! Is it unique among all books ever written? Was it inspired by God? Is it more than just stories and rules? The answer throughout history is a resounding YES!

    My point is this; It should never be an either/or proposition, nor should we try to figure out which is better than or higher than the other. Spending time with God leads us to a love affair with the Bible. The Bible leads us to a love affair with God. I don’t read the Bible to find new rules and regulations for holy living. I read the Bible to learn more of God and His heart. I read the Bible to see how God interacts with man. I read the Bible so that I might know His voice with greater clarity. Other books are excellent, but the Bible stands alone.

    If we disconnect our life in Christ from the written Word of God, we open ourselves to danger. The Bible and the Holy Spirit should always lead us to liberty, which alone dwells between the dangers of legalism on one hand, and license on the other. No matter how noble or Spirit inspired our initial intentions may be, when we disconnect from the Bible, it is only a matter of time before we drift in one of those two directions.

    Anyway, keep on writing! You continue to challenge me to a deeper walk with God, and a fuller understanding of His eternal purposes. Thanks!


  12. Being Spirit led, to me, is more like having Jesus as an internal councilor and friend. He explains why I do what I do. Because He has changed my heart, I want to do His will, He is always helping me. Hence the Holy Spirit is my Councilor. Most of my acting out is simply immaturity, He has promised to finish His work in me. : )


  13. Amen, Bob! Your spiritual mom and dad have watched your life since those early days at the Naval Academy and can attest to “All Spirit and blow up; all Word and dry up but Spirit and Word and grow up!” You’ve said it so well….Bob and MJ


    • Bob & MJ!
      So good to see your post. I am still loving Jesus and growing in His grace today, in no small part, because of your love and example through the decades. Thank you!


  14. JIm, Personally I have never met anyone who subscribes to the doctrine you mention about the Tree of Life and ascribe to moral relativism. I’m sure they’re out there, but just haven’t ran into them.
    Any teachings I’ve ever heard on the Tree of Life/Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, the trees were always metaphorically spoken of, not literally.
    I am attaching an article by a mutual friend of ours, Steve Crosby that talks about the Tree of Knowledge:

    I agree with Josh who has commented here, that I will always go with following the indwelling Christ and being led by His Spirit over a relationship with a book.Of course if that leading conflicts with scripture, then you aren’t being led by the Spirit. The early church had no Bible, but were led by the Spirit. Did they get off base, sure did, no more than our Bible saturated church culture today. So a lot of good all the Biblical knowledge has done us, we
    as a whole-the Body of Christ, are a messed up lot. There has to be a balance. The scriptures are a means to an end-to point to Christ. The Pharisee’s studied the scriptures and knew them backwards and forwards, but didn’t recognize the Living Word-Messiah, right in front of them..
    John 5:39“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have ETERNAL LIFE, it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
    We know that Eternal Life is knowing Him (John 17:3)
    Here’s a quote from Steve on this subject of these two views:
    “There are two ditches we can end up in, bibliolatry, the worship of the bible (fundamentalism) or, Gnosticism/post modern subjectivity. It doesn’t matter which ditch we end up in, the enemy is happy for either.”


  15. I started listening to Frank Viola’s podcasts yesterday while I was weeding, and working around the yard. Today, I just went out to take the trash out and I stuck my ipod on… well I had read some of Viola’s books before, but I hadn’t heard him talk about the tree of life. Well, the podcast I listened to today, he mentions the tree of life. I haven’t finished that podcast, but the part I’ve heard is excellent, and worth listening to. It is called Epic Jesus – the Christ you never knew… It appears that he posted it on 9.4.2011. I don’t know if I’d be breaking rules by putting a link here so I won’t but you can easily google it.

    I guess I’m trying to understand what it is you are warning against. Are you warning against following Jesus and believing that He is everything necessary, or are you warning against critiquing the bible.

    If you want to avoid all conflict, just say it and I’ll stop posting here… but I think conflict is good especially when we can trust one another believing that we are all seeking Jesus, Who is Truth!

    I’m trying to understand what you are warning against.

    Is this the conflict, I’m saying Jesus plus nothing and you are saying, No Jesus plus the cannon (bible)?

    If you are sincere and I believe you are, help us understand what you are trying to warn against.

    Some here seem to understand and they cheer you on, but I sincerely don’t understand.

    I don’t know anyone who is saying, follow Jesus and ignore what is right. Follow Jesus and live in hate. I do know that some are saying follow Jesus and don’t lean on your own understanding. Sometimes, leaning on scripture is leaning on your own understanding. Surely we’ve all used scripture before to say something that we now know to be the opposite of truth.

    If the conflict is – you want us to have a higher regard for the bible and say that it is God’s Word, like Jesus is God’s Word… then I have to ask, based on what scripture would you say that? If the inspired passage from Timothy is what you base that belief on, then what do you think that verse means?

    What does “All” there mean?
    What does “scripture” mean?
    Better yet, what does inspired mean? Can you give me one other place where Paul used the word inspired so I can compare those two contexts to get a better understanding of the meaning of inspired?
    Maybe give me a place where Jesus used the word inspired, or Peter, or maybe John.

    If all there means all, then why were some books included and others left out?

    Are you trusting that the various groups that led to the 397ad decision about the bible got it right?

    I’m thankful for the bible… I’m glad we have it…. I think they did a good job in 397ad selecting the books… But if we are to the point that we believe Jesus ascended into heaven and left us with a collection of books, I think we are missing the dwelling life of Christ.

    Anyone living by the life of Christ, WILL grow in love for God and others… PERIOD.

    If you are just trying to ensure that people don’t think that by claiming Jesus they can hate others and kill and steal and cheat sexually and go to war and abort babies and kill their old and take life and have impure relationships… I see your concern, but would suggest that we teach Jesus better… because following Jesus will never, never, ever lead to murder, hatred, and sexual sin. Following Jesus may led to sacrifice, but it will NOT lead to hate.

    Jim, I feel like I’ve become just an antagonist here and I’d rather just walk away from this conversation if that is all I’m doing. On the other hand, what I want is to find common ground and build there or find that we disagree and agree to disagree. But I don’t think we are there… I have pointed out some common ground, but I can’t figure out for sure if we disagree, what it is we disagree about.

    This is my last post here unless Jim personally wants to continue this dialogue by answering my questions or asking some of his own about this topic. I’m not leaving mad, I’ve subscribed to your blog and I’m sure I’ll read some in the future. I pray that you and your friends and family are blessed. If anyone else wants to reply to this I’ll read, but I don’t want to hijack Jim’s blog any further. If someone else wants to address me personally you are free to do so at


    • Hi Josh,
      I have enjoyed reading your posts. I do not presume to speak for Jim, nor do I assume to have a corner on truth. Here are a few thoughts …

      1. Jim’s original post addresses the issue of out of balance personal/ transcendent and subjective/ objective teachings. God’s desire is that the personal and subjective realities in our life line up with transcendent and objective truth. That leads to the question; How do we know transcendent and objective truth?

      2. We have relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are personal and relatable. They are also transcendent and objective.

      3. The Holy Spirit is well able to lead us into all truth. He is God, he’s been doing this for a long time, and had it all figured out from the beginning. He uses a variety of ways to lead us … our conscience, other people, the pressures of life, and the unchanging Word of God.

      4. Man has an amazing capacity to see and not see, and to hear and not hear (Matt 13, Mark 4, Luke 8). We have an amazing ability to see in part, think it is the whole, and get defensive when someone else shares with us the part they see. I know I have been guilty of that many times.

      5. None of us has a 100% track record of hearing from God. We all hope for that, but all of us are works in progress. God has given us the Bible, among other reasons, as a testimony to what He is really like. I can measure my life by what I know of God through the Bible. It doesn’t change from one generation to the next. The record of God’s interaction with man is there for all to see and read.

      6. The Bible is not a person. But it was given to us by a Person. It is the Word of God. It is one of the primary tools the Holy Spirit uses as He leads us into all truth. Peter made an interesting comment regarding Paul’s letters in 2 Peter 3:15-16. In his remarks, he views Paul’s letters as Scripture, well before any of the Church Councils.

      7. The Bible does not contain all truth. No book can. But God gave it to us as a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Ps 119:105). David said, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Ps 119:11)

      8. The Bible doesn’t take the place of a living relationship with God. But it gives depth and form and texture to what we experience in that relationship.

      I hope this makes sense. May the Lord continue to bless you and show forth His love in you and through you.

      Jim … thanks again for your posts. May the Lord continue to use them to provoke us to love and truth. Have a great day!


  16. Jim, the Tree of Life in the Garden wasn’t literally the Son of God, but it was symbolic of Him as our Life supply. The New Jerusalem is a picture of God’s union with His People. Some of the reasons that I consider the Tree of Life as a picture of Christ is that He is the Life and He is the Vine. In the Garden it is just a tree. In the New Jerusalem(the enlargement of the Garden) we can see that the Tree of Life has grown. It grows in and along with the River of Life(the Spirit) and it branches on either side. Thus, it is a vine tree and Jesus said that He is the True Vine. We eat from it because we are its branches. We have been grafted into the Tree of Life and we are its enlargement. You can also see the enlargement of Christ in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream where a Stone(Jesus) cut with out human hands, becomes a Mountain that covers the earth. It is also interesting that the Tree of Life bears twelve kinds of fruit, symbolizing God’s People once again.

    The things which guard the Tree of Life are cherubim and the flaming sword. These cherubim represent God’s glory, the fire represents His holiness, and the sword represents His righteousness. These things have been fulfilled by Christ, so that we have access through Him to the Tree of Life.


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