The Curious Christian

~ Aaron Armstrong

People who know Emily or me knows we’re generally curious people. By that, I don’t mean that we’re odd (although we are Canadian). I mean we’re inquisitive. We like learning. We’re always reading. We like to try new foods and restaurants (despite what one of my coworkers suggests). These are good characteristics, ones we want to pass on to our kids, too.1

So reading Barnabas Piper’s new book, The Curious Christian, was a very affirming activity for me. Not because I’m a fan of confirmation bias, but because he’s noticed some of the same things I have: many people—especially Christians—aren’t all that curious. In fact, it might be fair to say that they don’t necessarily see curiosity as a good thing. But in writing this book, Piper wants his readers to recognize that curiosity is a good gift from God. A gift that allows us to grow in our relationships with others, the world around us, and with God himself.

A better vision, not another program

Here’s what you’re not going to find in this book. You won’t find seven step processes and how-tos for becoming more curious. That’s because curiosity isn’t something that can be systematized. It can’t be turned into a simple program because it’s a way of life. That’s what you’ll see again and again as you read this book as he first offers a vision of a curiosity-fueled Christian life (the “why”), then explores seven areas of our lives where curiosity matters (the “what”), and concluding with one chapter on the how of curiosity.

In other words, if you’re someone who relishes steps and systems, this book might drive you mad. But, as Piper himself writes, “Curiosity doesn’t have a recipe. It’s not like baking cookies. If it was, it wouldn’t be very curious, would it?” (153)

So if there’s not a series of steps and guidelines, why should anyone read this book? Here are three key areas where I found it helpful (and a brief attempt to apply it in each):

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Rejoice! We worship a God we can’t control


I was reading a really sweet book in a big box bookstore recently, considering whether or not it would be one worth bringing home for my family. It was a kids book, one written to tell children that God delights in them, which is certainly true. But it seemed to go a step further. It put the child in the center of all God’s hopes and dreams, as though the child is what God lives for.

This is not a “we should feel bad about the idea that God loves us” post, by the way. That’s not really my jam, anyway. God absolutely loves and delights in his people. But what stopped me from purchasing this book is that I want my kids to have a bigger picture of God than this book offered. I don’t want them to see themselves as being at the center of God’s dreams, because, frankly, that’s way too much pressure.

I want them to see God as approachable and as a God who delights in them and rejoices over them as Scripture says he does. But I want them to rejoice in knowing his happiness isn’t dependent upon them. That we don’t worship a God who can be manipulated or controlled in that way.

This is going to be one of those, “Jesus is not safe” posts, isn’t it? Well, sure, but only because it bears repeating. There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he approached us.

There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he first approached us.

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Joy and theology belong together

It seems to be rare to hear the words “theology” and “joy” together. Dour, grumpy, maybe on a good day affable… but joy? Nah…

And that’s a shame because it’s one of the things I love most about theology. It’s why I care about it and why I study it. Why I write about it and talk about it and read about it. Theology is all about joy.

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I need community


I pulled up to the church building last night. It was nearly 6 PM, just a few minutes before our small group was going to meet. Emily and the kids were already there, thanks to the Walker family. I got out of the car, feeling the weariness in my bones.

I’d been up since 4 AM, and spent nearly half of my waking hours in the car, driving to and from Knoxville. I was tired, though not particularly cranky (which is a good thing). My kids ran over and attached themselves to my legs, which put a smile on my face. A short while later, we were all sitting around on a couch in the office, sharing our high and low points of the week, discussing a book we’re all reading, and more. Lots of laughter, a bit of friendly ribbing, and some serious discussion ensued.

It was a good night.


A passage to pray with joy


As I’ve been working to recharge my spiritual batteries, I’ve been working to refocus my prayer life as much as possible. And one of the ways I’m doing that is to pray through a passage of Scripture (usually a psalm). Sometimes I get through the entire psalm, other times I might only get through a few lines. Recently, as I turned to my Bible and began to pray in Psalm 5, I felt compelled to focus on verses 4-6:

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil cannot dwell with You.
The boastful cannot stand in Your presence;
You hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who tell lies;
the Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and treachery.


Don’t apologize for the Bible


Have you had one of those moments reading the Bible where you just said, “I don’t like that”? Not that you were denying what was there, of course—but as you read, you found the text felt very strange. Almost alien. Whether it was a passage wherein God punished his grumbling people in the wilderness, or reading of his laws regarding intimate relationships, Jesus insisting on his divinity throughout the gospels, or maybe the entire book of Revelation—you can’t help but have moments reading the Bible when you have to stop and say, “I don’t get it,” or “I don’t like it.”

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Can a true believer blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

from Blogging Theologically

by Aaron Armstrong


Early on in my faith—in fact, nearly from the moment I became a Christian—I’ve been intrigued by an encounter in between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 12:22-32, Jesus has just healed a demon oppressed man who had been brought to Him, and all the crowd marvelled. “Can this be the Son of David?” they asked.

But the Pharisees declared, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Simply, the Pharisees just accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan to do this. Rather than accept what Jesus has done for what it is—a miraculous work of God—they declare it must be the devil’s work. He’s performing witchcraft!

Sound familiar?

Jesus’ response is telling. Knowing the Pharisees’ thoughts, he says,

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Again, really basic here: Jesus calls their theory ludicrous—a divided kingdom can’t stand, it will be laid to waste. Defeat is inevitable. Satan’s desire isn’t to defeat himself, but to rule God’s creation for himself. You can say many things about the serpent, but he’s not an idiot. He’s the prince of this world, and he won’t give it up that easily.

But if Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it means the kingdom of God has come. It means Jesus, the “strong man” in his example, has come to plunder the goods of Satan’s house before crushing his head.

And then Jesus continues:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man l will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Emphasis mine.)

Here’s where so many people get confused—what is Jesus talking about here? What does He mean when He says “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven”? Is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin?

The answer is a lot simpler than some of us realize: Not even a little bit.

John Bunyan helps us understand why—not so much from his writing, but from his experience. Bunyan, the 17th century preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, had a less than easy walk with the Lord. Frequently battling what appears to be depression and very likely severe spiritual attack, he became consumed by an expectation of damnation for two years as he feared he had blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

Here’s how he describes the event in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

One morning as I lay in my bed I was, as other times, most fiercely assaulted with this temptation to sell and part with Christ, the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, “Sell him, sell him, sell him,” as fast as a man could speak. Against this also in my mind, as at other times, I answered, “No, no not for thousands, thousands, thousands,” at least twenty times together. At last, after much striving, even until I was almost out of breath, I felt this thought pass through my heart, “Let Him go if He will.” I thought also that I felt my heart freely consent to this. Oh, the diligence of Satan! Oh, the desperateness of man’s heart! (82-83)

For the next two years, he lived “with as heavy a heart as mortal man I think could bear,” believing himself bound for Hell, a fear that would continue until God, in His mercy intervened.

There was as if there had rushed upon me, very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice speaking, “Did you ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ?” With that, my whole life of past profession was in a moment opened unto me, where I was made to see that designedly I had not. So my heart answered a groaning, “No.”

Then fell with power that word of God upon me, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (Heb. 12:25). This made a  seizure upon my spirit: it brought light with it and commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that before, like masterless hellhounds, used to roar and bellow and make hideous noises within me. It showed me also that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace and mercy for me—that He had not, as I had feared quite forsaken and cast off my soul. (100-101)

This, friends, is the answer to the question. What is blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

It is to continually and stubbornly reject His work and testimony concerning the identity of Jesus. It is the unrepentant refusal to to be justified by the blood of Christ. To deny the work and testimony of the Holy Spirit is to blaspheme Him. And those who persistently and unrepentantly resist the Spirit and salvation through faith in Christ, will not be saved.

So, here’s a question, because I know many Christians are concerned about this: can a believer blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Is it possible for a true Christian to commit the unforgivable sin?

Not even a little bit.

Have confidence, friends. Do not fear. Christ will not leave or forsake His people. Rejoice as John Bunyan did, remembering that God has “blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist;” and when we stray, “Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isa 44:22).

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