Christianity -- Christian Living/Bible authenticity Heaven and hell


Hello Barbara, Going through most of the expert profiles, yours caught my attention and I am hoping you can help. I am long term married and have been struggling in disscussion with Karen my wife about the Bibles Authenticity. Like many who are misguided or cant understand, she doubts the Bibles message and authenticity because it was written by man {men}.

I have done what I can through using scripture and explaining how divine intervention inspired by God and through God into man's thoughts / minds can and does prove the Bible is of God's word. God's letter to us The Bible.

However, to no avail she still has doubt.

We have attended church together off and on but have not found a Church that best suits both her beliefs {doubts} and my Biblical Beliefs. I pray God will forgive me as it seems I have not been the proper Spiritual head of the house as is expected of me Scripturally.

Perhaps you can offer a different approach to use when disscussing this particular Biblical subject. A more practical less scripture based explaination as to why she should be able to relate and understand how divine inspiration works. I let her know how much I appreciate her opening up and that it is okay and normal to have doubts. BUT, I am having difficulty explaining certain Bible subjects. And more importantly I do not want to distance her further.

So I need your guidance and advice. Maybe a more logical practical explanation without sacrificing scripture. She also has doubt about there being an actual Heaven and hell. It is now clear that as a couple we should have disscussed Religious subjects. But honestly Barbara, I always assumed we were on the same page and "yet" there are some religious aspects we DO agree on. So not all is lost.

When asked directly she says she does beleive in God. Both are Children were baptized {they are grown adults now} and she was fine with it. She was also a member of a Presbyterian Church years ago. It is hard for her to open up because she is basically a private person.

Please accept my apology for such a long winded question.

Thanks for taking time to help !!


Good morning, Ron.  I had to smile because your long winded question is no match for the long winded answer you’re likely to get from a person who loves to explain as much as I do!  :D

I also smiled because in spite of the call on my life, I too am a very private person who comes from a very long line of people who prefer privacy to transparency.  When I met Jesus, He made it clear that I have a calling that requires my being open for the sake of others.  All this to say, I understand completely.

With regard to your question, it’s been my experience [as well as my history] that people who love science, think logically, pride themselves on their intellect [in the best sense], or have been duped in the past, or have a more skeptical nature…we need to be fully persuaded in order to overcome fear of past disappointments and fear of future ridicule.  No one wants to be made a fool and unfortunately, many in the Christian cause have readily made themselves fools and exalted ignorance.  They have done this in spite of God, not in service to Him.   The Bible doesn’t demand that we check our brains at the door and pursue life in an unquestioning way.

So, to your questions then,
<<Doubting the Bible’s message and authenticity because it was written by man {men}.>>

I like to use the example of a prism.  White light, in fact, contains a whole spectrum of colors.  When white light passes through a prism, the light separates into its various wavelengths, yes?  We see a rainbow of colors.  Is it still the original white light going in to the prism? Yup. Yet, the rainbow components, refracted back through a second prism become parallel wave lengths and therefore can be seen again as white light [even if it is not an infinitely narrow beam as it was in the beginning].  You can see this illustrated well at

The Bible is kind of like that.  The Word of God comes to us through a perfect and infinitely narrow “beam” of Truth.  When passing through a prism of a human instrument, the colors may be displayed differently, but it is the same truth coming in…as colorfully displayed coming out.
Each human instrument [Peter, Paul, James, Moses, etc.] displays the truth in a way unique to himself.  God knows each of His instruments [prisms] perfectly and therefore He ensures that the colors displayed still reflect the truth He sent into each one.  So that taken together, what we see again as white light is perfect truth in the whole Bible— and while not an infinitely narrow beam as from God directly to you or me, it will be truth nonetheless as white light for our human condition now.  When Jesus returns, that white light we see as parallel lines of remixed color now will return to the infinitely narrow beam when we are face to face with the Original Light Source: God Himself.

Still using the light example, let’s think about how sunlight passes through a stained glass window.  The sunlight coming in has wavelengths of colors, all mixed into a narrow beam, yes?  As the sunlight gets absorbed and bent as it passes through different colors of glass, we see a colorful pattern on the floor that resembles the image in the window.  

Is it still light?  Absolutely!  Is it changed by the colors of glass in the window?  Yes.  Let’s say God sent the sunlight and erected the window.  Who created the pattern on the floor: God or the window?

That’s how inspiration of Scripture works.  

The window was necessary and only produced the pattern that the window was designed to give.  The human writers of the Bible are the window God erected to make the precise pattern on the floor God wants us to see.  

God works the same way in the lives of people He calls.  Our personalities make a difference.  So when I tell you that God’s call on my life means that—while I’m a private person by nature and actually quite shy—God has designed that I be open and transparent.  There’s a truth pattern evident, but the display is unique to me, using my life experiences that God wants to show the world through Barbara’s window.

Now the difference between the truth shown through Barbara’s window and falsehood is that the light is not evident in lies.  The liar’s window, rather than translucent or transparent becomes opaque or cloudy or even completely blocks the light depending on how “dark” the person is in his or her heart.  It’s the difference between a stained glass window and an oil painting on the wall.  One lets light in.  The other blocks it out.  Both have colors, but one allows the light to pass through.  

The Bible—and those who hold to it—let the light shine through.  Other books may be opaque or cloudy letting a bit of truth mix with whatever sells for the day as “self-help.” But keep this in mind:  Any book that does not point to the complete sufficiency of Christ and the total insufficiency of humanity is not telling you the whole truth, the full spectrum of light.

When Jesus called the Apostle Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles, He had already perfectly formed Paul to present truth in a way the Gentiles [and Jews] could understand.  Peter’s experiences had formed him differently.  It’s why Peter could say that some of Paul’s writings were hard to understand.  It also explains why sometimes things in Scripture don’t look the same.  The same event can be organized differently within the flow of Scripture to highlight something different.  

Most “discrepancies” in Scripture fall along these lines: Jesus’ lineage in Luke and Matthew, for example.  They have been written to highlight two different truthful facts: Jesus is the Messiah for everyone [Luke] as well as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah [Matthew].  Luke goes all the way back to Adam to show that the Messiah is for everyone [and he skips over a few people here and there for thematic reasons].  Matthew, on the other hand, begins with Abraham [skipping over everyone before him to emphasize the clear Jewish expectation] and demonstrates how Jesus is the Messiah for everyone by including Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth—all Gentile women.  Same truth: Jesus—in fulfillment of Jewish expectation—is yet everyone’s Messiah.   Same light.  Same truth.  Different windows.

Next, I’d like to address your comments about doubt.
If anyone says he or she has never once doubted anything they’ve read in Scripture, I daresay they haven’t thought that deeply about it.  Only Jesus who has seen the Father could not possibly have doubts.  The rest of us, without firsthand experience, find ourselves like John the Baptist in prison.  [Luke 7:18-28]

Doubts happen to anyone who thinks about things.  Doubting itself is not sin.  It depends on what you do with it.  Doubting that drives you to Scripture to dig and to learn and to ask Jesus to show you His truth is not sinful.  It’s humanity striving to understand something far beyond our comprehension.  Like Thomas in John 20:26-31 [also see Thomas in John 11:16], our life’s pains and disappointments can cause us to question what we believe.  But those of us who go to God’s Word in search of the Truth of Jesus Christ invariably find Him there and grow stronger in our faith for it.

Now if anyone lets doubt keep him/her from learning the truth, that’s the adversary’s tactic from of old.  In the Garden of Eden, what do the Scriptures say?  Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Did God really say??? Twisting God’s command and introducing doubt!!!  Sadly, this didn’t drive Eve and Adam back to God, asking for clarification, but instead their doubt brought them to the tasting to see for themselves whether they would surely die.

Doubting God is the place where I started my journey and periodically doubts are what God uses to help me learn more about Him.  When I lost my daughter at birth and when I had cancer, it was a test of faith.  Would I still believe in God’s goodness or would I doubt His love for me?  Yes and Yes.  

I was forced to reconcile a good God with my personal turmoil.  If this is how God shows me He loves me, well gee, I’m really glad He doesn’t hate my guts!  Doubt forced me with my tears and heartaches into God’s presence with all the questions one has in real life sorrows.  And like Thomas and John the Baptist, I asked God to show me He is still--right now--as He presents Himself to be on the pages of Scripture.  Because my life made no sense.  

Doubt.  It all depends on what you do with it.

The next issue I’d like to address is one that you didn’t ask anything about: That of a man being the proper Spiritual Head of the household.  While it is always great when men provide the spiritual leadership, the Biblical expectation is never that the man will be the Return of Christ.  ;)
Rather, it’s always a social good when a man follows Jesus Christ with his whole heart and encourages his wife and children to see his example and do likewise.  It’s leadership.

There are a lot of organizations and people out there that make spiritual headship into more than it ought to be.  I acknowledge my husband to be the spiritual head of our household even if I know my Bible better than he does; I pray more often than he has time to do; the call on my life is more visible and prominent than his; and if I am perceived to be more “spiritual” than he is.

The organizations to which I have alluded would say that my husband has abnegated his responsibilities as my “spiritual head.”

To them, I would say, “Maybe you ought to understand better what it means for a man to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.”  

Loving his wife as Christ loved the Church: This is what my husband does.  He loves me so much that as the spiritual head of our household, he faithfully pursues the role God has given him.  My husband’s faithfulness has freed me to spend time in studying the Bible while he provides for our family.  He has made it possible for me to spend my days in prayer and to do ministry, to answer questions on the Internet and to organize chapel services every Sunday as any other pastor would do.  

My husband's doing his role, quietly and without assuming CONTROL, means that he has worked hard in the Lord behind the scenes, paying for my seminary education so I could pursue my life’s calling as God has directed.  He comes to the hospital every week that he is in town to the chapel service and runs the technical aspects because I can’t do this alone.  I need my husband.  He stands behind me, supports me, and he lifts me up.  Just like Jesus doesn't expect the Church to do things on our own...

We’ve spent time in churches where the pastors in their rigid…ok, I’ll say it, ignorance and prejudice…have felt that it was better for my husband to teach because of his Y-chromosome and best for me to sit silently with the call on my life put in a pink box with a pink bow on top.  God didn’t design our marriage this way.  My husband hated every minute of doing by force what I was better suited to do by God's design and gifting.  This frustration for both my husband and me was  because certain pastors refused to believe that God desires to use a woman as His instrument of truth from time to time.

All this to say, don’t be too hard on yourself.  It’s obvious that you love your wife and seek to lift her up, to desire her to be the very best, most faithful, and blessed version of herself that you know comes only in the presence of God.  You have not failed.  You are still working on it.  Some of us women just require a bit more time, as masterpieces often do.  And if I might add, fear of living under the thumb of male control exalted by so many pastors has a dispiriting way of driving smart, accomplished, gifted, and faithful women away from the Church...away from Jesus...and away from a woman serving her Savior.

But patience is a virtue when it comes to doubt.  Because God's timing is not our own, not just with women either.  Look at the Apostle Paul anytime you feel like it’s not happening.  God does miracles and makes masterpieces out of those of us who get our doubts and unbelief figured out.  

How do you think I learned how to explain things?  It was only by my wrestling with what I did not understand.  And it wasn’t by putting my doubts in a little pink box and saying they didn’t matter because I’m a woman and my husband would figure it out for me.  

So, be pleased in your day-to-day faithfulness in pursuing your life of discipleship, and being content in your role to help guide and bless your wife, and leave the Messianic expectations to God.  Too many men succumb to the pride and control that certain Christian groups claim is the birthright of the Christian male, not realizing that in the process, they’re not leading their wives to Jesus but to themselves.  

Ok, off my soapbox on that one.  Back to your questions.

On Heaven and Hell: the best thing I know how to say is that much of our difficulty with the ideas of heaven and hell are self-imposed.  

We’ve constructed heaven and hell as “places” in such a way that Scripture itself does not do.  Jesus talked of heaven and He spoke of hell quite often, actually.  If you view heaven and hell the way Jesus did, it is clear that “heaven” is not a place, per se.  It is the eternal presence of God and “hell” is the eternal separation from God.  

Jesus didn’t give us a travel pamphlet with photos of puffy white clouds and angels with harps and everyone having wings and unicorns and rainbows as being heaven…or a virtual tour of hell as being in the molten lava core of the earth with the devil dancing around with demons and whips of fire and chains imprisoning people.  Click the right arrow and see the living room where your Aunt and Uncle Pagan are posed, standing with refreshing margaritas to cool those fiery flames.  Nope.  That’s the stuff of imaginations, not Scripture.

Heaven is being with God.  Images of beauty and peace and refreshment are ways of pointing us to what being with God is like.  Sin broke the beauty of Eden, it didn’t remove completely the paradise that God desires to give in His presence.  Being with God is paradise.

Hell is our being apart from every blessing of God.  It is the irreversible final destination of those who rebel against God until the end, refusing to believe that Jesus had to pay for sin to put us in a right relationship with God.  

All we have to do is take all the evils of this world, pile them into one big pile, take out every happiness, evidence of love and blessing that God still gives every day, and what you’re left with is hell: the absence of God’s blessing, His love, and His presence.  Buried under the pile of evil, what a person experiences is pain, sadness, weeping and gnashing of teeth [as the Bible says], and it feels horrible.  Fiery flames are a pretty tangible picture for most of us as to what pain feels like.

The last issue I’d like to bring forward is the very real danger presented by churches that have not preached the full Word of God or which have asserted in its place a tolerant, humanized version that redacts lines they don’t like out of Scripture.  There are plenty of Christian denominations that, for example, don’t like the Bible’s view of adultery or homosexuality or idolatry, etc.  The danger is very real because only God’s Truth will endure in the end. Many of the mainstream denominations in the US have capitulated to political pressure, I'm sad to say.

It’s not politically correct to assert the Bible’s view of certain things like sin.  But it’s nothing short of criminal for churches claiming to be houses of worship [worshiping God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] to worship our culture instead.  

The Bible calls Christians to counter-cultural living.  To uphold His values instead of what looks good and pleasing in our sight.  Remember Adam and Eve?  Using our own judgment over God’s was the sin that got all this brokenness started in the first place.  Minimizing sin has been a problem ever since.

Some churches, by favoring a tolerant redacted Christianity, have wandered far from the fold.  Sad to say, much of this has been done by women pastors, although men have played their roles throughout history as well.  I feel the pain caused by women pastors more acutely because their actions have reflected upon women like me who try to uphold the whole Bible as the Word of God. I am ashamed of many of my gender for the wrongs they have inflicted upon THE Way THE Truth and THE Life, otherwise known as Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

Hopefully, you have found strength to persevere among these many words, to be encouraged as a husband and spiritual head of your household, and to be emboldened to face doubts head on, knowing that this leads to faith of the strongest kind.

[Told you I was long winded.]

If you’d like for me to rant some more, or even explain something more fully, I am happy to be of help wherever I can.  Be encouraged.  You are doing the Lord’s work.  :)
Press on, my brother.  In His grace, Barbara <><  

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Barbara Shafer


Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science.


I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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