This discussion began on Facebook, but moved here (Ahh, blessed silence. Isn’t it nice to escape the noise of FB?)
WARNING: Lots of spoilers. It is recommended you finish the novel before joining the discussion if you are planning on reading the book. If you are not planning on reading it, you are still welcome in the discussion. It is not necessary to have read the book to benefit from the Bible study questions.
Each weekday I will post a Bible study question related to the passages of Scripture I was trying to teach in the story. Please don’t hesitate to post your answers in the discussion. Your point of view may be just what someone else needs to make it click.
The Half-Real World
The half-real world represents the physical realm. It’s only half real to illustrate the fact that the physical world around you that you can see is not all there is to reality. There is a vast spiritual realm that is every bit as real as the physical realm. If you live life as though the physical world makes up all of reality, you’re not living in reality.
The cottage represents God’s Word.
QUESTION: Why does it appear as a broken-down shack?
On the outside, the Bible looks just like any other book. But once you get inside, you see a word of divine revelation. That’s why in the story it appears as a cottage on the outside, but inside it’s a massive mansion with countless glorious rooms.
However, those who enter it without eyes to see (like Alexander) see nothing of note on the inside. Just an interesting historical landmark.
Adam feels drawn to the cottage as if it were beckoning him. This represents God drawing unbelievers to himself.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
The colors of the cottage represent what is appealing about God (his glory).
The colors of the birds represent what is appealing about this world (counterfeit glory), especially entertainment.
The birds and rain distract Adam from the cottage. They demonstrate Satan’s efforts to prevent the Word from taking root in someone’s heart as described in the parable of the sower.
The fruit represents sin—that which is forbidden by God. I chose fruit to represent sin because it had to be some form of food. God so frequently portrays himself in Scripture as being like food and drink for our souls. What food does for the body, God’s presence does for the soul. And sin is a rival of what God offers—a counterfeit. So it had to be some kind of food, because the choice between sin or God’s way has ultimately to do with appetites, not just actions. God wants us to choose him out of preference because he is more satisfying than what the world offers. So sin is like a diet of mere fruit—sweet at first, but lacking all the satisfying benefits of a full-blown feast, which is what God offers.
The Golden City and the King
The golden city represents the world. It appears at first to be a paradise because that’s what Satan always make us think about the world.
The king of the city (who is also the prince of darkness) represents Satan.
The Banquet Halls and the High Country
The halls represent individual churches, where God’s grace is “served up” by those doing ministry. The high country represents the church culture.
Not everyone in the high country, or even in the banquet halls, has gone through the cottage (not everyone in the church is born again). Inviting someone to a banquet hall represents inviting someone to church.
The gold represents money and possessions.
Touching the gold represents loving money (or doing that which leads to the love of money)
QUESTION: Why does touching your own gold heal you but touching someone else’s gold burns?
When there is covetousness in the heart, it’s painful t see other people prosper. It actually hurts your soul to see someone else win the lottery or get some big windfall because you covet that money. But greedy people find it soothing to focus on their own money (counting it, watching the investment numbers go up, etc.)
But in the high country (the Church), people are soothed by touching other people’s gold. When you have love for your neighbor in your heart instead of covetousness, then it makes you happy to see them prosper.
The Great Ones/Prophets
Great Ones/Prophets represent naturalistic scientists and academics. They have huge eyes, representing their strong powers of observation of the natural world.
Our culture elevates celebrity experts, especially scientists, to the status of prophets in our culture. Their opinions are taken as gospel, even in areas outside of their expertise.
Bible Study Questions
5) How does loving money result in “many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9—10)?
- It creates a new grief for each time it disappoints—each time it fails to bring the happiness it promised (which is always).
- Loving money creates grief by drawing me away from what I should love—true sources of joy.
- Loving money creates grief by damaging my relationships when I make decisions that place money above people.
- Loving money creates grief every time I lose money (or miss out on money I might have gained).
6) What practical steps could you take in your life to guard yourself against those dangers?
- I could do a periodic inventory of my heart and ask myself what I’m hoping in. What am I looking forward to the most? Something God promises, or something money promises?
- How does the energy I’m putting for to pursue God compare to the energy I put into chasing money?
- Is my concern about money putting strain on any of my relationships?
- I could watch my emotional responses when I lose money or miss out on gaining money. Does the way I feel reflect a possible problem of loving money?
|“Whenever children come to the city, they always try to convince people to go to the high country. They don’t get many takers.” -p.19|
When we invite people to come to Christ, few come. And many who think they have, haven’t (Matthew 7:13—14). Why are so few saved? See Matthew 18:3; John 3:19; Luke 14:26—33.
Mt.18:3 – Entering the kingdom of God requires humbling oneself, and most people aren’t willing to do that.
Jn.3:19 – Coming into the light is painful for those who love their sin because the light exposes their evil.
Lk.14:26-33 – Following Christ requires giving up everything else. This is not possible when a person prefers something in this world to Christ.
How does Jesus describe the path people naturally take (Matthew 7:13—14)? What are some examples of this?
MY ANSWER: The natural path is wide (easy to find and easy to travel).
- People naturally assume their feelings reflect reality.
- People follow the impulses of their flesh.
- People construct their worldview based on what they think is best for them.
- People assume they know what is best for them.
- People follow the crowd.
- People live as though this life is all there is.
What is it about the journey toward God (narrow path) that is so much more difficult than the wide path that the world takes?
- It’s hard to believe things that don’t seem real.
- It’s hard to say no to the flesh.
- It’s painful to humble myself.
- It’s hard to swim upstream.
- It’s hard to believe what I can’t see or what doesn’t seem true.
- It’s hard to love God (in fact impossible without being enabled by God).
|The prophets are known as the ‘Great Ones.’ … Their writings are the definitive revelation of history, the nature of the world, and the way to life and good days. … If it’s not in the writings, it is unknowable.” -p.22|
What examples of our culture’s over-reliance on experts (especially celebrity experts) have you observed—even to the point of treating them as if they were prophets?
The most obvious examples are the times when scientists are interviewed on questions of morality. Pastors, who have extensive training in that area and deal with difficult ethical issues on a routine basis are never consulted, whereas doctors, experts in the hard sciences, movie actors, and athletes are held up as leaders. During the COVID crisis, Dr. Fauci was looked to by all as the final authority not only on questions in his field, but also issues of economics, business practices, policing, PR, work and family relationships, politics, and every other hot topic surrounding the crisis.
Another example is the fact that our culture looks to scientists to answer questions about origins. Theories of the origins of the earth, the universe, and life are not scientifically verifiable or testable (which means they are not in the realm of science). Yet most people rely on the opinions of scientists when answering such questions.
Another example is in the area of psychology. The science of psychology can be helpful in observing tendencies in human behavior, but no amount of psychological research can reveal the nature of spiritual realities. Yet even many Christians rely on the opinions of psychologists about matters that the Bible explicitly says are spiritual.
We live in a culture that regards scientists as almost infallible. Has that influenced you? If a theory is accepted by the majority of scientists, but the Bible contradicts it, would your first impulse be to reinterpret the Bible passage to fit the science journal, or question the accuracy of the journal?
The more time goes on, the lower my overall confidence in popular scientific consensus becomes. I specify “popular,” because the reporting about scientific research in the media is often very different from what the scientists themselves are saying.
And even the scientists very often overstate their level of certainty in some areas. There is immense cultural pressure, for example, for scientists to avoid any finding that would contradict the theory of evolution, whereas anything that seems to support it is presented as fact, even when it is little more than an educated guess that is driven more by the theory itself than by any data. In areas like that, I have very little confidence in anything they say. In other areas of science, where they are more honest about their level of certainty, I have greatr confidence.
But any time there is an apparent conflict between a scientific theory and the Bible, I cast suspicion on the theory, not on the Bible.
However, I do keep in mind that it is possible for interpretations of the Bible to be wrong. So if the scientific data is compelling, I will be willing to restudy the biblical passages to see if I have made an interpretive error. But I strive to never adjust my interpretation of the Bible to fit anything unless I can discover exactly what my previous interpretive error was.
|“If a prophet didn’t author it, it’s not verified—it’s just superstition. … Superstition is what makes the mountain people so dangerous. They use it to brainwash people—and to justify all their crimes.” -p.22|
Naturalists accuse Christians of superstition. Christians accuse fortune tellers, astrologers, and psychics of superstition. What is the difference between superstition and faith? See John 14:11; 1 John 1:1—2.
MY ANSWER: Superstition is believing without evidence. Faith is believing based on the evidence one deems trustworthy.
Sometimes critics accuse Christians of believing without evidence because there is no scientific evidence for much of what we believe. What they fail to understand is that scientific evidence isn’t the only kind of evidence. It’s not even the best kind. Most of what people believe (including scientists), they believe based on non-scientific forms of evidence (such as reliable testimony).
|“He’s not just the king of the city; he’s the king of the whole world. He has awesome power. He can bring rain or storms. The grass of the field and the birds of the air do his bidding. And he uses all of it to protect our freedom.” -p.22|
God has ultimate control of the weather and everything else (Psalm 135:6—7). But he does allow Satan to manipulate the creation. What are some examples of natural processes God has allowed Satan to influence? See Job 1:16—19; Exodus 8:6—7; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.
Job 1:16-19 – Satan sent fire from the sky and a windstorm
Exodus 8:6-7 – Occultic magicians cause a plague of frogs to rise from the Nile.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 – Miracles, signs, and wonders.
How do you harmonize passages that affirm God’s total supremacy over everyone and everything (such as Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 17:24—30) with passages that speak of Satan ruling (such as 1 John 5:19. 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1—2)?
God is so powerful that he is capable of allowing sentient beings to make choices by their own will and still see to it that their decisions end up accomplishing exactly what God had planned. We can’t conceive of how that is possible without controlling the person’s actions (which is why people object to the sovereignty of God on the ground that it would have to violate human free will). But God is capable of things we can’t conceive of.