The Easy Chute

Once upon a time there was a very wealthy king who was very impatient.  He could not endure troubles or inconveniences of any sort.

This combination of personality traits drove his servants crazy.  The moment dinner was complete, dirty dishes became a problem.   The servants could not get them out of his sight soon enough. If any gadget or appliance was broken, it must be fixed immediately or the king would fly into a rage.  He had no tolerance to see even one piece of paper in a trash can.  His world must appear perfect.   No cross word must ever be spoken in his presence.

Finally, the brightest of his servants came up with an invention:  The Invisible Easy Chute.  Actually, every room in the castle was fitted with its very own Easy Chute.    At the other end of these chutes, three levels below the surface, was a quiet incinerator.  Every Chute was assigned its own attendant.  The duty of these attendants was to take anything that might be offensive or contrary to the wishes of the king and immediately and unobtrusively send it down the chute.   Each chute must be constructed so that the king could not see it.

The invention was amazing.  For months things seem to work marvelously.  Anything that bothered the king in the least was given instant dispatch.   The king was appeased.  But eventually, the inevitable happened.  The king grew more and more impatient.  Not only broken items must be taken from him, but items with what were perceived as tiny flaws would be tossed down the chute, too.  One day the king’s dog met an ill-fate when he barked at the wrong moment.  Several of the king’s nieces and nephews disappeared, too.   Finally, someone noticed that the queen hadn’t been seen for weeks.

Was this the king’s fault?   Had his passion for perfection overtaken reason and wisdom?  Or was it overzealousness on the part of his servants?   Either way, something had to be done.  Some feared the king himself might end up down the Easy Chute.  Alas, one of the king’s wiser servants sought out a moment with the king.  Thus he spoke: “O Great King!  You have been deceived by your misguided servants.  They sought to take away from you many things which, though inconvenient, would be for your own good.  O King! Demand that thy servants speak truthfully to you, and flatter you no more.”   Then the eyes of the king were opened.  For the first time he saw the formerly invisible Easy Chute.  He ordered that the chute be folded inside out and itself sent to the incinerator.   With this it was discovered that his wife was indeed alive and had been hiding in fear for her life.  And everybody, except one or two nieces and nephews who deserved to be sent down the chute – lived happily ever after.


Hebrews 12:11 – Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

A group of Charismatic Christians have found an Easy Chute into which they can dump any Scriptures they dislike.  It is called the “Hebrew Idiom of Permission.”  Wayne Clapp typifies the argument here:

God’s Word is clear as to the nature of the true God–He is always good. In direct contrast to God’s loving nature is the Devil, our adversary, the thief, who wants to do nothing but steal, and kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The Devil is always bad. In order to live in God’s power, we must maintain a clear mental picture of the goodness of our loving heavenly Father and the badness of the Devil. God never imparts evil to mankind. People who think that God makes them sick, injures them, or kills them are attributing darkness or evil to God, and that is wrong because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).

At first glance, this argument seems plausible.  Everything good that happens to everybody comes from God, who is good.  Everything bad that happens to anybody comes from the devil, which is evil.  But Scriptures contradict such a view, teaching that…

God puts evil diseases upon some people (Deut 7:15).

God sends mischief and arrows (Deut 32:23).

God wounds and heals; he kills and makes alive (Deut 32:39).

One Scripture shows that God utilizes vengeance to bring about mercy:

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people (Deut 32:43).

Another plainly teaches that God hates His enemies:

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man (Psalm 5:4-6).

What do you do if you believe that God never does any of these things, in light of hundreds[1] of Scriptures that teach that he does?   You send them down the “Easy Chute”.     When two or more Scriptures must be wrestled with in order to reconcile them, Clapp surrenders away the hard work of exegesis and chooses instead to use the Easy Chute: The Idiom of Permission.

The first difficulty in Clapp’s proposal is a linguistic one. Idioms are words used in a non-literal way.  They are a special kind of figure of speech.  To be considered an idiom, they must follow two rules of thumb. First, they must have an agreed upon or accepted meaning by the culture that uses them.  Second, they virtually all require that the same exact words be used in every figurative usage.  This is because it is the combination of words that gives the meaning, not the words taken individually.  Take the American idiomatic expression, “Fat Chance!”  It is always used sarcastically, and actually means its opposite, “No or little Chance”.  “Am I going to get that raise?  Fat Chance!”   If you replaced the word “Fat” with the synonyms “big” or “huge”, or replaced the word “chance” with the words “fate” or “luck” or “opportunity”,  you are no longer using the idiom.  The meaning would be completely different.

The point is that Clapp is not really describing idioms.  For example, he doesn’t suggest the Hebrew word for slay really means “allow to be slain”.  If this were an idiom, Genesis 4:8 would read this way:

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him allowed him to be slain.  But it is clear who killed Abel: Cain.

The word slay is also found when God threatens Pharaoh’s children (Exodus 4:23).

And I say unto thee, let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, [even] thy firstborn. We know that God did slay the firstborn of Pharaoh (Exodus 13:14, 15a):

And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.

Clapp’s philosophy denies God ever kills people.  His solution would be to say that “slay thy son” really means “permit the slaying of thy son”.

Therefore, what Clapp is describing is a doctrine, not an idiom.  It is a presupposition he has not proved.  The false doctrine is superimposed upon any Scripture that suggests God does anything harmful to any person.  It has nothing to do with linguistics.  Linguistics would require context to determine whether a phrase was to be taken literally or figuratively.  Clapp is not worried about context at all.   His preconceived notion amounts to an “easy chute”.  Let us examine the two prime examples he gives of the idiom of permission:

When II Samuel 6:7 says that “God smote him [Uzzah],” it more accurately means “God permitted him to be smitten.” When Genesis 19:24 records that “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” it must be understood as “the Lord permitted brimstone and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The full text in II Samuel reads:  “And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.   And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

Who killed Uzzah?  Satan?  Satan is not even mentioned in the passage.  No, it was God.  It was God who was angry with Uzzah.  It was God’s ark being unlawfully touched.

Clapp takes great pains to prove that the Hebrews used this idiom in Scripture because they didn’t understand the works of God and Satan.  So why didn’t God just say “I was angry with Uzzah and I allowed Satan to smite him dead”?  The plain statement of the text says no such thing. Clapp can’t give a reasonable explanation for this.

Who sent fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah?   Satan?   Why would Satan send judgment on the city that was carrying out his will?  No, the reason the Bible says God rained down fire on them was because GOD rained down fire on them.  The complete passage itself makes no sense as Clapp describes it.

Genesis 19:11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:  For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. {19:14} And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city.

…And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.

The text itself denies Clapp’s interpretation.  First, he conveniently left out where the fire and brimstone came from.  It did not come from hell.  It came out of heaven (v. 24). Second, the same angels that were sent to deliver Lot and his family were sent to destroy the cities. The “idiom” won’t work here.  It would have to be that “the LORD hath sent us to “allow it to be” destroyed.” (v. 14).  If Satan wanted to destroy the city, what purpose was there in sending the angels?  Does God require two agents to do his work?

There is another passage that clearly shows that the same God who saves His people, destroys His enemies.

Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. {9:24} And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: [which] when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. {10:1} And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. {10:2} And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Notice the wording is exactly the same, whether the sacrifice was being accepted or the offerer destroyed:  fire came out from the Lord.  This is critical to our understanding of salvation.  Substitutionary Atonement means that the wrath and punishment poured out on Christ is the same wrath that unsaved sinners receive.  If God only indirectly punishes sinners, then he only indirectly punished Christ and we are still in our sins.

According to Clapp, the New Testament gave us a better understanding of the works of God and Satan. But the need for the idiom should have disappeared, then.    But the Bible continues to tell us the things that GOD does, throughout the New Testament:

Luke 12:4-5 And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Acts 12:21  And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.  And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.  And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

II Peter 2:4-9   For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person,] a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; {2:6} And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned [them] with an overthrow, making [them] an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; {2:7} And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: {2:8} (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] unlawful deeds;)  {2:9} The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Notice the active verbs highlighted in these passages.  God does not just permit, he does!

Clapp’s second explanation for this seemingly ubiquitous idiom has to do with free will.    After rightly suggesting that judgments come as a result of sin, he then suggests that it is only an idiom when the Bible says God directly punishes sin.  He only allows it.   This is a denial of the gospel, however.  God the Father directly punished His Son for the sins of His people.  To suggest otherwise, is to blasphemously suggest that it was the direct work of Satan that saved us.   That God only PERMITTED us to be saved.  That God did not plan our salvation at all.  Or somehow planned it only after he saw what men did to Christ outwardly.

Isaiah 53 teaches us that God put his own son to death in order to save us:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

To deny that God directly punishes sin is to deny the gospel.

[1] Just a few examples: Genesis 6:7, 13:10, 38:7-10; Exodus 12:13, 23:27; Leviticus 23:30; 26:21ff; Psalms 7:11, 9:5, 10:3, 11:5f, 34:16, 50:22; Ezekiel 23:28ff, Amos 5:27, Luke 19:26f; Romans 9:12f, Lamentations 2:20-22, Luke 12:5, Acts 12:23.


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