Friday, January 20, 2023


Agnes de Mille (niece of Cecille B. de Mille)
The art experience is a state of grace. It implies total submission, total service. You become transparent, perfectly used, reorganized. You become all self and selfless, a conductor. It demands health, not serenity or even happiness, but inner conviction, nerve and vigor. You realize at last, if only partially but with humility and joy, the meaning of the great promise in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” — Agnes de Mille, To a Young Dancer

I decided to write this article a few hours after my niece Ashley was wed to Kenji at a very solemn, traditional marriage ceremony at a Catholic church in North Hollywood. I was totally awed by what the newlyweds did after they entered at the reception hall. Up front, on a centrally located dance floor, the two performed an evidently well-rehearsed choreography which amazed and delighted the gathered family and friends. Later, before the garter tossing ritual, her spouse and three of his groomsmen executed another impressive dance routine in front of the seated bride. Near the end of it, the rest of the groomsmen and bridesmaids joined them, having obviously invested much time and effort practicing for this performance.

The burden to write about dancing, however, came several weeks earlier when I met the woman who ran the dance academy where my daughter-in-law is a ballet instructor. This director told me that after becoming a Christian she gave up her dancing career, because her church considered dancing a worldly behavior. But after almost 30 years of missionary service, she discovered that such condemnation was not Scriptural. Realizing that she had been a victim of religious legalism rather than sound Bible teaching, she returned to dancing as an avenue for Christian ministry.

Compass Dance Academy, Tyrone, GA

Yet as I began to write, I recalled watching another sad episode of how this widespread legalistic censure against dancing played out at a Christian gathering. Several decades ago, I was at a men’s retreat sponsored by a strongly evangelical denomination. During an activity where talented people had an opportunity to show their skills, a man in his early thirties, dressed in gym shorts and a tee shirt, danced for us. After briefly introducing his theme, he used his body’s creative movements to emotively express that theme during nearly fifteen minutes of energetic dancing.

As he ended his dance, sweat soaked his outfit and was dripping from his face. But an uncomfortable silence reigned in the meeting hall. The sound of his heavy, rapid breathing should have been drowned in applause. But if there was any clapping, it was so brief, scattered and weak that it did not register in my memory. I felt sorry for the fellow but not enough to withstand the peer pressure of the unspoken consensus. Although I hesitated to applaud him, I now believe Jesus was clapping loudly. I could kick myself for not joining Him, but my rear-end is too far away in the past for my foot to reach it. Instead, I hope this article will somehow make amends for my cowardice.

Dancing on the Dance Floor

Long before that men’s retreat—and despite my own denominational background’s religious aversion to dancing—I named my talk on chaste relationships between guys and gals “The Dance of the Sexes.” The dance metaphor was too perfect to pass up. Every day, on many dance-floor environments (schools, jobs, churches, neighborhoods, various gatherings), we are routinely in a social dance with those of the opposite sex. To regulate behaviors and boundaries in those opposite-sex interactions, God has only one standard: marriage. The main thrust of my talk was to show that God’s holy and healthy rule for both marrieds and singles is an exclusive pre- and post-marital fidelity to spouses.

A Video Talk on YouTube

To dramatically illustrate how that spousal fidelity was possible, even on an extremely intimate dance floor, I used myself as an example. As a male L&D nurse, working mostly with female co-workers and helping many thousands of young moms deliver and breastfeed newborns, I had no problem remaining 100% faithful in thought, word and deed to my dear wife, to whom I had vowed marital loyalty. Whether my audience believed my testimony or not, I was telling the truth.

It was only later, after intense research, that I discovered solid reasons why women’s bare anatomy did not distract or stumble me sexually, when my religious training unanimously insisted that it would. But in that research, my biggest discovery was that the sexual objectification of the body creates a sex-focused society. The church’s prudish perspective on the body is actually a pornographic view that has unwittingly fueled the fires of our presently porn-addicted culture.

I immediately began writing about the evils of body shame and its antidote in a wholesome, godly, Creator-honoring body acceptance. But now I see from those same discoveries why the rhythmic bodily motions in dancing have been religiously banned in the past and are still shunned by some Bible-believers. Sadly but undeniably true, many Christians in Western culture are indoctrinated with an overshadowing sex-focus on human anatomy. With eyes mentally glazed over by this obsessive fixation on the sexual dimensions of the body, they see in the movements of dance a shameful display rather than a creative expression of God’s design.

Dancing: the Dirty and the Delightful

There is indeed dirty dancing. A Scriptural example of it is the dance by “the daughter of Herodias” which so allured Herod that he agreed to behead John the Baptist (Mat 14:6-11). And yet merely because it is exploited lewdly, dancing itself is not turned into a form of lewdness. Just as the body has been misused to promote pornography, so wayward choreographers have employed willing dancers to participate in burlesque obscenities or in manners suggestive of sexual gratification. But, whether the concern is the anatomical bare body or the expressively dancing body, guilt-by-association is unethical and fallacious, no matter how popular its practice.

Churches are right to ostracize the unwholesome exploitation of dance for sexually wayward ends. Yet they are deeply wrong to allow occasions of its abuse to jade their vision, blinding them from seeing its divine origin. Unfortunately, when the sex-focus of porno-prudery permeates religious thinking, such a mistaken perception may seem not only logical but supportive of maintaining that condemnatory focus.

That sex-focus is a shame-focus with philosophical roots in the exaltation of spirit over matter in ancient Gnosticism. Although resisted strongly by the early church, the Gnostic heresy unfortunately tainted later Christian thinking and still persists today with many socially destructive effects. Any Gnostic denigration of the material world and of the fleshly body is an attack on “the Maker of heaven and earth.” Praise God for the strong voice of the late Pope John Paul II in his landmark Theology of the Body. He not only dismantles Gnosticism but refreshes our forgetful memories that any true spirituality we manifest on earth may start in the heart but is only seen and practiced through the body.

Down through human history, people in almost every culture have developed customary expressions of delight and exuberance through rhythmically synchronized motions. These rich dancing patterns did not develop as bodily activities to advertise lewdness but as wholesome ways to celebrate aspects of life. Joyous social dancing surrounded birth, milestones of growth, weddings, harvest times, sacred days, anniversaries of special events. Whether celebrating some form of public success or merely bringing a happy gathering of families to a delightful culmination, the dance included all, from eager children imitating dance-steps to the elderly moving slowly in reminiscence of their youthful vibrancy. But as a cross-cultural phenomenon of the human race for thousands of years, dancing was blasted or belittled by church leaders who failed to take a theological look before making a non-biblical leap.

The Divine Dance

Dance, by definition, involves bodily motion. When several dancers produce a choreographed composition, the bodily movements are rhythmically coordinated. Astrophysicists, studying our incredibly humongous universe, molecular biologists, investigating the city-like complexities within living cells, and all other scientists working between those two extreme dimensions, often become poetic when describing the amazing phenomena of movement and rhythm in all of nature by using the word “dance.” The interactive relationships at play in creation, the fine-tuned performances of atoms and galaxies, reveal a choreography that is dynamically organized.

Skeptic materialists blindly deny that this dancing creation points to a Divine Choreographer. But Christians may also be blind, failing to recognize that God manifests Himself—especially His nature as a Triune Godhead—in His handiwork. There is such an eternal unity in the divine dancing of the Trinity that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have forever been working together as one Triune Dance Team. Many years ago, I was inspired to write a free verse poem about this:


Three great pairs of loving hands
Firmly grasped in joyous dance,
Spreading brilliant, sparkling orbs
Around a universe of void,
Filling worlds with nature’s gems,
Moving newly-fashioned minds
With awe until they bow in praise!

Years go by. . . the brilliance lasts;
Yet creatures imaged from the Three
Forget the awe, count commonplace
The dazzling, artful universe
And dwell upon their meager meals
Of human wisdom’s pride and boast.

Break out, Three Dancers! Dear God dance!
Hit the pew, on pulpits dance!
Turn classrooms to a whirling reel,
Melt hardened hearts with prancing fire
To spread the flame throughout the world
And shine to all, this tale to tell:
The Three still live! The Three still dance!
Come join them for eternity!

— David L. Hatton, 7/30/1984
(from Poems Between Heaven and Hell ©1991, 2014)

Imaging the Dancing God

Christians who have believed for years that dancing is a sinful activity, may have difficulty accepting the idea that God is a Dancer and the Creator of dancing. But they can overcome that difficulty by remembering, as they watch an innocent toddler spontaneously trying to move to a musical rhythm, that humans are made in the image of God. Humans dance because they reflect their dancing Maker.

Even those claiming to take a moral stand against dancing will sometimes catch themselves tapping their toes unconsciously to the beat of a lively Christian song. That foot movement is the built-in urge of the body to be in sync with the melody. God purposefully put that elementary tendency to move with rhythm into His image-bearers, and when it is creatively and expressively expanded, it becomes what all cultures in the world know as dancing.

But the greatest cure for a Christian who legalistically condemns dancing is the “
reproof” and “correction” of God’s Word (2 Tim 3:16). It is God Who turns our “mourning into dancing” (Psa 30:11). His Word tells us to “praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!” (Psa 149:3). When He rebuilds His people, Israel, telling them that they will celebrate, He says, “you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.” (Jer 31:4). While merrymaking is not to be our perpetual activity, God’s Word tells us that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Eccl 3:4). King David evidently thought it the proper time for a physically vigorous celebration, when he “danced before the LORD with all his might… wearing a linen ephod” (2 Sam 6:14), as the ark of God was being brought into Jerusalem.

David’s wife Michal sarcastically chided him, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Sam 6:20). Michal’s criticism of her husband’s devotional dance may have stemmed from her ideal of propriety, which entailed maintaining royal prestige. But, in one respect, it parallels the reaction of the Pharisees in their legalistic disdain of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Yet their responses went beyond hers. They repudiated both the ascetical elements in John the Baptist and the mundane practices of Jesus (see Luke 7:33-34). Jesus quoted a popular childhood aphorism to expose their legalism’s vacillating attitude. In it, Jesus presents dancing as an appropriate response to music, and His approbation of it aptly reproves the inappropriate religiosity that berates dancing today: 

They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you,
   and you did not dance;
   we sang a dirge,
   and you did not weep.’”
(Luke 7:32)

In regard to dancing, the modern Pharisee is quick to point out the tight apparel of the ballet dancer, which clearly reveals the shapely physique of the body, even as nudity itself would. The implication is that everyone should know that such a frank display of the body’s shape is lustful. That focus is perverted, coming not just implicitly from a cultural porno-prudery but explicitly from an objectifying sex-focus on the body’s physical anatomy. They view the anatomical features that give shape to the human form as lust-inspiring rather than God-glorifying. What God originally called “very good” (Gen 1:31) in assessing His unadorned creative handiwork, the porn-tinted mind calls “a lustful temptation.” Such a view of the human body is definitely not our Maker’s view, but His perspective should definitely be our perspective. 

Christians know from Scripture that the human body, in tights or in the buff, is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa 139:14, KJV). Even if secular and religious majorities have a pornographic mindset, we should not emulate their worldly, Creator-maligning focus. Our reasoning should be obvious: 1) as Christians, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), with eyes that should be surrendered to see the human body as He does, and 2) we are to obey God’s directives in Rom 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Getting our minds renewed from conformity to a worldly sex- or shame-focus requires a willing submission to “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26, KJV). Only by such a renewal of mind will the serious believer learn “the will of God” about dancing, His “good and acceptable and perfect” will.

A Concluding Finale

Investments in falsehood won’t get into Heaven. While I don’t believe in a place called Purgatory, I can envision a mind-cleansing obligation that Christian dance-deniers might face in the afterlife. Perhaps their naked souls will have to dance their way through the pearly gates, jumping and twirling forward after having wept tears at a devastating sight outside. Prior to entry, a consuming fire will incinerate all “wood, hay, [and] stubble” with flames that “will test each one’s work” (1 Cor 3:11-15, KJV). Will those who legalistically maligned dancing witness their efforts being consumed? If, after reading this, they adamantly reject what I’ve written here, I’m sure they will consider this article itself as part of the “stubble” destined for that fire.

But if I’ve truly offered my readers a valid glimpse of the counsel of God on dancing, then I envision an opposite experience. I foresee that all believers in Christ, including any who formerly taught against dancing, will be celebrating quite frequently in joyously exuberant dances throughout eternity.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


The above, quickly done ink and watercolor image was part of a recent online CFO retreat held using Zoom. This portion of the short, one-morning retreat was that part of our daily CFO camp activities called "Creatives." It's a personal time of prayer in which you ask for God's guidance in some creative activity (using clay, paints, pastels, poetry or prose), then let God speak more deeply to you through what you've created. Finally, if so led in the show & tell conclusion, you can share with the group what you created and what God said to you through it.

This image was in my mind as soon as "Creatives" began. After its completion, God spoke to me about how the righteousness of Christ is much larger than we are. We need to grow up spiritually so that it fits on us, or rather, that we fit into it. The verse that came to mind was Ephesians 4:13, where we must continue to be "edified" (built up) "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

For almost 40 years of my life, CFO (Camps Farthest Out) has been a vehicle of spiritual formation, especially in the area of prayer. It was established back in the 1930s by Glenn Clark, a college professor who taught creative writing and coached sports. He took some students for a 2-week camping adventure in prayer on an island the farthest out from the New York coast. That's how the camp got its name.

Besides daily morning "Meditations" and afternoon "Prayer Groups," Glenn Clark's emphasis on experimentation in prayer involved using bodily movement in a daily part of the camp called "Rhythms" or "Devotion in Motion" or, less commonly, "Spiritual Aerobics." It is very much like the playful bodily exercises done in kindergarten. But after first discovering CFO as an adult, I found that it was a stretch for me to participate (pun intended). Now, however, with my body's shortness-of-breath issues, I can still stand and make gentle hand motions, but any kind of dance-like activity would send me to the ground praying for more air!

This year (2022), the Silver Sierra CFO Camp, which I usually attend, is scheduled at Camp Alta in Alta, CA (off of I-80, 10 miles above Colfax) from June 12th thru June 17th. If you'd like to attend, here is their link for registration: California Silver Sierra CFO | Association of Camps Farthest Out ( Or on that page, click on the "Home" button to see where and when other camps are scheduled in the USA this year.

If you've never been to a CFO, I promise you, it will be a "far out" experience with God.

Saturday, February 5, 2022


(The title preface and accompanying image below were given to my article when originally posted on the Seedbed blog for pastors. For an unknown reason, it was removed recently. It had been listed in the "Top 14 Articles for 2014," but it disappeared. This is unfortunate for those with a sex-focus on the body that chains them to porn and body shame problems. I reproduce it here because its message remains prophetic and crucially needed by Christians caught up in the demonic lie of porno-prudery.)

Embracing Nakedness: Adopting God’s View of Bare Anatomy

by David L. Hatton (published on, Jan. 9, 2014)

I’m a Wesleyan pastor who is grateful for the landmark Theology of the Body of Karol Wojtyla (late Pope John Paul II). No theologian ever dealt so comprehensively with God’s purpose for gendered human embodiment. This quote summarizes his theme:

“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

As an art lover and amateur artist, I was surprised to read Wojtyla’s ideas somewhat echoed by Henri Robert in his book The Art Spirit:

“There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body. In fact it is not only among artists but among all people that a greater appreciation and respect for the human body should develop. When we respect the nude we will no longer have any shame about it.”

But before ordination or art classes, I was an L&D nurse, and still am. I work routinely and intimately with bare female anatomy. If this raises any brows, I’ve hammered out my own quote that brings Wojtyla’s and Robert’s together:

“A Creator-honoring, incarnational view of the naked human body dispels the fantasy-laden, porno-prudish conception religiously taught and pornographically exploited in Western culture.”

For almost 25 years, I put up with the uncomfortable contradiction between my experiential view of hospital nudity and the one taught by my Christian upbringing. Finally, when God opened my eyes to the dysfunctional immaturity of our culture’s reaction to public breastfeeding, I did my homework. Through intense research about the phenomenon of human nakedness biblically, historically, culturally, and psycho-socially, I experienced a radical paradigm shift in my thinking. My studies showed me the American church’s urgent need of repentance, reformation and restitution for having adopted and promoted Victorianism’s flight from the body.

The bottom line is this: a prudish view of the body is a pornographic one. Religiously placing an obscene or indecent sexual connotation on the sight of gender-distinguishing body parts creates a sexually objectified body. Such legalism, if socially embraced, becomes the conceptual foundation for a pornographic culture, as ours is now. Also, this objectification trivializes the body language of human genitalia, allowing them to be ignored as features of personal gender identity and distinction. Take some time to do the math on this, and it should cause tears.

Theologically, beyond shining a spotlight on the church’s notorious support of Victorian prudery, these personal insights showed me how Gnosticism’s influence on the early church still lingers in popular Christian thinking.[1]

Practically, my discoveries led me to join some other pastors in creating a website to fight porn addiction. Our message at MCAG ( is body acceptance, calling men to see women as the Creator does, in opposition to the traditional body-shame approach, which tells them, “Bounce your eyes!”

Ministerially, I feel like “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Christian porno-prudery is so well established as a virtue that most are blind to its real nature as a vice. Yet it has kept Christians from being the world-renowned experts in sex education that our understanding of creation and the Incarnation ought to have made us. It has stopped multiple thousands of Christian art students from ever becoming skilled with the nude. If we hadn’t abandoned the human body by surrendering God’s image and temple into secular hands, these young artists might have become modern Michelangelos painting contemporary “Sistine-Chapel” ceilings. Such a holy display of human nudity in our churches might have been a realistic preventative to our current religious and social focus on naked anatomy as an avenue of lust and on gender-specific body parts as sex objects.

I explained the gist of this article to one senior pastor who agreed with my viewpoint but believed the situation hopeless, saying that society and the church are too far into this to ever be changed. I must disagree. The naked truth of reality changed me. Porno-prudery is a learned attitude that can be unlearned through repentance. Gnostic ideas that devalue matter and flesh can be dispelled from our pulpits. Preaching theologically-correct body acceptance can bring a reformation in Christian thinking that restores the strong incarnational message our modern world needs to hear.[2] Although it means swallowing our pride, even the last step is possible: restitution. If our porno-prudery has played a role in the development of a society riddled with porn addiction, body-image dysfunctions, gender confusion issues, human-trafficking, and more, we must confess our error, ask forgiveness, and start behaving as if the “fearfully and wonderfully made” naked human body never stopped being “very good” (Gen 1:31).


[1] For further study on this, see my article, “Incarnational Truth about Humanity’s Sexual Nature (Doing Body-friendly Theology Free from Gnostic Prudery)”.

[2] Anyone truly serious about this area might like to read some of the same material I have on this subject in my webpage “Rebuilding a Godly View of the Unclad Human Body - Why and How to Stop ‘Thinking Dirty’ about God’s Image and Temple”.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

MUSE - Naked Truth Poses Again (a novel)

(My books are available on Amazon at this link.)

I started out 2022 by publishing a novel that I've been working on a couple of years. My son Samuel designed the cover to be similar to my other two books that deal with the subject of body acceptance. Rather than explain why I wrote a third one, I'm letting you read my explanatory preface. Or, if you would rather read both it and well into Chapter 3 of the story, you can skip it here and go directly to the novel's KINDLE PAGE and use its helpful "Look Inside" feature to do that reading.

I've already seen two favorable blog reviews of it, which you may also like to read. One is by a fellow who does art modeling and the other by a Christian naturist (yes, there are such people who authentically love Jesus and enjoy fun in the sun as naked as God made them). And if you decide to read the whole novel, which I hope you will, please leave me a comment here or give it a review on Amazon. Thanks!

MUSE - Naked Truth Poses Again


A novel needs no introduction, if its narrative quality provides attractive bait to hook readers and reel them in. But I’m just an old poet-prophet, destitute of a seasoned novelist’s years of writing fiction. This explanatory preface raises no hopes for a big catch. I’m not even sure it will draw many bites. I merely feel that prospective readers, before investing their time, deserve a word or two about a book’s purpose. If you don’t need or want to know why this story was written, feel free to skip this section and dive into the first chapter, or at least to test its waters.

Some may be baffled by my title, MUSE, wondering if it stands for the mythical name given to personified creative inspiration or for the directive to think over, consider carefully, ponder deeply. But I refuse to tell which one it is. As most poets, I love the fruitful fun of employing double entendre. I even slipped it into my subtitle: Naked Truth Poses Again. So, is she replaying her role as artist’s model or posing again her searching questions? Actually, the reader’s own interaction with the story will determine whether it’s either-or or both-and.

Those familiar with my first two body-acceptance books—Meeting at the River, an annotated novelette, and “Who Said You Were Naked?”, a mixed anthology—will find these prefatory remarks redundant. But new readers should be warned about my continuing mission. I feel divinely called to confront society’s dysfunctional, porno-prudishly sexualized view of the body. This third book again utilizes fiction, especially focusing on a culturally supported context where nude human anatomy is creatively observed, maturely accepted, and respectfully treated. In Meeting at the River, the comparable contextual backdrop was my own years of experiencing normal, nonsexual nudity in hospital nursing. This tale involves another area I’m personally familiar with as well as perpetually thrilled by: art.

My novel started out as a short story, but as the plot thickened, new chapters kept materializing. In fact, I discovered first hand what I knew about only from rumors, that fictional characters can take a story down unforeseen paths, steering it wherever they wish. Drawing on subconscious reservoirs of thought, they make serendipitous decisions, bypassing the writer’s original plans. While watching this phenomenon play out, I decided to supplement the story’s main theme. Here and there, I slipped a few sub-messages into the scenes, allowing issues to come on stage directly from my own ideas and concerns. After all, shouldn’t I, as an author, have some say-so to add to that of the imaginary personalities I allowed to take control of my drama?

Finally, as with my other books, I aim at and pull the trigger on a special Christian audience: those practicing and preaching the lie of porno-prudery. On this world’s shooting range, they’re not the only guilty targets at which the naked truth needs to be fired. But unfortunately, the ammo loaded here is a liberating message Bible-believing churches have been dodging for years. My sights zero in on the same bullseye Jesus wants to hit: the heart. God delights in “truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6, ESV). There He’s able to transform our lives from the inward to the outward. Truth begins by leading us to change our thinking (repentance). But when truth firmly grips our hearts, we change our behavior (reformation).

Truth sets people free; lies keep them bound. One deceptive web Satan spins to capture today’s Christians is a sexualized body. This falsehood traps multitudes in the devastating social evils of pornography, sex addictions, body-shame issues and a growing array of sexual excesses, aberrancies and abuses. For years, many pulpits zealously communicated this sex-focus, sanctimoniously translating it as a “holy” body shame. Such preaching tragically confirmed society’s sexual objectification of our bodies, which were meant to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Such false language has only reinforced our wayward culture’s sexualized treatment of God’s embodied image. My prayerful hope is that this novel’s presentation of the naked truth will help God’s people abandon the unwholesome, sexually-obsessed religious lie they grew up with and to adopt the emancipating truth of a godly, Creator-honoring, mature and healthy body acceptance.


Saturday, November 27, 2021


[On PC only, hover mouse over Bible references for ESV, or use "more »" on pop-up for more versions]

Why did God create the forbidden fruit? It’s a question for deep thinkers only. Some accuse God of cruelty for putting a temptation like “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden. Such talk shows they either doubt God’s goodness or don’t know how temptation works, or both. When God pronounced everything He made “very good” (Gen 1:31) that tree was included. And long ago we were instructed about the nature of temptation in James 1:13-14,

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire,
he is dragged away and enticed.

But the question remains, “Why the forbidden fruit?” If a tree’s fruit was dangerous enough to kill humans, then why did God create it and place it in Paradise [the literal meaning of Eden], right “in the middle of the garden”?

Nothing is directly stated about that tree’s purpose, but some clues in those first 3 chapters of Genesis point to its edibility and its function. We already know God deemed it “very good,” and Gen 2:9 tells us it was among trees that were “good for food.” God indicated its significance by centrally locating it next to the crucially important “tree of life.” But what was its function?
After “the serpent”—identified in Rev 12:9 as “Satan”—deceived Eve by saying, “You will not surely die” (Gen 3:4), both she and Adam ate that tree’s fruit, and they at once died, but not at first physically. Later, in the New Testament, we learn their immediate death was spiritual (Rom 5:12-24). But Satan had told them a partial truth about the fruit’s power: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” God Himself confirmed this in Gen 3:22a (NKJV), “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.” While this divine statement greatly supports the doctrine of the Trinity, it also gives us a hint about spiritual death.

God warned Adam and Eve in Gen 2:17, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” But when they did, He prevented them from living forever physically in their fallen, spiritually dead state. He removed Adam’s race from Eden’s source of everlasting life: “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden...” (Gen 3:22b-23a). Both alchemy’s old quest for the life-extending philosopher’s stone and the proverbial search for the fountain of youth express a human longing for regaining access to that “tree.” But Paradise and “the tree of life” have been relocated from our planet to Heaven (Rev 2:7; 22:2,14,19).

To see why fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” brought spiritual death, we must first understand how the “Us” of the Trinity “know good and evil.” The Eternal Persons of the Triune Godhead have an absolute “knowledge of good and evil.” If Gen 3:22a is a divine Self-revelation, then They each “know” independently in Themselves—intrinsic to Their uncreated nature as God—the precise distinction between “good and evil.” No created being—angelic or human—intrinsically has that divinely accurate “knowledge.” While they can learn it (Heb 5:14), they are forever dependent on God for it. But in Eden, through this “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” God made a way for something “like” it to become a part of humanity. Evidently, God wanted human creatures, who already imaged the Trinitarian “Us” of Gen 1:26 (NKJV), “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...”), to be able, at some future stage of progress, to “become like one of Us.” Since we were already bearing His representative “likeness,” this further “like”-status had to be of another sort, perhaps relational.

Human survival depends on the God of Truth, for “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3). The exact story of fallen angels is obscure, but our own story is clear. Our human ancestors took and ate that fruit when it was forbidden to them, and its transformative power worked. It gave them independence in their “knowledge of good and evil”—an internal means, independent from God, for knowing and determining distinctions between “good and evil.” In other words, we became morally independent of divine guidance and direction, able to decide our own personal and cultural moralities, and that’s how human history has played out from our earliest days up to modern times. The spiritual death in such moral independence from God has proved to be blatantly obvious.

But in contemplating the Trinity—a Union of Three eternally distinct Individuals as One God, and so much One that They name and speak of Themselves in the singular (“I AM that I AM”)—we must come to terms with the mutual and simultaneous Self-Denial, even Self-Death, intrinsic to Their absolute Unity as morally independent Persons. God never asks us to do what He has not done or is not doing Himself. In Mat 16:24-25 (NKJV) Jesus called us to a self-death similar to His own: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Our self-denying self-death is a prerequisite for experiencing “life... in abundance” (John 10:10, CSB) by intimate union with Christ, and through Him, ultimate union with the Triune God.

Adam and Eve’s sin of not listening to and obeying God contained its own lethal consequence. It was much like the death of children who, being told not to do it, disobediently run into a busy street after escaping balls or abandoned toys and are killed in the traffic. The balls or toys did not cause their death, but their desire for them, outweighing their fear of the warning, tragically led them to it. If they had listened and obeyed, their parents might later have seen the traffic disappear, grabbed their hands and walked them safely into the empty street to help them retrieve their desired items.

Although the above illustration is inadequate, I believe it points to the possibility of God’s original intention for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” as hinted earlier: a relational purpose. Created beings can never become the Uncreated, but God can invite us to become as “like” Him as He has become “like” us in Christ’s Incarnation. In His Plan A, He might have brought us to maturity in a self-death “like” His own Trinitarian one. In that case, humanity’s future might have had this tree’s fruit—deadly to us without that self-death—served to us on the table of “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (an unsacrificed one), for Whom we, “his bride [had] made herself ready” (Rev 19:7-9) through a much less difficult self-denial. But, deceived into acting on our own, we ate that fruit without divine permission, and in Plan B, “the Lambdid have to die, to provide the way for us, the Church, to make ourselves ready as His Bride. Now—in a fallen world, surrounded by fallen people, and hampered with our own fallen sin natures—we must struggle daily to resist that internalized fruit of moral independence and to embrace a self-denying self-death that is much harder than it would have been, yet is still possible. Christ, living in us through the Holy Spirit, teaches us to practice His prayerful lifestyle of “not my will but Yours be done,” and the more we do, the more progress we make in our earthly sanctification.

While Scripture has “the tree of life” in Heaven for us to eat from freely, we do not see there the misused “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We already carry its fruit inside of us as now part of us. Even becoming “new creations in Christ” (2 Cor 5:17, CSB) does not erase its intended effect, for Christ Himself had its result in Him through becoming genetically human through Mary.[1] By learning from Jesus how to use our individual moral independence in the way God originally intended, we will make ourselves ready for our coming wedding with Him, our Bridegroom. It will be a true marriage of equal partners, because He became one of us, partaking fully of our human nature, so that we could become “like” Him as fully as humanly possible by partaking of “the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Without that comprehensive sharing of natures, corporately redeemed humanity could not even have a friendship with Christ, let alone an equanimous marriage.

So, far from being a temptation, or even a test, as some teach, I believe the Biblical clues behind my speculation show that this, at first, deadly “tree” was to be an awesome wedding gift from our Creator. It allowed us, as lowly human creatures, to stand in exaltation forever beside Jesus in a mutually self-denying, eternal marital union.

Some people hate to read poems, probably because much poetry is written as enigmatically as Old Testament prophets sometimes proclaimed their prophecies. But I’ve tried to capture in a sonnet many of the concepts I’ve shared above. I hope it forms both an adequate review and an apt conclusion to this article.


No, not a test, but gift put on reserve,
a present for unwrapping later on,
a prize to guard and carefully conserve
till youthful immaturity was gone.

But Satan knew the fruit upon that tree
could sow false independence in our race
and blind—through open eyes—ability
to fellowship with Maker face to face.

What would have served as food for marriage feast,
when Son of God would win His human Bride,
became a path of bondage to the Beast,
who laughed to think our destiny had died.

But Mary’s Son would crush that Serpent’s head
and rise to raise His Spouse back from the dead.

— David L. Hatton, 4/16/2018
(from Poems Between Fear and Faith © 2019)

— — — — — — —
[1] See my blog article, “THE FIRST ADVENT: THE INCARNATION,” which explains this in great detail.

Friday, October 8, 2021


(Before becoming a preacher, a nurse, an amateur artist, or a massage therapist, I was a poet. I still am. Getting my poetry published in more than homemade binders had been a dream for years. Health challenges and the rise of modern book-publishing technology merged to motivate me to make the effort. This and my other books are published through Kindle Direct Publishing in both paperback and Kindle editions.

I wanted to put the introductory essays for each poetry collection on my blog. If you want to know what makes me tick, my poems tell it better than a biography.

This "Introduction" and the concluding poem are from my 7th book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:
Poems Between Heaven and Hell;
Poems Between Darkness and Light;
Poems Between Death and Life;

“Introduction” to
Poems Between the Beginning and the End

In a philosophy class in high school, I became enthralled with Augustine’s idea of time. He tried to show that by their sequential nature, time past and time future have dimension, while present time does not. At the point where past and future meet, there is nothing. Any seeming dimension in the present can be further divided into past and future. But, from the perspective of this dimensionless present, the past no longer exists and the future is yet to be.

These philosophically convoluted thoughts led me to ask, “Does time exist?” and to write an essay on it for that class. My teacher coached me in framing that same question into a suitable form and submitting it to Mortimer J. Adler’s weekly newspaper column. If that renowned educator and philosopher chose to discuss it, I would win a 54-volume set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. That happens to be how I came to own that set of books.

Despite how valid the above arguments seem in showing  time’s nonexistence, modern astronomers and cosmologists depend mathematically on time’s real existence for their knowledge of the cosmos. In fact, from a subjective, psychological viewpoint, all of us bring the past into our present experience by recollection, and we can dream or visualize the future now by anticipation and planning. At the speed of thought, we jump from one past memory to another or from one future prospect to another. God designed us with a subconscious repository from which the conscious mind accesses these preoccupations in a manageable way, usually one item at a time.

From this psychological perspective, the past that we have lived has dimension in our present thought, and even our earthly future has a tentative existence and duration. What seems without dimension is our beginning and our end. They are like the front and back covers of a book whose pages contain the history of our earthly lives. We consciously experience nothing before our beginning, and unless we are told by God what comes after death, we cannot tangibly anticipate what comes after the back cover that ends our personal story.

Of paramount earthly importance to our humanness are identity and memory. I’ve come to believe that both exist as a functional union of the physical body and the spiritual soul through a uniquely formulated and parallel integration of cellular and spiritual DNA. This interactive arrangement provides for both individuality and memory. The physical DNA produces a neuro-network for memory’s manifestation in the material world, while the spiritual DNA governs the repository God designed in a person’s soul for its storage.

Neurologists can show that memories are consciously elicited by brain stimulation. Materialistic scientists take this as proof that the physical brain stores personal memory. To date, however, the actual physiological mechanism of that storage—in brains cells whose molecular matter is fully replaced about every 7 years—escapes explanation.

The manner of cerebral memory storage can never be discovered, if personal memories are stored in the soul and merely accessed by the brain, as cloud or disk memory is accessed by computer operators. Many with NDEs (near-death experiences) tell of still having their memories and identities as they float from hospital rooms into afterlife territory. After they return to their resuscitated bodies, what they saw and experienced is stored not in their brains, which were nonfunctional during the episode, but in their souls, which actually had the experience.

From the beginning of our DNA marriage between soul and body until it ends in death, our identity is not static. Sin and the Fall have damaged our biological DNA so that the deterioration of aging is part of our earthly sojourn. Old age changes us physically. Conversely, the memories stored in our soul also change us, becoming part of what makes up our personalities. God graciously calls us and lovingly provides for us to expand our identities in the direction of who we really are in Him. But our free will can choose pathways that lead us away from the moral and servant-leadership purposes for which He made us body-spirit beings.

By the titles of all my poem books, I have attempted to convey the circumstantial tension in which human volition determines personal destiny. The context of life’s choices are both the pages between life’s book covers and the chapters that alternate between the way of self and the way of God—in other words, between heaven and hell; darkness and light; death and life; birth and resurrection; here and beyond; fear and faith; and now between the beginning and the end. It’s in this in-between space that we live and make choices, from the very outset to the final sunset.

At this period of my life, prostate cancer and heart problems have curtailed much of my bodily activity, yet each day only increases my soul’s desire to learn. While my thirst for theological knowledge is far from quenched, I have developed a voracious appetite for studying both molecular biology and cosmological astrophysics. The desire to grow in my experience with drawing and painting is still unmet. But, in the realm of poetry, part of that late-in-life ambition to learn and experience more is profusely reflected in the large number of explorations I’ve made in trying my hand at Japanese and Korean poetic styles. I’ll admit upfront that I’ve never made the proper distinction between haiku and senryu. I call all of my 3-line non-rhymes of 5-7-5 syllables haiku, when technically I know most of them fail to meet the exigencies of the form. On the other hand, I did try to follow the formal rules with my tanka and sijo.

My tendency to insert comic-relief into my poetic stream of frequently serious subject matter had a prolific growth spurt in this volume. Perhaps a closer view of my mortality, while increasing the depth of my seriousness, has led to  interspersing these pages with much more creative humor. As you will see, I discovered some new outlets for that in limerick-making and other word-play experimentation. And I must admit that, along with those fun and sometimes satirical creations, I made some serious attempts at new forms or lyric patterns as a result of entering poetry contests on In fact, it was from a contest requiring a crown of sonnets that I decided to go beyond the entry requirements and work on an heroic crown of sonnets—14 sonnets with the last line of each becoming the first line of the next sonnet, and concluding with a master sonnet composed of all those previous first lines. The result was what I now consider my magnum opus. I wrote it right at the outset of the Covid-19 lockdown, when everything slowed to a standstill, except the gift of time.

Time truly is a gift. Cosmologists now realize that it had a beginning ex nihilo. But no matter how long the universe lasts, our personal slice of cosmic time has an endpoint. Someday all of what was our life’s future will be in storage as past memories. How our identities have grown toward God or away from Him will be all that matters in the afterlife. Skip my attempts at humor, if you must, but pay close attention to my serious stuff. As always, it is my hope and prayer that my more prophetic and spiritual messages in verse might help my readers make decisions for Christ that will bless them now and for eternity.

— David L. Hatton


Lord, lead me safe on the physical plane
past life-draining pits on the upward path
where frolic’s folly brings bodily pain
or sins I avoid feed the devil’s wrath.
As my strength subsides and my powers wane,
Lord, lead me safe on the physical plane.

God, govern my will, as my mind grows old,
while my life-clock ticks till its spring’s unwound.
When the final days of my stay unfold,
keep my feelings calm and my thoughts still sound,
discerning the dross from the goal of gold—
God, govern my will, as my mind grows old.

As my soul declines, let my spirit sing;
as my mission ends, let my worship last.
May I still be grateful for everything
with a forward look, letting go the past.
To Your glory’s praise, ever-present King,
as my soul declines, let my spirit sing!

— David L. Hatton, 11/20/2020
(Poems Between the Beginning and the End, © 2021)

For more single poems from this volume, visit my website's “Poetry Page.”

Monday, October 4, 2021


[On PC only, hover mouse over Bible references for ESV, or use "more »" on pop-up for more versions]

What line did Jesus draw? He drew the dividing line between God’s Kingdom of Light and Satan’s dominion of darkness. He didn’t draw this line philosophically—leaving it open to discussion or to the shifting definitions of human opinion and religious ideology. Because Jesus was the Messiah King, His arrival on the scene of human history created the real, spiritually tangible existence of that dividing line. His incarnational coming inaugurated the earthly debut of the Kingdom of God, and that Kingdom’s ongoing spiritual presence calls for human wills to respond. Putting off or making excuses to avoid a decisive response was then and is now to make a negative choice.

John the Baptist—sent by God as a prophetic voice to prepare people for receiving the coming King—preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Jesus preached exactly the same message with another intent. He was now calling people to participate in that Kingdom by putting their trust in Him. True repentance or metanoia [“change of mind”] is not an emotional sorrow over personal sins or an intellectual adaptation to a new concept. It’s the full human person—body, soul, and spirit—fully surrendering to Jesus Christ as the Savior King. The choice of repentant faith in response to the Good News of God’s Kingdom initiates in the believer’s heart the actual Reign of Almighty God, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17). Forgiveness of sins and a renewed mind are the results of that surrender, for both are found only in the King.

Satan is at work 24/7 to prevent sinners from crossing over that dividing line by their surrender to Jesus. For all human history, he’s avidly studied our fallen nature, learning how to play every field in order to cater successfully to each human inclination. “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14), not pure and holy light, but creational forms of light and enlightenment tinted to individual human taste with various degrees of darkness. He offers as many shades of gray as there are human personalities to be duped by them. He still uses his old forbidden-fruit promise that “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5), and it still yields the deadly blindness of multiple moralities, all independent from God. Long before humans fell into it, the devil chose this path to moral independence from God. By leading us into it too, he became “the god of this world” who not only “blinded the minds of the unbelievers” in Eden, but continues to blind all the unbelieving, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4).

Scripture reveals that by God’s Son “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16). Jesus drew a line symbolically in the beginning when He “divided the light from the darkness,” (Gen 1:4). But in the human birthright of moral conscience, from the beginning until now, He has faithfully been “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (John 1:9). All creation, including those made in His image to be servant-leaders and caretakers of creation, were described by God as “very good” (Gen 1:31). All creation, including us, would have remained “very good,” if human leadership had remained living in the truth, walking in the light of the Lord. But we listened instead to the liar Satan and were deceived into the spiritual death and damning darkness of his lies.

Jesus described the deceiver: “… He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44); and He contrasted the deceiver’s works to His own: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). Satan extends his own rebellion against God through us by luring us to sin against the God of light, thereby capturing us as prisoners in his dominion of darkness. Jesus unmasked the devil’s goal in tempting us to sin—“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” (John 8:34)—and the Apostle John told the end result: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil.” John continues by telling why no human can enter the territory of self-will and autonomy from God without falling under Satan’s influential power, and sometimes, his full control: “because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” Because he got there first and is the mastermind of rebellion against God, he rules over the domain of sin. But these explanations from 1 John 3:8 conclude with the divine intervention that is humanity’s only hope: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Why does God’s work of salvation boil down to this one thing: destroying Satan’s work? It’s because sin means “missing the mark,” and the divine mark, God’s true target for humans, is to walk in truth by living and thriving in the God of truth. Through lies, Satan tempts people to use their God-given desires in God-forbidden ways. He uses creation itself, or his manipulations of created things, to lure those “good” human desires into “missing the mark.” And the result? “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death,” (James 1:15). The incredible but inconceivably gracious response of our loving God to our sins and spiritual death was the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By personally paying for our sins on the Cross, Jesus drew a line in human history between sin’s damnation and sin’s forgiveness. By His Resurrection, which completed His work on the Cross, Jesus drew a line between the spiritually dead and the divinely alive, between slavery in Satan’s dominion of darkness and the abundant life in God’s Kingdom of light.

The vicarious Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross went beyond taking away sins. It also put the sinner to death. A crucial dimension of destroying “the devil’s work” was for Jesus vicariously to take into His own death the false humanity that Satan had fashioned with lies: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” (Rom 6:6). But, while the forgiveness of sins is God’s instantaneous act, the emancipation from slavery to sin is chronological, progressing in earthly time as rapidly as believers in Christ let the truth of Christ set them free. In promising believers this liberation, Jesus inferred this progressive pattern: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31-32).

Many have knelt at the Cross of Christ for forgiveness without completely surrendering to the abundant life He brought to them by His Resurrection. Death to the “old self”—the false self created by Satan’s lies—is not a one time event. In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul made an amazing claim based on Christ’s work on the Cross: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In this statement, he was describing his victorious walk “by faith in the Son of God”—his experiential journey in daily manifesting his new life in Christ. In our union with Christ, we can live life “more abundantly,” but not automatically. Day by day, even moment by moment, we must choose to follow Him, choose to obey Him. In the same way, while we have been “crucified with Christ” we do not automatically die to the individual lies that shaped the false self. We must, by a choice of our new will in Christ, reject any lingering lies. This is why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry,” (Col 3:5).

Placing our faith in Jesus brings us across the line from death to life, because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” (2 Cor 5:17). But Satan doesn’t easily give up on repentant sinners who were once his slaves. If he can’t keep us in his realm of darkness with the old lies he once used to enslave us, he invents a million others—appealing half-truths, innocent-looking gray areas—to lure us back across the line into his territory. This is why Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Mat 10:34). He came to draw a line that meant spiritual warfare for the rest of this fallen world’s history. Believers are to be warriors commissioned to help others find their true selves in Christ. In order to do that, without themselves becoming spiritual casualties in the battle, they must keep their minds and hearts fed on the truth God has revealed in His Word. They must become skilled in resisting satanic lies with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph 6:17).

This dividing line is absolutely precise. There is no middle ground, no room for a mixture of the brightest light of truth with the faintest tint of shading. Divine truth has no tolerance of a compromise between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the most appealing precepts of ancient or modern wisdom. Therefore, it can never ever be Jesus plus something else, for the very person and presence of Christ the King defines the Kingdom of God. He alone is the King of Kings, Who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). From that exclusive stance, Jesus drew a line, and everyone’s eternal destiny depends on what side of the line they choose to be on.

[If you found this helpful, you might also want to read, Finding and Becoming Our True Selves, “Question Autonomy!” and Identity Amnesia.]