Opinions on faith and life

Still Selling Fire Insurance?

2009-11-22

I came across this article today and would encourage you to read it. It highlights the consequences not only of using fear to make the gospel bad news instead of good news, but also the churches’ use of thought control methods that would make a Communist dictator proud. And I felt especially moved to post this after my earlier one on Sin.

Salvation by fear, as I’ve said many times, results in many false conversions, and keeps such people feeling saved as long as they believe in— and often learn to hate— God. People have written me off as an unbeliever just because I don’t preach bad news, or at least told me nobody can be saved without lathering up a ton of self-loathing. In fact, this self-hate is a primary plank in the Calvinist system; it has at its core such a trashing of all who are STILL (Gen. 9:6, James 3:9) made in the image of God that I can scarcely identify it as Christian.

Yes, I believe people do terrible, terrible things; nobody denies that. And some are undoubtedly saturated with evil. But even among those who teach self-loathing, even of believers, none would say that a person is beyond salvation. In fact, many Calvinists insist that election must be true because they had been so evil. Yet, quite inconsistently, they go on bashing and flaming, as if they don’t really believe their own teaching that people have no freedom to do anything that God has not directly caused.

But my point today is that such teachings have eternal consequences and are sending many away from the gospel and into the jaws of hell. How ironic, that the very teachings of the fear of hell should drive people to embrace it! Are such teachers not under the very condemnation of the Pharisees, to whom Jesus said, You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and then you make that convert twice as much a child of hell as you are! (Mt. 23:15)? Of course this primarily refers to those who corrupt new converts, but it certainly fits here as well.

I would like such teachers to show me the scriptures which make self-loathing part of the gospel message. I’d like to see an instance where someone was denied salvation because they didn’t add to their faith a public repudiation of all their past sins. And I’d like to see them accuse me of teaching a license to sin in spite of all I’ve written about that.

When Peter stood up at Pentecost and told the people that they had crucified their own Messiah, remember he was talking to Jews. Would his same message that day have made any sense to Gentiles? Why didn’t Paul use this same message on Mars Hill when presenting the gospel to the Greeks? Only the Jews had the Law, so only the Jews needed to be shown what great evil they had done. And note that it was THIS sin, not every personal sin, that they were convicted with.

God is not an accountant or a karma counter, a Pharisee or a nitpicker, a legalist or a micromanager, that He should be as many depict Him: sitting in the clouds with a lightening bolt in His hand, poised to strike the tiniest infraction. It is this picture that many well-meaning Christians have painted which gives many unbelievers the impression that God doesn’t love them at all— he HATES them!

But what does scripture say? God doesn’t want anyone to die (2 Peter 3:9), He loves the whole world (John 3:16), He doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23,32, 33:11), He pleads with people to come to Him (Rom. 10:21, 2 Cor. 5:20), He does not punish us as our sins deserve (Ezra 9:13), He has already paid for all sins (1 John 2:2), He only tells us to repent (lit. change our minds) about Jesus (Acts 17:30), and He longs to gather people to Himself (Mt. 23:37, John 7:37, 12:32) and reward anyone who seeks Him out (Heb. 11:6).

Of course God punishes sin; of course He is holy and pure; of course He expects those WHO ALREADY BELONG TO HIM to live a life that pleases Him. Many Christians, especially leaders, have forgotten this and have begun to beat their fellow servants (Luke 12:45), forgetting that those elders who are sinning, you are to reprove before all (1 Tim. 5:20), and that anyone who causes a child to sin is better off dead (Mk. 9:42). God hates evil and will avenge the victims (Rom. 12:19, Heb. 10:30, Rev. 6:10, 19:2). But this is a far cry from saying God hates a person on the occasion of every sin, to the point of showing no distinction between the little white lie and the torture and murder of others. I examined that belief in my article It’s All the Same to Me. You might also want to review my articles on salvation (there’s a handy list of them on the Readme page).

Think hard about the message you send to the lost. They read our blogs, they watch what we say in the news, they see what we post in message boards. When they hear us say that God hates them, that He treats the child telling a lie about eating cookies the same as the pedophile and the sadist, that He wants to see you grovel and hate yourself, can we blame them for rejecting Him on our account? It isn’t just the touch not God’s anointed crowd that turns people away!

Is the gospel GOOD News or not? Do you really have to hate yourself to be saved, even though God loves you?

4 Comments

Lydia

Paula, Let’s make a distinction here. In one instance we have the lost who don’t really believe they are sinners but good people. In another instance we have those who say they are saved but are very mean, deceptive, arrogant and greedy. Many in this category are Christian leaders.

God hates wickedness Pslams 45

Pslam 5:

5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.

Paula Fether

Absolutely. So I would tell those who say they are saved but don’t act like it, that they haven’t reconciled with God in practice but only in words. Likewise, I’d tell the lost that being good is not being reconciled.

Katie Lamoureux

This is great! Instead of telling people they are going to hell and telling them the only way to be "saved" is to say a "magical prayer" and let God into their hearts...instead lets fulfill the needs of the hurting and the lost and SHOW them the love of God and when they ask why we do these things so willingly, we tell them it is because God loves them and that we do to! I don’t know about you, but when the time comes I would really like to be a sheep and NOT a goat!

SaberTruth

Thanks Katie! And this highlights the problem of two extremes: one side wants us to breathe out fire and brimstone, and the other to smile and wave as the lost skip merrily to hell. We shouldn’t scare people one one hand, but on the other we need to use the opportunity to give our testimony by explicitly stating that only the Jesus who rose from the dead can save anyone. God does love the lost, but "he commands everyone everywhere" to give up all other gods.