Fire and Brimstone
By De Benny I have just come across a blog article on God, fire and brimstone by Jim Finn. It’s a reply to an article by the biblewarroiress, whose blog I follow.
The question that is… no, let me start differently: In her article which is headlined with “Terrorizing People to Jesus” the Warrioress makes a valid point:
Asking someone to submit to Jesus Christ out of fear isn’t love offered freely. Threatening them and making them afraid isn’t how God wants us to come to Him.
The gospel is, and these are my words, but I guess there are people who would agree, a message of liberation. I don’t want to go too deep into how to understand the cross, because this will only lead to more debate about another issue which I don’t want to discuss here. But I believe that all of us, liberals, conservatives and even people like myself could agree on the liberating effect of the gospel. Once you accept it, you are set free, more than anything else could set you free, like all other freedoms are not really free.
Now I agree with the Warrioress: You can’t push people to freedom, and you can’t fear them into freedom either.
I’d say: If the people don’t grab freedom themselves, even pushing won’t bring them there. But maybe they’d try to be conform on the outward to avoid pushing…
Jim Finn on the other hand makes a very clear and valid point on love, telling the truth and before all the severity of sin.
If people think God would approve of their little sins because they aren’t so severe, just a little lying and cussing, you know, everybody does this… that’s just plain wrong. Those people are fooling themselves. This has nothing to do with forgiveness either. Whether or not God will forgive is not the question as long as there isn’t even a thing that people would want Him to forgive!
So Jim’s point is, as I understand him, that you shouldn’t lie to people: They do wrong, they do not repent and turn to Christ, they’re lost.
I think this is a bit different than what the Warrioress means. She was speaking of terrorizing people to Jesus. I think it’s one thing to speak of what you bbelieve and another one how you structure your evangelizing.
Jim mentions the rich man who was told to sell everything and follow after Jesus. There is another story of a rich man and a poor Lazarus in the bible (Lk 16:19-32). I presume we all know it: The rich man lives in wealth on earth and does not care about the poor man. Then they die and the poor man gets to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man goes to hell, where he first begs for some relief and then for at least sending someone from the dead to warn his brethren before hell. And Abraham tells him:
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The point I want to make is: You won’t push them, you won’t convince them either, no matter how hard you try. Even if you try to make them fear by speaking of hell. Nonbelievers won’t start believing when they hear this.
But there are believers who are weak in their faith who will hear. And threatening with hell can really harm their relation to God. Because if you focus too much on the whole hell and brimstone thing, it can all too easily twist the message of the gospel. Where it is supposed to be liberating, it can be abused for captivizing: If you don’t do, what the bible says (maybe even according to a certain preacher’s exegesis) you will burn forever in hell. This harms people. And this harms the gospel. And I think this is the Warrioress’s point.
Jim’s point is another one: You cannot just say God likes everyone and everyone’s deeds. That would just be complete nonsense. And what would you need God for anyway? If it makes no difference?
I think a major problem between rather liberal and rather conservative Christians lies in these two points, and that they consider it one. Liberals hear about hell and brimstone and all they understand is that people should be captivated with fear. I presume most conservatives wouldn’t mean that (though some might). On the other hand, when Conservatives hear Liberals speaking about how hell would terrorize people, they understand the Liberals would deny the severity of sin, which isn’t the case (at least with most Liberals I know).
Hell and brimstone have their places, certainly, but they are ineffective for real evangelisation. Fear for oneself doesn’t lead to fearing God, it keeps you focused on yourself. Only once you can let go of yourself, are set free, liberated by the gospel, you are also free to fear God, because you are no more busy fearing for yourself.
I’d say that this cannot be made by men, but is a God given grace: To accept Jesus, to be set free. No one is our liberator but God. Some might disagree, but this convinces me the most and it’s what I experienced myself.God bless you all!
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