Midweek Question: Different Ways to Present the Gospel

For a long time now, I have been thinking about the various ways that Christians evangelize. More specifically, about how Christians frame the gospel and present the gospel message to nonbelievers. This is a huge topic, and there are many schools of thought on it. For this present discussion, I am going to grossly oversimplify. Let’s suppose that Christians are divided into two different camps with opposing opinions about how a gospel presentation should begin.

Camp #1: Begin with God’s holiness and hatred of sin. Members of this camp will say that we need to focus, especially at the outset, on the fact that human beings are sinners under the wrath of God. We need to make people aware of their sinfulness so that they can repent and turn to God to and save themselves from judgment and hell. An example of this kind of preaching can be seen in the 8-minute video clip below by Mark Driscoll. At one point, starting about 4:30, he says, “Some of you — God hates you… God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think you’re funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritous. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you; he hates them too. God hates, right now, objectively, personally, hates some of you.” This may be a very extreme example. And, in fairness, you ought to watch the whole clip in order to hear the context of those words. But Mark Driscoll does say it. He claims that, if you haven’t yet made a decision for Christ, God hates you, and he will continue to hate you until you repent.

Camp #2: Begin with God’s unconditional love for sinners. These people say that focusing on God’s hatred of sin is unnecessary, counterproductive, even inconsistent with the kind of gospeling done by Jesus, the apostles and the early church fathers. For an example of this perspective, watch the video presentation of The Gospel in Two Chairs by Pastor Brian Zahnd.

Interestingly, if you listen carefully to what these two pastors are saying, you will find that they have based their gospel presentations on different views regarding the character of God. 

I’m not interested in hearing arguments which of these two perspectives is more correct or biblically supported. It is easy for members of either camp to quote Bible passages to argue that their side is correct, and from experience I have found that proof-texting rarely changes anyone’s mind.

Nor do I want to hear arguments over which of these two methods is more effective among the various groups of people in today’s culture. That would be a very interesting topic, but let’s please save it for another day.

Today I want to approach this on a very personal level. So, Dear Reader, I am posing three personal questions for you. Feel free to answer any or all.

1. What style of gospel preaching, if any, initially helped you to put your faith in Christ? Why do you think it helped you at that time?

2. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?

3. If you have a strong negative reaction toward one of these two styles of gospel preaching, why do you react negatively? How does it make you feel? When you hear someone preaching in that style, why do you think they are doing it that way? What do you suppose about their knowledge, background, character, motives, and so on?

64 comments

  1. Neither of them I like. But I cannot judge them with only short video clips. I want to see the fruit of their messages. 
    1 Th1:5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
     


    • Isaac, thanks for your comment. For the record, both Mark Driscoll and Brian Zahnd are extremely fruitful evangelists, Bible teachers, church planters and authors. Both of these men have positively influenced thousands of people through their gospel-centered lives. I do think that both of these men have demonstrated a great deal of power, Spirit and conviction. But their styles are very different. If you don’t like either of them, then what would you like?


    • Thank God for using both of them to give positive influences to thousands of people. 
      I think the ‘style’ doesn’t really matter. Jesus used both methods. Jesus preached only what God told him to speak. So if they preached inspired by the Holy Spirit at that moment, That’s good. 

      I like Heidi Baker’s style. Check this video. 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO8FFI6pJJA 

      I like the message that comes with personal testimony and demonstration of God’s love and power such as healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and raising the dead. 
       


  2. David Bychkov

    Thanks for that post, Joe! I will write just for 1 for now So, in the days or monthes (1-2 years I think) of my convertion I think I rarely heard the message 1 or 2 clear from anyone of people. Probably someone should tell me something, though I was not able to get it, and I really had not any idea what is Gospel really about, inspite of Bible stuies and church activities. Though, the #1 approach was something what I myself read in the Bible very clear. So from the first days of my familiarizing with the Bible I was deeply convinced that I am sinner under God’s wrath. I did not think that God hates me or something like this, but I was deeply convinced that God could not love me in such a misarable state and I just deserved his wrath. I felt it already and was convinced that will feel it fully in hell. Once again noone tell me things like this directly. Though at the end I came to approach #2 and it really converted and reborn me. So on one day I came to belief through 1John4:16 that God is love and he loves me unconditionally. And soon I realized that Jesus Christ is the foundation of this unconditional love and my assurance of it. And I began to hold on to #2 in my personal walk with God.


  3. Nice contrasting styles, Joe. Thanks.
     
    1) Preaching/Bible study should be clear about 2 things: (i) sin and God’s judgment on sin (which I believe UBF is clear about), as well as (ii) God’s love, mercy and grace in spite of all our sins (where though we do believe this, yet it is often not well communicated because of our legalistic tendencies which is skewed toward our traditionalism).
     
    2) Similar to 1. God’s wrath on sin must be clear. Grace and the work of the Holy Spirit must also be communicated and experienced.
     
    3) Driscoll’s “harshness” on sin (and his “harsh” way of speaking which I don’t particularly like), I believe, is tempered by his presentation of grace. Though I don’t believe Zahnd is a universalist (perhaps like Rob Bell or Brian McClaren), there was a part where he came somewhat close, I felt. I didn’t like that Zahnd called the 1st presentation “legal” (implying inferior) and the 2nd “more biblical.” As you said, both sides can show Bible verses to support their side.


    • Ben, thanks for your comment. As I listened to Zahnd, I didn’t like his casual assertion that his way of presenting the gospel was more biblical. But I don’t think that his use of the term ”legal” was meant to imply something legalistic, inferior, etc. I do believe he was using “legal” in the sense of forensic, as in the penal substitution theory of atonement.

      I believe that Zahnd is contrasting the western evangelical Protestant understanding of salvation, whose roots can be traced back to St. Augustine, with the (arguably more ancient) eastern understanding which has been well preserved in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The two are quite different. It is commonly said that the western view of salvation is a narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption, whereas the eastern view is a narrative of Creation-Fall-Recreation. The eastern view is not universalist, not by a long shot. But EO Christians don’t speak of hell in the same terms that Roman Catholics and Protestants do.

      Personally, I believe it is a mistake for Christians from the east or the west to equate “the gospel” with their own tradition’s understanding of salvation. East and West have not communicated well for a millenium and we now have a great deal to relearn from each other. I think Zahnd is one of many evangelical Protestants whose faith and understanding of the gospel has been refreshed by interaction with the EO tradition, and he has found ways to incorporate elements of that tradition into his ministry without giving up his Protestant identity.


  4. While I cannot endorse everything Mark Driscoll says or does or the manner in which he communicates at times (sinfully coarse / blasphemous) at least he is communicating WHAT and FROM WHOM the Gospel calls all men to be saved. It is very simply a logical fallacy and impotent practice to present the (a) Gospel in the form of a message devoid of detailing the problem that Sin has caused in separating us from a Holy God. It is NOT foremost the love of God that compelled/compels Christ but the Justice and Holiness and desire for His own Glory (not meant to be understood as in order of importance). Of course, it is THE Supreme act of Love on God’s part to save sinners by the propitiatory work of Jesus our substitute, but to have our minds (first) informed of the context of this love and it’s very definition with respect to the penalty of sin which it remediates so that we can appropriate/embrace this proper understanding to our hearts (secondly) as a due consequence REQUIRES proper hamartiology and the preaching of the fact that those outside of Christ are currently under the wrath of God which their sins deserve and there to remain unless they repent and exercise faith in Christ’s all-sufficient work of redemption.


  5. Darren Gruett

    Most definitely, I came to faith in Christ by hearing of God’s love and grace, which I constantly heard preached in church. That is what eventually drew me to Him. In fact, John 3:16 was the first Bible verse I ever memorized, and that had a profound effect on me. I am not sure the style of preaching used in the first example would have helped me to believe, since I came to faith at such a young age and was probably too immature to fully grasp the magnitude of my sin.


  6. To further comment on particularly The Gospel in Chairs video: This message of the so-called Patristic understanding of the Gospel is simply WRONG. The bottom-line in this message is that God simply “forgives” . Just like that, more as an act or declaration of his so called love than anything else and certainly not as a “legal” act. Well, this definition of forgiveness is no forgiveness at all. Again, if we misunderstand the attribute of God’s love as unrelating to healing the rift which sin in Adam along with our own personal sins have created then we do not understand the love (greek=agape) of God as He has defined it in Scripture. This man’s articulation of what he purports to be the Gospel reclaimed/restored is certainly a clever use of chairs (lol) and uses the gospel accounts of Christ’s ministry and acts of mercy but is wholly devoid of the didactic theological teachings of Paul as Paul explains the Gospel. Paul does not teach the good news to be that Christ came to reconcile the world of sinners to God by simply declaring a cost-less “forgiveness” predicated only on a desire to restore fellowship. Zahnd puts it this way: “Jesus confronts the sin of humanity (all men?) with simply this: ‘I Forgive You! ‘ Not that we owe a sin debt to God too big to ever repay or atone for ourselves, no according to Zahnd there is nothing of a legal nature about our violation of God’s laws- Hello? Is anyone home? Zahnd also implies falsely that those preaching the “modern” Gospel (his label not mine) have a problem preaching that God the Father cannot look upon or fellowship with sinful man (let alone that His wrath abides upon sinful men) because Jesus in his humiliation/incarnation suffered the contradiction of sinners against him and did not turn from sinful mankind. It is so sad that demonstrations of theological ignorance at best and false Gospel(s) at worst- (and that accompanied by folding chair illustrating), is what issues from pulpits today in the guise of preaching the whole counsel of God.
    The fact is that entire books can be written about what is wrong with the Brian Zahnds of the world and their new-old heresies (and many have been written). I hope this comment will drive you back into the Scriptures to answer the question of “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” for yourself.


  7. Michael, this is precisely the kind of argument and discussion that I asked you not to give.


  8. Joe,

    I really like these “mid-week questions”. Such things stimulate our mind, hearts and souls and spark challenging dialogues, and I’m thankful for the freedom to discuss such things. Here are my initial thoughts on your questions:

    “1. What style of gospel preaching, if any, initially helped you to put your faith in Christ? Why do you think it helped you at that time?”

    Twenty-something years ago, the gospel presented from the love of God stance is what drew me to Christ. At that time, I already knew I was an unworthy sinner and that I lived in a messed-up world from my own experiences. What I didn’t know was a God who was willing to be my Lord and Savior.  So I think that mainly is what helped me initially.

    “2. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?”

    It is somewhat ironic to note that today I am far more motivated in my personal walk of faith by the wrath of God aspect of the gospel. It is because I have lived a lot of my Christian life like a “Pharisitical soldier”, driving myself to be a kind of “cyber-man” or “dalek” who lived as a heartless Christian who dictated my “truth” to others without compassion.  As such a Christian, I tried to clone myself and called it “making disciples”.

    I am keenly aware (starting this year) of the wrath of God toward such behavior, as expressed mainly by Jesus’ woes and rebukes.  I am daily seeking God’s help in light of God’s wrath on me. And even more ironically perhaps, I am now filled with an overwhelming desire to show compassion on others and express the gospel to others in light of the love and grace of God.

    “3. If you have a strong negative reaction toward one of these two styles of gospel preaching, why do you react negatively? How does it make you feel? When you hear someone preaching in that style, why do you think they are doing it that way? What do you suppose about their knowledge, background, character, motives, and so on?”

    I really have given up my strong reactions to preaching styles: I love all of them! (Just don’t use the same style all the time!). If someone makes a valid point that holds up to Scripture and the Spirit confirms it, I accept it.  I no longer give a hoot about what denomination, what church, what religious backround, etc someone is affiliated with.  I pray for all Christians to bow down to our Lord and submit to His Holy Spirit and let God be God and let Him advance His kingdom in His way.




    • Thanks, Brian. I am impressed by your self-awareness. As a scientist, it’s far easier for me to stand at a distance and analyze these gospel presentations for theological correctness, potential effectiveness, and so on than to actually understand how I am reacting to them and why. Your comment is exactly the kind of personal, reflective statement that I was asking for. Someday, I hope to be able to talk about myself as lucidly as you just spoke about yourself.

      I love your statement, “I really have given up my strong reactions to preaching styles. I love all of them!” And then you said, “Just don’t use the same style all the time!” There is great wisdom in that. Why should I attach myself to one particular style and claim that it is the right one or best one?  If I do, then isn’t it possible that I am just hanging around my own comfort zone, refusing to listen to God’s voice unless he speaks to me in my own preferred style? And isn’t it likely that I am not learning anything new, but merely reinforcing my current beliefs and positions?

      I have a sneaking suspicion that these two men (Mark Driscoll and Brian Zahnd) have very different personalities, and it is their own personalities that draw them to focus on certain aspects of the gospel and certain attributes of God rather than others. And I’m quite certain that I tend to do that as well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We are made in God’s image, and our character does reflect something of God’s character. But I wonder: To what extent are we just projecting idealized versions of ourselves onto God and saying, in effect, that God is exactly like us? Yes, God is like us, but he is much greater than us. I am reminded of God’s powerful rebuke in Psalm 50:21: “You thought the ‘I AM’ was exactly like you!” It makes me tremble to think of how quick I have been to classify and analyze God and pontificate about him, saying, “God is like this” or “God is like that,” when I ought to be coming into his presence and asking him what what he is like. I ought to be standing in awe of him and marvelling at how great and beautiful he is, and realizing that my feeble attempts to speak of his nature can never really capture who he is. And this is why, I think, that Christians of different stripes need to carefully listen to one another and learn from one another, because every Christian is capable of having unique knowledge and experiences of God, and each of us is also capable of great blindness and misunderstanding.


  9. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?

    My favorite preacher to listen to is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (no surprise!), Funny thing is that he sort of defied “style.” His style was his own really, and he said on a few occasions that he was born in the wrong century probably. I also resonate with the style of the Puritans like John Bunyan, Thomas Boston, Stephen Charnock, and Jonathan Edwards. I think that the reason is because in their presentation of the Gospel, they are so thorough and clear, that one cannot miss why Christ had to die and rise again and what exactly our glorious hope is. I was disappointed with Brian Zahnd’s approach because it was so one sided and he used many strawmen in his critique of the “modern” Gospel presentation (to see what I think is at the heart of the Gospel, see my articles on this site about Penal Substitution).   


  10. Thanks for Brian and Joe’s great comments. I cannot forget Henri Neuwen’s words from his book, “The Prodigal Son” that I read few years ago. I think he described the journey of our Christian life in three stages very well. First, the Prodigal son. He came to his father with genuine repentance and thanksgiving. This is a moment of conversion that we all experienced in many different ways. Second, the elder son. He did not leave home, but he was very legalistic and judgmental. He did not know the mind and heart of the father who accepted the prodigal son unconditionally. After conversion, we (including myself) easily fall into the second stage of life like the elder son. Many times we may have both of the elder son and the prodigal son at the same time in different degrees. What Neuwen said was that we must grow to be like the father who helplessly was waiting for his son to come home. Neuwen studied the famous painting “The Prodigal son” by Rembrandt, hung in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg for so many days. In the picture the father was painted as a very old, feeble man, almost blind. He embraced the prodigal son unconditionally. I believe this is very good description of our heavenly father. He implied that we should grow to become like the father (1 Peter 1:16). We may have all three characters in us at the same time. At least we can have a direction to grow in the image of Jesus and understand more and more the mind and heart of Jesus and accept others unconditionally.


  11. I think there could be some million different ways of preaching the gospel to reach out people. But there is only one person who works through some million different ways of preaching the gospel throught the two thousand years of human history. He is the Son our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the humans to change others’ lives but the Father. I don’t care how they present the gospel because if God is willing, all things will be accepted by him and produce the fruits of the Spirit. Otherwise, it never works, soon or later, it will be proven by itself by what fruits they bear. I like to share what Jesus says in the parable of sheep and goats in Matthew’s gospel. There he says some startling things both for the righteous and wicked, because I think this is a true way of evangelizing the world.

    First the response of the righteouos:
      
      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’    (Matthew 25:37-40)

    And the response of the wicked:

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’   (Matthew 25:44-45)

    Today and now, I’d like to share the love of Christ with someone around me, my family, the students, the coworkers at work, the neighbors, even unknown drivers on the street by praying for them, forgiving them, blessing them. 

    I think what the world impresses to church is how much we believers change into mature Christians bearing the likeness of Christ Jesus our Lord.

    I pray that Jesus Christ may be proclaimed and preached through my earthen vessel and all the humdrums of daily routine lives now and ever.
          


  12. Hi Joe, thank you for this post. Actually, I hesitated to respond at first because I wasn’t sure how to. But I had an experience the other day which helped me to understand a bit better.

    1. What style of gospel preaching, if any, initially helped you to put your faith in Christ? Why do you think it helped you at that time?

    In the beginning, I think messages which focussed more on God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness moved my heart and eventually brought me to Christ. I was in my 20′s and didn’t think much about death and judgment. But I had especially one sin which caused me a lot of pain and self-condemnation. Through the message of forgiveness, I was liberated from this state and found a new freedom which I hadn’t experienced before.
     
    2. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?

    At first, I wanted to say that it is the same as before, i.e., a message about God’s love and mercy. For example, recently my heart has been moved when I think about God’s beauty and majesty (e.g., Psalm 27:4, Revelation 4). When I meditate on these things, there is something which gets excited in my spirit in a very new and fiery way, and leads me to sing songs of praise and share the gospel about the magnificence of Christ in a very genuine way.

    That said, last week, the Lord visited me through Romans 2:1-5 and taught me that I have a deep judgmental heart toward others, including workmates, family, students, other Christians, etc. I felt the wrath of God upon me and wondered if Christ came today if he would even take me to be his bride. It was a very scary and trembling experience. But through this, the Lord helped me to repent in a very honest way and suddenly some big burdens were lifted. For example, I had been feeling very tired for some time for almost unexplainable reasons but now these are gone. I feel much peace and am learning how to be a man of mercy and grace. I actually believe that Mark Driscoll’s message was a seed in helping me experience this revelation about myself so I am very thankful for this kind of message as well.
     
    3. If you have a strong negative reaction toward one of these two styles of gospel preaching, why do you react negatively? How does it make you feel? When you hear someone preaching in that style, why do you think they are doing it that way? What do you suppose about their knowledge, background, character, motives, and so on?

     I tend not to react negatively to a message of grace although sometimes I feel that it is not so relevant and what is needed is a message about wrath which leads to repentance. I think my reaction depends somewhat on my state of mind. For example, at times my heart is deeply convicted that I’m a worthless sinner. I feel that I can’t do anything. My life is a total failure, etc. At these times, my heart is starving for the message of encouragement and grace. I want to hear God’s tender voice to me that he loves me in spite of my darkness and run toward him instead of away from him. If I heard a message about wrath at this time, I might not respond so well.

    When I hear people preaching in a certain style, I usually try to think about the context: time, culture, audience, speaker’s background/current condition, etc. For example, yesterday I heard an American pastor talk about laziness as being a core sin problem. I totally agree that it is. But when I thought about Japanese culture (I’m living in Japan) laziness didn’t seem so relevant compared to things like freedom from shame and fear of man/society.

    When I hear somebody speaking a certain way (even about non-religious things), often they are revealing something in their heart. Very often it seems to be a rich combination of what the Lord has put in their heart, mixed with their personality, background, etc. I think it was maybe mentioned before but I think a good messenger will not always have the same “style” or “focus” in their message. Otherwise, he/she won’t reveal the fullness of God’s character or the breadth of truth in the Bible. It definitely needs to be Spirit driven and let’s be honest, sometimes we just need a good kick in the pants.


    • “Very often it seems to be a rich combination of what the Lord has put in their heart, mixed with their personality, background, etc.”

      Well said, Ray!  I see now more than ever that our Lord wants to display His richness through the “rich combination” of our experiences and the combined “richness” of the body of Christ.

      So then, I would conclude that however we present the gospel, we are to present it with the fullness and richness of God. If we only present the gospel from one viewpoint, we are missing much of what God intended. And if we continue to insist that our one viewpoint is correct and the only way to present the gospel, we are in danger of Jesus’ woe’s given to the Pharisees. I believe this is a major cause of the splintering of denominations in the West.  

      As David Lee wrote above, we should rise above styles and “pray that Jesus Christ may be proclaimed and preached through my earthen vessel and all the humdrums of daily routine lives now and ever.”




  13. 1. It was the Love focused style of the gospel. I was raised thinking of God as a vengeful God. I was just had the lay belief that God wanted perfection from the very start and that Sinners need not apply.

    2. This style of gospel preaching still resonates with me. Probably because it is easy to conjure up the idea of a god who wants us to please him and give him things. But I think deep down, the idea of a God that loves us ‘that much’ is powerful. In most of my evangelization opportunities off campus, it seems people believe that God exists but operate under a popular idea of God as the old man in the sky. I think presenting Jesus as a champion of Love really shocks people. 

    3. The holiness and hatred of sin view (while true) makes it difficult to motivate me. The image I get is this one: Imagine coming to the mansion of a very powerful landlord who loves his house to be meticulousness clean and hates bad manners. If I had been brought up in a refined home, I might be motivated to improve my manners. But since I have been brought up in a pig sty, it makes I experience learned helplessness. I feel that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to please this master. 
    When I hear someone preaching this style, I usually think they are using it as a scare tactic. I have never seen someone who preaches this change a persons heart. It fills their heart with anxiety. If they fully understood the gospel, then I think this message could be effective. but if they dont even understand the gospel, they are left thinking that they should act before it is too late. But what they need to do seems impossible (e.g., be holy). And then there are the fundamentalist preachers who say all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ. I always imagine (I actually dont know) that most people do not feel too comfertable with this. They must think, you just spend the last 15 minutes telliing me about how much God hates sin, how Holy he is and how he wants me to be holy and that the world is going to end and I may end up in the fires of hell… and yet… I can avoid all of that just by accepting Jesus Christ? I think most people feel a disconnect their. 

    What I typically suppose about these people is that they are bible thumping fundamentalist who are very intolerant of those who oppose their understanding of the bible. Ofcourse, this isnt neccesarely true. But I have to honestly say, that this is the first impression that comes to mind. 

     


  14. Hi Gerardo, it’s been a long time. I think that in the statement you posted above, you are creating a dichotomy that does not really exist. What does the love of God mean? How does God show His love for us? God shows His love to us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us! Why did Christ have to die for us? Because God is so Holy and sin is so heinous that no other sacrifice will suffice to provide propitiation other than the blood of Jesus. God is very angry about sin, and yet God is also Love. In fact John provides the definition of God’s Holy Love in 1John 4, he says, “This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a propitiation for our sins.” If a person does not understand the seriousness or the “sinfulness” of his sin, then he can not understand the Love of God, because God’s Love is expressed most fully in the death of Jesus for sin!

    You said that you have never seen a person who preaches this change a persons heart. I would respond by saying that only God can change a persons heart, and we can see many examples in church history of God using such preaching to bring about mighty change. See for instance the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield in the great awakening.


    • David, I agree it is a false dichotomy. I never said one is the right way. I did however say that Love preaching seems to be most effective among either non or uncommitted Christians. 

      I am personally spiritually awaken when I hear a fiery sermon on hell. It wakes me up from my spiritual sleep. I think many other committed Christians would say the same. But I think this turns off those who do not understand Christianity. So I am not saying it does not work but it is not as effective in that point in their faith life as telling them about God’s Love. Though I believe telling them about God’s love is best understood in the context of sin and hell.

      I should have made a more clear distinction between hearing about hell before and after you have come to understand God’s Love. My point is that telling someone about the fires of hell and your escape from said fires through acceptance of Jesus can be difficult for people to digest. “Jesus will forgive me just like that?” I think we might take it for granted how difficult this feels for people. 
      Sorry for not being more clear.  


  15. Here are some “must read” thoughts on the topic at hand, about Fred Craddock, a man named one of the world’s best preachers. I see a maturing from “synagogue style” to “dialogue style” in his eagerness to find a way to present the gospel:

    “When he started preaching in rural Tennessee during the 1950s, Craddock employed the traditional ‘deductive’ preaching style. The sermon is structured like a term paper: thesis, three supporting points, restatement of thesis.

    “Something in me said that’s not the way to do it,” he says.

    Fred Craddock struggled as a young preacher to find an audience before experiencing a breakthrough. Maybe it was the stories he heard growing up, but Craddock gradually stumbled onto his preaching style.

    While serving as a young pastor at a church in Columbia, Tennessee, he noticed that people responded more to his informal talks outside church service than to his sermons.

    He started experimenting. What if you didn’t structure the sermon like a legal argument but more like an extended conversation? The listener — not the preacher — would be challenged to give the sermon its meaning.” 

    Source: http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/27/us/craddock-profile/index.html?hpt=hp_c1 




  16. “What if you didn’t structure the sermon like a legal argument but more like an extended conversation? The listener — not the preacher — would be challenged to give the sermon its meaning.” Well stated, Brian! I’ll check out your link later. I’ve been thinking about the same things recently. After all if the gospels reveal how Jesus taught (they may be a little condensed because of space) then Jesus also taught in a way which left much of the interpretation or thinking on the side of the listener. Parables are, of course, a good example. If people have spiritual desire and they will want to dig into what the speaker said and if there is too much logic/detail sometimes the Holy Spirit can’t work so freely to give personal messages to each person based on their condition, background, etc. As an engineer who likes logical flow, this isn’t easy for me to do though =)


  17. However we present the gospel, it needs to be the full gospel, and with power, like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPIOkdNL-QQ&feature=pyv  




  18. Tim McEathron

    1. What style of gospel preaching, if any, initially helped you to put your faith in Christ? Why do you think it helped you at that time?
    It’s hard to remember. I first was presented the gospel by a friend in highschool. She sat down with a page full of Bible verses in a cafe trying to convince me that God exists. I rudely tore the verses up and then we repeated the cycle many more times. However, when a good teacher tore me apart because of my super ego as a musician in that place of brokenness I finally believed what she was telling me. The only thing I really knew at first was that God was with me–I can’t recall how she presented the gospel or what verses but that idea stuck. I felt I wasn’t alone and life had meaning outside of personal acheivement. I then began to church hop. I found I didn’t really connect with many of the preachers because they preached a message of God’s love based on their own idea with many random supporting verses. I thought “well that’s just their idea and I have my idea…” When I came to UBF, the message was Bible exposition which presented God’s truth quite plainly and I drew my own conclusions in testimony writing. This resonated with me more because it wasn’t man’s idea, as I saw it. I was saved through 1 Co 15:43 which helped me to know that Jesus is my only hope. Yet, this was only after a lot of breaking me down from Christy. So I guess I’d say the message, “God is with me” is the message that helped me. However, in each case I had to be broken down before I could humbly accept it. From that point on though, it was the clear messages of how I needed to grow and repent that caused the major and most meaningful changes in my life that have helped me to know Christ more. 
     
    2. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?
    Today I definitely want to hear the message of repentance. When I preach for CBF I focus a lot on Jesus’ love and try to get the message of the cross into every message. However, I always follow up with one practical way the kids should respond to this love and grow in Christ so they don’t remain babies forever. I try to avoid negative reinforcement and focus on positive reinforcement because they’re young, but personally I respond much more to the more fiery parts of the Bible, especially Jesus’ scathing rebukes.
     
    3. If you have a strong negative reaction toward one of these two styles of gospel preaching, why do you react negatively? How does it make you feel? When you hear someone preaching in that style, why do you think they are doing it that way? What do you suppose about their knowledge, background, character, motives, and so on?
    As I listened to Driscoll my heart was burning inside of me. It reminded me of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Lk 24:32 I’ve always felt that the work of the Holy Spirit in us is to reveal sin and help us to overcome, which is what Driscoll was passionately trying to do as well, so it really resonates with me. I didn’t feel that with Zahnd. It was intellectually stimulating and his argument does seem to solve a few problems I’ve always had with the penal substitution approach. But I wasn’t really moved until the part where he started talking about how every time sinners turn away God is right there confronting them again. I think both are right but not presenting the whole story. Because God is that amazing. At times I needed to hear God loves me even though I sin but most of the time I need to hear that God wants me to grow up. I think as a new Christian I would have responded to the love message but felt that it was somehow missing something and not the whole truth. 


  19. While listening to the first video – “God hates you” – my dog, a golden retriever cross, got up, looked around, looked at me, and left the room. I am, after three years, still trying to recover from six years of listening to the preaching of a man who focused on the Old Testament and Paul’s writings. He often quoted Jesus, out of context, to support his opinions, and He talked about His birth, death and resurrection as the subject of doctrine, but never once did I hear him tell the stories of Jesus and how He treated women and children and outcasts. This preacher was a competitive, resentful, insecure man who believed he was preaching the truth. But his version of the truth was two-dimensional doctrinal bullet points on a ppt slide. I was dying for a glimpse of the Person of Jesus Christ. God providentially led me to participate in the Canadian Badlands Passion Play (Drumheller, AB), where I saw and heard His truth again. Thank God, we are now in an church where we hear an entire passage from the gospels every Sunday, the person of Jesus Christ is the topic, and the sermons are insightful, inspiring and challenging. My sister recently underwent miraculous rehabilitation after years of destructive alcoholism. The “evangelical” church preaching “God hates you” almost destroyed her and drove her to alcoholism. She said that lasting change doesn’t happen in an atmosphere of guilt, denial, and criticism; it happens in an atmosphere of unconditional love, compassion, truth, real support and encouragement. This I know: God is love. That is His nature; it’s not just an attribute. Jesus is God, the Word in the flesh. Jesus is the truth; the truth is 3D – that’s what the incarnation is all about. The truth is that Jesus does not hate sinners; Jesus loves sinners, and laid down His life for them, while they were still sinners. There is no greater love that this. As His followers, we are called to love sinners – even if that sinner is us. This is the way of compassion. This is the way of Jesus. This is our only hope.


    • Amen Sharon! And thank you for sharing. You got it right: “This I know: God is love. That is His nature; it’s not just an attribute.” Christianity is an expression of God’s magnificent wonder, but is not so hard to understand: it’s about love. If we cannot love people, how do we ever expect to love God?

      Those who preach a mission or a purpose or some sort of spirit or ambition are missing the point (Galatians 3:3). Our only goal is love (1 Timothy 1:5).  We are to preach Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). That is our “true North”. Christ in you, that is the mystery! (Colossians 1:27)




  20. Anonymous

    Hi Sharon, I have an honest question for you: what do you do with passages like Romans 9:13, Isaiah 63:1-6, Proverbs 6:16-19, and Psalm 11:5 etc etc. It seems to be very clear that God does indeed hate some people wouldn’t you say? Yes, God is Love. God is also Holy (see Isaiah 6). His Holiness and hatred of sin is as much who he is as his love is. Therefore we must not emphasize one over against the other, God’s holy hatred and holy love work in mysterious perfect harmony with his infinite wisdom in election. to only preach that God is love, is to neglect the whole counsel of God.


  21. Hi David.

    I’m not Sharon but I’d like to attempt to answer your question. Hate — or I would prefer to use the terms wrath or anger — is certainly attributed to God in the Bible, but not to the same degree as love. Think of Psalms that declare “His love endures forever…” of the Apostle John’s admonition that “God is love.” Can you find any parallel passages that  say things like, “His wrath endures forever…” or “God is hatred”?  Love and wrath are not present to the same degree. An obvious example of this asymmetry is found in Ex 20:5-6, where God says, “…I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

    A couple more observations.
    1. God is a Trinity, and the persons in the God are bound together in relationships of perfect love. Our Trinitarian understanding of God places love at the very center, the very essence, of who God is. That’s why, I think, it makes sense to say “God is love.” There is no corresponding way that I can think of to place hatred, anger or wrath into the essence of God.
    2. Hatred, wrath and anger are not the opposites of love. The opposite of love is indifference. Whatever we say about God, we cannot say that he is ever indifferent to his creation and to humanity. His wrath and anger are only aroused because of the love was originally there; those negative feelings are a kind of love that has been scorned. So even God’s wrath and anger have their origins in love.
    3. I don’t think that Sharon claimed or intended to claim that one should *only* preach that God is love. It’s not a matter of either/or, but of emphasis.

    I love you, David! Shalom.


  22. I know that God is holy, and that He hates sin; that’s why it’s so amazing that He loves us while we are still sinners! Mark Driscoll’s choice to take two verses out of the Old Testament and use them to preach that “God hates you” is a dramatic and damaging misrepresentation of the logos. Even if the preacher goes on to talk about grace, his opening statement grieves the heart of God. Would you say to your child, “I hate you, but I forgive you”? To say “I hate sin” is one thing. To say “I hate you” is quite another.
    The keys to accurate biblical interpretation are context and priority. We must consider the verse in the context of the passage, in the context of the book, the history and culture of the people to whom it was originally written, and in the context of the entire Bible. And, most importantly, we must interpret the entirety of the Bible in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who is the full and true revelation of God to mankind – the Word made flesh.
    I grew up as a heathen on a pig farm. We played cards a lot. In card-playing terms, Jesus Christ (His life, teachings and character) “trumps” the Old Testament. For example, in the sermon on the mount, (Matthew 5), He says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you… You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven…”
    Jesus demonstrated that holiness ≠ hatred; holiness = mercy. When Jesus asks us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, He is not referring the perfection and holiness of the Pharisees (according to the law); He is referring to perfection in humility, love and mercy, as He has shown us.
    God hates sin because of what it does to me and those around me. But God sees that I am more than my sin. My sin is a symptom of my sickness, which can be healed only by His truth spoken in love and grace.
    Our privilege of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ could be compared to the privilege of being asked to propose on someone’s behalf. Let us consider how the Bridegroom might want us to begin that courtship.


  23. Anonymous

    Joe, thanks brother for your response. A couple of observations: 1) you said, “…I would prefer to use the terms wrath or anger…” but it really does seem like the bible uses the word “hate” regarding God’s feeling toward some people sometimes right? ie. those passages I quoted previously… 2) you asked the question “Can you find any parallel passages that  say things like, “His wrath endures forever…” or “God is hatred”?” Not those exact words, however, Revelation 19:2-3, Matthew 25:46, 2Thessalonians 1:9, Jude 7 and others DO point to the wrath of God enduring forever on those objects of his wrath. Now, that does not mean that “God is hatred” like you said, but it does show that hell lasts forever because God’s wrath is exhibited eternally on the lost. 3) I agree with you that God’s hatred toward sin and sinners is not emphasized as strongly as his Love for the Elect in the Bible, AND that God’s Love is indeed “greater” in some mystical sense than his Holy anger (Not that they are in conflict however!). Otherwise He never would have sent Jesus as the Propitiation for sin! 4) your point about the Trinity is a good one! 5) I would like you to explain this statement further if you would, “Hatred, wrath and anger are not the opposites of love. The opposite of love is indifference.” Thanks! And much love back to you man!


    • Hi David.

      (1) Don’t know the meaning of Hebrew word translated as “hate.” But I do know that the Bible is written in human language with human literary devices (e.g. hyperbole), not as a technical manual whose terms are always precisely defined and applied. On a few occasions, I made my kids so angry that they actually said to me, “I hate you,” but when I apologized to them for my bad behavior and the intensity of their momentary feeling passed, they quickly said, “I’m sorry” and admitted that they didn’t really hate me, it was just a figure of speech. I believe the Bible often uses such figures of speech. (2) The verses you quoted refer to punishment, and even if God punishes someone, I believe that God still loves that person at some very fundamental level. (5) Maybe an example is best. I love my wife intensely. If someone were to hurt her, show her disrespect, etc then I would be very angry toward him, and that anger would be a byproduct of my love. If I didn’t love her, then if someone disrespected her, I would be indifferent.


  24. Anonymous

    Hi Sharon, I have a couple of issues with a couple of your points 1) You wrote, “Even if the preacher goes on to talk about grace, his opening statement grieves the heart of God. Would you say to your child, “I hate you, but I forgive you”? To say “I hate sin” is one thing. To say “I hate you” is quite another.” This assumes that the natural man is God’s child, but that is not true! The natural man is dead in trespasses and sins, and is a child of the Devil. It is only those who believe in the name of the Son of God who have the right to become God’s Children see John 1:12. 2) You wrote, “God hates sin because of what it does to me and those around me. But God sees that I am more than my sin. My sin is a symptom of my sickness, which can be healed only by His truth spoken in love and grace.” Yes God does hate what sin does to me and those around me but that is not all! God hates sin because it is rebellion and an affront to Him as the Almighty King and Holy God! David knew this when he wrote in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” 3) You wrote, we must interpret the entirety of the Bible in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who is the full and true revelation of God to mankind – the Word made flesh.” Yes!And we must remember also that Jesus Christ spoke more about hell and judgment than any other person in the new testament. 


    • David, please remember our commenting policies regarding preaching and personal attacks. I removed your last two comments because they crossed the lines in those two policies.


    • Anonymous

      Brian, first of all, my posts were not personal attacks in any way. And second of all, posting that on this public forum instead of contacting me privately to give an explanation makes what I wrote seem far worse than what it was. My stating that Sharon was a fan of Rob Bell and how that explains a lot really Does explain a lot to me about where she might be coming from. I even wrote that I was not trying to write with any kind of attitude but in honest inquiry. Could it be that it is my theological positions you do not like instead of my tone? I think that could be the case since you wrote “preach it sister, preach it!” in response to Sharon’s posts. I’ll tell ya, that is some real UBF style silencing right there, and I will not be surprised if this post is removed as well.


    • Anonymous

      Secondly, if stating a widely held historic doctrinal position is preaching, then you had better remove half of the posts on this website. I mean no unnecessary offense and unfortunately tone does not come through on blogs, therefore tone must be implied. However if I use italics or bold print or exclamation marks, it is for emphasis and not yelling or whatever. We surely do live in a milque toast society today don’t we? crying at the slightest perceived offense. Well, I am going to stay me and not be censured by anyone for the sake of the Gospel


    • Anonymous

      Finally, I believe (and I am not alone in this) that this site has become somewhat doctrinally fast and loose at least in the sense that clearly abherrent and nonprotestant views are not usually challenged (I am not referring to the discussion today or yesterday). There are some regular contributors who do challenge those views however, but not the majority. So, consider this my last post on this website. I have written what I had to write. I hope that UBF really does change for the better. It must if it hopes to survive.


    • I’m happy to address David’s questions regarding my understanding and experience of God’s Word. As a beloved pastor once told me, writing disciplines the mind.
      David, I’d first like to clarify that I am not a “fan” of Rob Bell, though I see where you got that impression. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus take precedence in my life and conclusions – not the words of theologians, nor writers of doctrinal statements, nor the words of preachers/authors/professors. However, I do enjoy reading the stories and thoughts of other believers and schools of thought, discerning and enjoying what resonates as truth in light of Christ’s teachings, and leaving the rest behind. Years ago, I read “Velvet Elvis” and enjoyed Rob Bell’s chapter on the dust of the Rabbi, and his perspective on Jesus and Peter walking on water. So I posted it on Facebook as the book I was reading at the time. There were other parts of the book that I felt could be misinterpreted and misleading, and I wrote to Rob Bell expressing my appreciation, but also my concerns. I hadn’t updated my book posts since. Thanks for the motivation. I am currently reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” in modern English, and “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh, because my uncle married a woman from Thailand who is Buddhist, and I have friends who are influenced by Buddhist teachings. But my favorite place to read is the gospels. The first one I ever read was the Gospel of Luke, and it’s the one I go back to most often.
      Discussing doctrinal differences can make things rather tense and sometimes cause offense, but I do love encouraging people to experience God’s Word in fresh and challenging ways. I once took a scripture reading workshop with Hunter Barnes, who recites the entire gospel of Mark, and another workshop with Randall Wiebe, then Artistic Director for The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, and their approach to effective understanding and speaking God’s Word aloud is to consider the drama questions as if you are playing the part of the Bible character in the passage: Who are you? Where are you (history, context, what has just happened…)? Who are you talking to? and What do you want? Hunter said this approach left him in awe – “Did Jesus really say that?! Wow! That changes everything!”
      I believe it’s important to approach God’s Word humbly, admitting we may have misunderstood or failed to recognize certain things. I know I certainly have. I used to argue people into the ground, and I discovered that it’s entirely possible to have all our doctrinal ducks in a row, and yet miss the point of loving God and loving others.
      I found studying church history also helped me gain perspective on developments of beliefs, emphases, and traditions throughout the centuries. Without historical perspective, we can start to believe that our tradition of thought is the one and only original.
      If a person has been raised with or taught certain theologies and doctrines, it can be difficult to look at the life and teachings of Christ with unbiased objectivity. Preachers often say, “The Bible says that…” and put things in their own words, according to their traditions. When you hear such statements over and over, you can lose the distinction between scripture and interpretation of scripture, and not even realize you’re reading the Bible with a framework of belief and tradition of thought, rather than building the framework on the pure, unfiltered Word of Christ. Being raised as a heathen can, in this case, actually have some benefits. Of course, I’m not totally unbiased at this point, but the only religious tradition I recall from my upbringing was my mother sicking the dog on people who came to our farm peddling religion! (Both my parents were raised in the church, with “fire and brimstone” preaching.)
      After I came to faith in Christ, there was one particular “The Bible says…” statement that never seemed right to me, and that was the teaching that Jesus condemns the lost to burn in hell. My definition of “the lost” would be: those who do not know Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have a different definition. As I read through the four accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, I don’t hear Jesus condemning the lost. I hear Him saying that certain people will be sent to eternal punishment, but He’s not talking to or about “the lost”; he’s referring to people who claim to know Him as Lord, or claim to be children of God or children of Abraham, but do not act accordingly. My understanding is that it is the hypocrites and the proud and self righteous (who can’t admit they need a doctor) and cowards who will be sentenced to hell.
      In John 5, Jesus says “…the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” All I can say is that I’m grateful the Father has given the judgment to him. I trust Him. I trust you do too.



  25. David,
    God loves “the natural man” – the man Mark Driscoll says God hates.
    In Romans 5, we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    It kills Him to look on our sin, but He does it because He loves us.
    Jesus does, indeed speak of hell and judgment. There is a 500-year-old tradition of proof texting that needs reassessment.
    You say “God’s wrath is exhibited eternally on the lost.” I don’t remember Jesus saying that. In Luke 19, it is recorded that He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This statement is followed by a parable regarding people being given a gold coin. In this parable, we learn that we are responsible for what we do with what we are given. I find it interesting that the one who acted conservatively out of fear did not fare well.
    Jesus condemns people to eternal punishment in Matthew 7 and Matthew 25, but he’s not referring to “the lost”, nor to those who have never heard His name. In both stories, Jesus is referring to people who call him “Lord.”
    If we fail to step out of our conservative sin-free zone to demonstrate His love and compassion toward “the least of these,” how can we say that we know Him? How can we expect Him to say that He knows us? If we believe that God is too holy to look on sin, will we also become too “holy” to look on sin? Did Jesus look on sin? What was his response? Is our concept of holiness different from God’s concept of holiness? Perhaps true holiness is pure, unconditional love, and when we fail in that, we hurt Him, ourselves, and those around us. His response is to demonstrate, again and again, pure, unconditional love, in the hope that we will respond likewise.
    Here’s an interesting podcast by Brad Jersak – podcast #15
    http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/dimensions-conference-session/id343911979?i=105412311
    I am not downplaying God’s holiness, nor His anger toward sin. C.S. Lewis wrote that Aslan is not a tame lion, and I wholeheartedly agree. His story would not be “The Greatest Story Ever Told” if He were not holy and we were not sinful. But I know that Jesus loves sinners, and God is exactly like Jesus. If God hated sinners, it would be just like any other natural human story.


    • GerardoR

      Interesting response Sharron, especially your remark on Romans 5. The “natural man” is a sticky term. The natural man could be the person who hasnt accepted God but it could also be the person we were (before the fall).
       
      I was actually thinking about this point just yesterday.  We often read in the bible that those who are in friendship with Jesus are adopted as Sons. I had a discussion with a friend of mine who said that only then can we be sons. Prior to that we were not his sins. But that seems to go against the story of Adam and Eve prior to their fall. Were Adam and Eve not “sons” of God? if they were not sons and were not “the lost” (since they had not fallen yet) then what were they? 
      We are also told that Jesus was the older brother who in Jewish tradition was sent to rescue the youngest brother. This tradition presumes that the one being rescued was already a part of the family (at one point) but is taken or chooses to leave the family hence the need for the older brother to go find him. Therefore, under this point of view I can’t help but view those who do not know Jesus not as beggers on the outskirts of the family but as lost brothers and sisters who Jesus was sent to bring home and who commissions us to bring home.  Hence, does God hate these people? I find it hard to use that term and find more comfort in Joe’s rephrasing. All of this helps me understand Romans 5 much more clearly.

      Then again, I wonder how we could be called Jesus brother’s prior to the incarnation. Agh! This question is tough but interesting to discuss.  


    • Hi Gerardo, nice to hear from you.

      And Sharon, I really like the depth of your responses. Thanks for participating in this heavily male-dominated forum. Welcome!


    • GerardoR

      This talk about hate/wrath and love of God reminds me of a passage from a novel by G.K. Chesterton which always amazed me in it’s power:

       “We shall have gone deeper than the deeps of heaven and grown older than the oldest angels before we feel, even in its first faint vibrations, the everlasting violence of that double passion with which God hates and loves the world. ”― Manalive


  26. My only comment right now is in response to Sharon’s thoughts: preach it, sister, preach it!!




  27. Thanks Sharon, Dave, Joe, Gerardo, Brian. I am enjoying your comments. I echo Joe’s comment for Sharon jumping into this male dominant website. Sharon, perhaps, you might mother us “tough guys” a little!
     
    I’m not sure if you guys get the sense I get, which is that predominantly the more “cerebral intellectual” types among us comment frequently, while perhaps the more “action-oriented, practical” types do not find this site quite useful or edifying, which I actually do. Of course, this might just be an artificial dichotomy.
     
    The people who interact on this site might perhaps be inclined toward loving God with all our minds, while those who do not might be inclined toward loving God with all their strength. Just a thought.


  28. Thanks! ‘Tis a pleasure to be here. I very much appreciate the midweek question. It is something I have struggled with in the church.
    It was the stories of Jesus and how He treated people, and the picture of Him knocking at my door (because He loved me), and hearing that, though my parents might forsake me, He would not – all of these things drew me to Jesus. I was also challenged by Dr. Johnnie Mae Brown from Detroit, who came to preach in a little church in Red Deer, AB. She said, “Keep thyself pure, young people!”
    Does He love us as His children before we accept Him as our personal Lord and Savior? I don’t think He would have been knocking at my door if He hated me.
    When Paul was in Athens, he said,
    I see that in every way you Athenians are very religious.For as I walked through your city and looked at the places where you worship, I found an altar on which is written, To an Unknown God. That which you worship, then, even though you do not know it, is what I now proclaim to you. God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands…From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; as someone has said,   
             In him we live and move and exist.
    It is as some of your poets have said,  
             We too are his children.
    Since we are God’s children, we should not suppose that his nature is anything like an image of gold or silver or stone, shaped by human art and skill… (from Acts 17, GNT)
    I believe we are all God’s children in this sense. Gerardo’s comment makes me think that when we accept God’s invitation to come home, we are no longer lost children; we’re back in His arms, and with His family.
    Christ used the term “children of the Devil” in John 8 when talking to those who called themselves the children of Abraham and children of God, but who were acting in opposition, killing God’s prophets, and now wanting to kill Him. We have to be careful that we don’t transfer these terms to “the lost.”
    By God’s holiness and grace, I know that I am born, by royal adoption, into God’s family. Thank you for showing me the chair that is always towards me. And thank you to everyone who has commented. It is in conversation and community that we work out our salvation and bring it from our heads to our hearts to our lives. This has been a healing experience for me. May you always see His chair facing you,
    with love and challenge.


  29. Sharon/Gerardo: Your thoughts lead me to 1 John 4:16-21. We love because he first loved us. I am convinced that order must be present in any theological position. 

    My thoughts on this discussion so far:

    1) God’s ways are far above our ways. I cannot explain it, but I am convinced that God’s expressions of hate/wrath/anger are righteous and stem from His Fatherly love for us, even when we are lost.

    2) When we preach/teach/share we need to remember that we are not to hate our brothers/sisters (such as in Leviticus 19:17) and we are to hate what is evil can cling to what is good (such as in Romans 12:9).




  30. Anonymous

    *sigh* these are not strange inventions that I am promulgating here although people like Brian Zahnd and “others” claim they are…these are the BASIC doctrines of the faith. I almost hesitate to post again. Sharon you said, “You say “God’s wrath is exhibited eternally on the lost.” I don’t remember Jesus saying that.” Really?! Who are the people you mention in Matthew 7 and 25 but the LOST? Anyone who is condemned to hell is lost, wouldn’t you agree? Are you an annihilationist or a universalist? I am asking honestly, and not with an attitude so that I can understand where you are coming from.  

    Also, by referencing Romans 5:8 do you believe that the death of Jesus applies salvifically to every person or not? WHO IS THE “US” THAT PAUL IS REFERENCING HERE? Did Jesus die for the sins of every person who ever lived or not? This might seem like a very strange question right? Many modern evangelicals would say “Of course he did!” But I disagree. I believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the Elect.

    The issue is this according to the English Puritan John Owen: Christ’s death was effectual. It actually ACCOMPLISHED something. It appeased God’s wrath and it is specific to individuals.
     
    Knowing that, then the question becomes the following: (From John Owen)
     

    The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

    All the sins of all men.
    All the sins of some men, or
    Some of the sins of all men.


    In which case it may be said:

    That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
    That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
    But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

    You answer, “Because of unbelief.”
    I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

    So I’d like you to think about that and try and understand why this particular question has yet to be answered from those who believe Christ died for everyone who ever lived.


    • Darren Gruett

      On the subject of limited atonement, I happen to be reading Matthew 20:28 yesterday. It is amazing to me how much the doctrines of grace show up again and again throughout Scripture.


  31. Anonymous

    Sharon, I see from your facebook page that you are a Rob Bell, Donald Miller fan, so that explains a lot!


    • David, you are right. I should have contacted you privately to express my concerns before moving your 2 comments to the pending queue. I am a technical admin here so I normally don’t get involved with enforcing policies. 

      I have no “theological position” yet, so I was not censoring anything based on content. Some of your position makes sense to me.

      I put your two comments back (such as the one above). My only point is that we should not have a “I am right, you are wrong” tone here, especially when interacting with a new commenter like Sharon. I was hoping we could understand what Sharon was saying, which does match much of what God has been teaching me lately. Fortunately, Sharon seems ready, willing and able to partake in feisty discussions.




  32. Thanks, Sharon, for writing, sharing and living out the Christ in you, our hope of glory. I can feel your exuberance and excitement from what you write and the passion that God has sparked in your heart because of the love of God, the grace of Jesus and the friendship of the Holy Spirit.
     
    If you don’t mind me asking, how did you hear of this site? Were you/are you connected with any UBF chapter? Just wondering.


    • Randall Wiebe referred me to this site to see the “Two Chairs” video. I hope it’s all right that I have “crashed your party.” I was just going to post the one comment. I didn’t mean to cause such a kerfuffle. I was, indeed, taken aback that someone would go to my Facebook page and find a book I had read to “explain away” my comments (that’s how I took it), as if I swallow everything I read, hook, line and sinker and regurgitate the content without comparison to the Truth. But I do understand where David is coming from, and I have compassion for his views. I have studied systematic theology, church doctrine, etc., and I too have a framework. But sometimes, I believe it’s important to step out of that and read Jesus’ story as a newbie. I thank you, Brian, for responding the way you did. I did feel attacked by the “sigh” and capital letters, which, in a blog, can definitely come across as anger. But since David said he was only asking honest questions, I felt it was safe to respond. I hope David will re-enter the conversation. It’s too bad the comments aren’t in chronological order. Can you fix that?


    • Sharon, I don’t have a way to re-order the comments, sorry! …unless we all want to re-type them and have this conversation all over again :)  Maybe our Google-admin will chime in here…




  33. Interesting discussion!

    David, I have two questions for you. These are not rhetorical questions. I really want to know what you think. And these questions are closely related to the oriinal intent of this article.

    Clearly, Mark Driscoll and Brian Zahn claim to be presenting the gospel. But they do so in very different ways.

    Q1: Is it possible for someone to have a negative reaction to Brian Zahnd’s presentation for reasons that are good and holy?

    Q2: Is it possible for someone to have a negative reation to Mark Driscoll’s presentation for reasons that are good and holy?


  34. GerardoR

    Sharon,
    As is common, it sounds like we are using different definitions of certain terms. David is using lost to describe unrepentant sinners who know of God’s love and is not discriminating between those who know Jesus and those who dont. Whereas, you are using the word lost to describe those who, through no fault of their own, never knew Jesus. It doesnt sounds like you are differentiating your definition of lost between those who did not know Jesus and yet were living their life according to the moral law and those who did not know Jesus and ignored the moral law. I assume you probably believe that the former can be saved (as do I). Whereas, the latter are putting themselves in grave danger of being in hell. 

    The passages that David cites, do I believe, show sufficient evidence that hell is forever. I am not sure if anyone on here disagree’s with that point. In fact, I dont think anyone ever attempted to. I think people disagree that they argue for “God Hates certain people” point. 

    We should definately have a thread on salvation for those who do not know Jesus. It is a topic that often elicits various responses. Sharon, I hope you will continue to hang around the website. Your clarity of mind is very much appreciated. Your also expel charity which is always contagious. =) 

    David,
    I am sorry that Brian’s nazi censoring policies (he can get pretty power crazy sometimes) and Dr. Toh’s abhorrent theological opinions drove you away from the website. You were referring to Dr. Toh right? =)    


    • I shall conquer the world one university at a time! Everyone will submit to God’s name! Praise Jesus!

      Oh wait.. that was my UBF testimony, sorry for the relapse :)




  35. Gerardo,
    Thank you for clarifying “the lost”, and thank you for your invitation to hang around the website.
    Yes, it is the “God hates certain people” statement that I disagree with.
    I also disagree that Brian has “nazi censoring policies”. I was wounded to the core by David’s comments. The pastor, from whose ministry I am still trying to recover, used to yell at me with capital letters in emails, and yell at me with red-faced anger in person, so perhaps I’m hypersensitive. If Brian had not addressed the issue promptly, I would not be hanging around. David’s response that he was not attacking me and Brian’s apology to David for not contacting him directly is all good. And I do hope David comes back.


    • “yell at me with red-faced anger in person”…   yep, been there, done that. My former “pastor” did that several times over the past 20 years to me and to others.




    • GerardoR

      Sharon, I was actually being sarcastic about Brian being a nazi censoring machine. Brian is a fair moderator. I wish he was the good angel on my right shoulder so that he could stop me from saying some of the dumb things I normally say in my real life. Maybe then my mouth wouldnt get me into so much trouble. I agree with you that Brian made a reasonable judgement and I am thankful for his thoughtfulness and the seriousness to which he takes his role as moderator. 

      And just for clarity, I was not seriously calling Dr. Toh a person with abhorrent theological positions. David was actually referring to me when he made that lovely comment. David thinks I am going to hell because I am a Roman Catholic. 


    • I knew your “inside joke” Gerardo. I’m sure Ben does too. Thanks brother! And I am certain you would be in purgatory, not in hell :-)




    • Well, in that case, Gerardo,
      as a privileged protestant, I promise to protest at the pearly gates for the purpose of preventing your prolonged imprisonment in purgatory :)


    • GerardoR

      Thanks Sharon. I will “pray to you” then when I am in purgatory. I do sometimes wonder what about the joys of purgatory.


  36. God hates certain people?
    My mother’s favorite joke is about a farmer for whom everything goes wrong. All his neighbors have bumper crops, but he gets hailed out. Every piece of machinery he buys turns out to be a lemon. He invests in hogs and the prices plummet, and on and on. Finally, he looks up to the heavens and cries out, “God! Why me?!” And a voice thunders back, “Because there’s just something about you that ticks me off.”
    My mother laughs because she thinks it’s true. I laugh because I know it’s not. But we laugh together, and it’s all good.


    • Sharon, it is good and refreshing to know that you can laugh. Sometimes I hear people in workplaces say that if they didn’t have to deal with all those customers, they would be better off. Yet their business would not exist if not for those customers.

      Unfortunately, some churches and pastors have the same kind of thinking. If church just didn’t have all those sinners, we’d be so much better off! Yet the church would be empty without sinners.

      Some of us here have experienced similar painful issues as you mention. For example there are some people question whether I have an “evil spirit” or a “bitter heart” or a “wounded soul” because of my “whistle-blowing” activities on my blog: http://www.priestlynation.com and http://www.ubfriends.org/2011/05/my-confession/. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.




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