27 February 2009

James 4:4

by Phil Johnson

illiam Butler Yeats wrote a poem shortly after World War I called The Second Coming. Despite the title, it was a very pessimistic poem. Yeats was observing the rapid dissolution of society, and he foresaw nothing but certain doom. An unbeliever, he dreaded the idea of Christ's Second Coming because he saw in it nothing but the end of the world.

As he looked at the dissolution of the social order, Yeats wrote,
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And at the end of the poem, he pictured the coming day of doom as a
". . . rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouch[ing] towards Bethlehem to be born."

In 1996, Judge Robert Bork borrowed and adapted that closing line from Yeats's poem and made it the title of his best-selling book—Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

Bork, like Yeats, could see that society is in rapid decline. Both men understood that society has no hope when good men "lack all conviction" and evil men "are full of passionate intensity." But Bork said the real problem in our society is not merely that some external doom is descending on us. The greater problem is that society itself is marching steadfastly into its own doom. Our problem is not some end-times beast that is slouching toward Bethlehem; the real problem is that society itself is slouching toward Gomorrah.

As we look at the state of Christ's church worldwide today, we see an even more frightening prospect. By and large, the church has fallen in love with Gomorrah, and has veered off that direction in a dead sprint. Christians seem as if they are on a collective quest to see how much of the world they can absorb and imitate. Instead of trying to win the world the way Christ commanded, the church seems determined to see how much like the world she can become.

It is a safe bet that whatever is popular in the world at the moment will soon be embraced by the church. Virtually all of today's secular fads will have Christian counterparts tomorrow. Seriously: there are even several "Christian" nudist colonies. Evidently there is no worldly novelty that someone, somewhere won't try to drag into the church.

For more than four years here at PyroManiacs we have been pointing out laughable examples of how the contemporary church has played the harlot with the world. When you listen to the rationale of people who advocate worldly innovations in the church, they invariably insist this is the only way to reach unbelievers.

Under pretexts such as "contextualization," "missional living," and "relevance" an unbridled willingness to accommodate Divine truth to human preferences is now going on virtually unchecked in the modern and postmodern evangelical movement. Multitudes of Christians today think it is their prerogative to mold and shape everything—worship, music, and even the Word of God itself—to the tastes and fashions of the world.

In 2002 I clipped an article from the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The article, titled "Hold the Fire and Brimstone" observed that the doctrine of hell has all but disappeared from the pulpits of evangelical churches. Here's what the article said:
In churches across America, hell is being frozen out as clergy find themselves increasingly hesitant to sermonize on [the subject] . . .. Hell's fall from fashion indicates how key portions of Christian theology have been influenced by a secular society that stresses individualism over authority and the human psyche over moral absolutes. The rise of psychology, the philosophy of existentialism and the consumer culture have all dumped buckets of water on hell.

The Times asked some pastors why the doctrine of eternal damnation has fallen from the radar in evangelical churches. One pastor said churches nowadays don't mention hell because "it isn't sexy enough anymore." The article also quotes Bruce Shelley, senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary. In his view, evangelicals' silence about hell is because "it's just too negative. . . . Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."*

That kind of thinking is all too typical. Until Christians recover their convictions and their passion; until we realize that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation; until we quit tinkering with the message to try to accommodate it to the tastes and preferences of every subculture; and until we give up these foolish efforts to make the gospel "appealing" and concern ourselves with proclaiming it accurately and making it clear, the church's impact on the world will continue to diminish and the world's influence will continue to define what the church looks like.

My assessment of what the church looks like at the moment: "As Isaiah predicted, 'If the Lord of hosts had not left us [a remnant], we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah'" (Romans 9:29).
Phil's signature

* PS: See the comments below, starting HERE. We have it on good authority that the pastor quoted at the start of the Times article was merely describing, and not advocating, the current evangelical reluctance to preach on the hard truths of Scripture. We strongly suspect the quotation from Bruce Shelley similarly misconstrues what Shelley himself believes preaching should be like. It's too bad the Times writers weren't more careful in how they treated their own sources, because the point these men were trying to make is the whole point of the Times article: evangelicals have misapplied the all-things-to-all-men principle, and that has resulted in (among other things) a pared-back, toned-down version of the gospel that simply isn't the same message Jesus gave us to proclaim to the world.


rabbi-philosopher said...

Global collapse could be a very good thing for the spread of the gospel and the growth of the remnant. Painful but good.

Kim said...

That poem by Yeats always reminds me of "The Hollow Men," by Eliot. When I look at some of the trends of the church, I think of lines from the end of that poem:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Johnny Dialectic said...

That's the God ordained irony, isn't it? The more the church tries to "reach" the world through man made strategies, the more marketing research and tactical accommodation is indulges in, the less power it has. It can fill stadiums with blank eyed nodders, but it can't engender spiritual transformation. Only Word and Spirit can do that, and both are increasingly absent from the pulpit.

David Brush said...

The Good News of Jesus Christ is foundational and should be the centrality of our message, no doubts. There is room to evangelize, and to avoid universalism, without being an insensitive jerk about hell.

Hell was never the motivator for Christ, but the possibility of redemption and inclusion in his kingdom. Get a dog and only ever punish him and you won't have a good dog, you'll have a scared dog that goes to the bathroom every time you look at him, not a loyal and loving dog.

DJP said...

Wow; that quotation from the LAT could have been written by David Wells.

donsands said...

"..Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."-Bruce Shelley, senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary.

That's a sad statement from such a person, huh.

I like he uses a nice soft word like appealing, and a harsh word like demanding in the same sentence.

That's the way people try to manipulate the truth.

How about just speak the Words of Christ, all His Words. I think God likes His Word. I mean, doesn't God like His Scriptures. They are His words; His sayings; His truth to us, every word.

I really don't get it why, especially a prof, can not get this. The Bible is beyond a treasure to us, and should be especially to a seminary prof.

I just don't get it.

Unless these people are not born again, and simply serve God with their own lips and thinking?

Another excellent post.

ps I have heard that the Church in Africa, India, and even China is becoming strong in the truth, unlike the Church in America.

Anonymous said...

David Brush,

The difficulty with what you've said is that you can't broach the topic of redemption, or even the atonement, without answering the question "Redeemed from what? or "Saved from what?"

Jesus spoke often of hell. We can't avoid it in gospel presentation.

If we can't speak plainly of hell, it becomes defacto universalism because everyone imagines that they will go to heaven. The gospel begins by destroying that notion before providing the answer.

So...yes, it can be done without being a jerk, but it can't be done without addressing the elephant in the room. Even Jesus said "Fear Him who can destroy the body and soul in Hell."

I would contend that dropping hell is a lot like dropping the Total Inability of the sinner. In both cases the gospel that follows is gutted of any significance.

DJP said...

I think presenting the Gospel as if it's analogous to choosing between Coke and Pepsi is being 'way worse than a jerk.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I'm in Judges now, and read this bit from Matt. Henry, which seems apropos:

Judges 1:21-36 The people of Israel were very careless of their duty and interest. Owing to slothfulness and cowardice, they would not be at the pains to complete their conquests. It was also owing to their covetousness: they were willing to let the Canaanites live among them, that they might make advantage of them. They had not the dread and detestation of idolatry they ought to have had.

The same unbelief that kept their fathers forty years out of Canaan, kept them now out of the full possession of it. Distrust of the power and promise of God deprived them of advantages, and brought them into troubles....We can have no fellowship with the enemies of God within us or around us, but to our hurt; therefore our only wisdom is to maintain unceasing war against them.

Hastey Words said...

@ Kim: Thanks for the reminder. I was trying to place that exact sentiment. "Not with a bang but a whimper" seems to describe our Church's decent into moral relativism. We've stopped asking, "How can we most clearly present the message of the Gospel?" and exchanged it for, "What is the most pleasing way to present the message of Jesus" and finally to, "How can we show people that the Ideals of Jesus are sexy?"

It's just heart breaking.

olan strickland said...

until we realize that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation; until we quit tinkering with the message to try to accommodate it to the tastes and preferences of every subculture; and until we give up these foolish efforts to make the gospel "appealing" and concern ourselves with proclaiming it accurately and making it clear, the church's impact on the world will continue to diminish and the world's influence will continue to define what the church looks like.

The foundational problem with the modern and postmodern evangelical movements is that they don't realize that the gospel is itself the power of God unto salvation. They have departed from God's Word in their soteriology, defiled themselves with the world in their ecclesiology, and are deceiving themselves with their works in their eschatology (they believe that they are producing revival instead of perpetuating the apostasy which must take place before the Lord comes back) - after all, you can't argue with their numbers!

Chad V. said...

The kind of nonsense that so-called churches are engaging in presently would have been labeled by men like Spurgeon and "not fit for idiots" and "stupidity". Of course now Christians are so infected with political correctness that they've lost the guts to call sin sin and stupidity stupid.

They are more worried about giving offense to man than offending the Lord. In fact they would much prefer to offend the Lord than their fellow man using the excuse "we have to be loving". There is nothing loving abut sparing someone's feelings at the expense of their soul.

Leberwurst said...

...I love my dog enough to teach him not to run in the street, and correction is often punitive. I hope I also love others enough to tell them of a greater punishment...

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Eric said...

David Brush,

You said: "Hell was never the motivator for Christ, but the possibility of redemption and inclusion in his kingdom."

Never? Really?

If you take a moment to think further about what you have said with this statement, I think you would realize its absurdity.

First of all, Jesus was motivated to come to the earth to complete His work (including His preaching ministry) to save the elect that God the Father had given to Him from hell. Secondly, as Daryl already pointed out, whenever you say redeemed, it begs the question: Redeemed from what? And, what is the opposite of inclusion in the Kingdom of God? Wouldn't that be exclusion? And to what would that exclusion refer?

And what of the parables where Jesus uses various forms of the phrases "depart from me" and "everlasting punishment" and "thrown out into darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth"? In the context of preaching to a people with the Old Testament scripture and a knowledge of the fall and the curse of sin, is it not clear that Jesus was warning of hell, and in fact using it as a "motivator"?

And lastly, be careful to avoid "red-letterism" and thereby divorce Jesus The Word from the rest of His written Word. Did not the Old Testament prophets speak God's words? Did not the Apostles speak God's words?

Libbie said...

The Second Coming affected me enormously in my teens. The phrase 'slouches toward Bethlehem to be born' still changes my mood in an instant.

heath lloyd said...

Great post, Phil. Thanks.
I am concerned not just about the EM and blatant consumer-driven, but also about those who genuinely consider themselves "evangelicals" who have become and act/behave personally and corporately so worldly.
I am always reminded of the Word that Jesus spoke to Peter: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:23

David Brush said...


Thank you for your response.

You would find that we are not in disagreement in regards to the reality of Hell. I don't disagree with you that it is a something we want to avoid, and urge others to avoid emphatically.

I find your questions though lack a hope in the transformational purposes of Christ. He saves us first and foremost so that we are reconciled to him and can participate in his plan for us, not simply to save me from hell. I wasn't given a golden ticket from damnation, I was given an invitation to living water. John 4 is central hear. John 3, the context and concept of rebirth is aimed at narrow minded pharisees that can't comprehend the limitless possibilities of God. John 4, the context is an outsider to the faith, an unbeliever, Jesus fully confronts her sin. However the wording is an invitation to participate in the grace he provides. Judgment is not a vendetta, but simply what happens when God's light shines on what was once dark. The bringer of that light is Christ and his Spirit. We need to make sure that we don't presume God's timing.

As for your questions I would restate them as follows; "Redeemed unto what? or "Saved for what?"

We want Hell to be less crowded for sure. We also don't want to confuse the job of the church and presume the role of the Spirit to convict unbelievers. Our job is to point the way to Christ. We can factually say that life apart from Christ is hell and leads to damnation, God however hasn't handed the power of finalizing that judgment to anyone other than himself through Jesus Christ.

I can say your path leads to pain, and eventually to death and eternal separation from God; however I sure better not say your damned, it's not my call.

DJP said...

N. T. Wright has a new blogger ID.

David Brush said...


Sorry to break it to you but I am one of those heretical Arminian/Anabaptist brothers that has no idea why God would, to use your logic, elect anyone for hell.

As for your reference to Jesus' parables you speak the truth when you reference that they were directed at the pharisees. The question than is who were the pharisees. Indeed Jesus was present but the Cross had not yet been accomplished. Jesus was an orthodox Jew, just as the pharisees were. Jesus admonition is against the orthodox religious who should have gotten it, but didn't. Jesus was condemning the way the reduced God to their theological understanding. Those most in danger by Jesus' parables where those that had ears to hear the truth but didn't believe him.

As for your last paragraph you are putting words and intonations into my argument I didn't make or even agree with.

David Brush said...


I am humbled, thank you for the compliment. :-)

Anonymous said...


Again you're missing the point.

It's not like Jesus never threatened hell. He did, constantly. Even John the Baptist asked the way-too-eager crowds "Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?"

Judgement certainly is a vendetta. It is God's vendetta against sin and rebellion. You can't just skip over that.

Your last paragraph outlines your whole problem and reflects a total lack of understanding of life itself.
Ijn many cases repenting does indeed lead to pain, significant pain, and, in many cases, rebellion against God, in this life, does not.
God has clearly labelled sinners as "the damned" in Scripture. You're right, it's not my call, I can't change that nor do I want to.
No one's response to the gospel should hang on whether or not they feel like their life is painful, it really should hang on eternity.
What you've done is make the need for salvation entirely subjective and based on how they percieve their lot in life, now.
Jesus, however, made it clear that after death comes judgement and, as Edwards said, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God."

Eric said...

"We can factually say that life apart from Christ is hell and leads to damnation"

Nothing in this life approaches the agony of hell. Hell cannot be tritely dismissed or equated with an "unfulfilled", difficult, or sin-cursed life.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd have a tough time convincing all non-believers that their life, now, is hell...so, no, you can't factually say that.

Phil Johnson said...

David Brush: "as Edwards said, 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.'"

Actually, that's Scripture, not Edwards. And the precise quote is, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (See: God is to be feared whether angry or not.)

So how, precisely, does one insulate oneself from "being an insensitive jerk about hell"? It appears you are suggesting that using circumlocutions and euphemisms that tone down the force of hell will do the trick.

I, on the other hand, think the "insensitive jerk" is the guy who believes he knows better than the Bible does how truth should be spun and packaged.

Eric said...


I am not arguing who Jesus was talking to in those parables, or what their particular sin was. Rather, I was pointing out that the language Jesus used was an obvious reference to judgment and hell, whomever He was warning. This in contrast to your assertion that Jesus "never" used hell as a motivator.

Oh, and you've turned election on its head: God elects undeserving sinners to salvation. Deserving sinners "elect" tehmselves for hell.

DJP said...

PJ: I, on the other hand, think the "insensitive jerk" is the guy who believes he knows better than the Bible does how truth should be spun and packaged.


Josh said...

There is plenty of room for the contextualization of methods as long as the message itself is not tampered with. "Timeless Truth, Timely Methods" is a sound approach to ministry. Let's not chuck out the baby with the bath water.

David Brush said...


"Your last paragraph outlines your whole problem and reflects a total lack of understanding of life itself."

Thanks for encouraging me there. :-) Thankfully I put my internet flame suit on before going into this. I think you meant to say. Your last paragraph outlines the problem of your viewpoint from a reformed perspective.

Last I checked I do quite well at life by the grace of God.

Now back to the point... :-)

How is death and eternal separation from God not hellish? Now you are confusing me.

We can sit hear and jib and jab and get no where. You won't convert me today, nor I you.

I think we can agree with this:

Hell is bad. Beyond anything we can imagine.

God is Holy. Beyond anything we can imagine.

Jesus Christ brings salvation from sin.

As to the original articles intent. Hell is about as popular as George W. Bush. But then I voted for him twice. People can try to ignore that GWB exists, but at the end of the day he does, and he has(had) your phone tapped too. :-)

Frank Turk said...

The first thing I want to amend to Phil's post is link to The DG 2009 pastor's conference audio.

The second thing I want to do is link to one of my original blog posts from back in the day.

The third thing I want to do is get off the diet I am on right now, but I need to lose 20 more pounds before I start eating more again. Pray about that.

Frank Turk said...

David Brush:

Does the Bible describe Hell as merely an eternal "lack", or does it represent Hell as an actual, active punishment?

For example, how does Jesus describe Hell?

Anonymous said...


It's not "reformed" belief that after death comes judgement. It's Christian belief. This whole thread is about as unique to reformed theology as ice is to Canada.

Your last post makes it plain that you either did not read my post or understand it. Your response didn't address anything I said.
To top it all off you flip flopped completely, agreeing that hell is terrible and to be avoided after pushing for an evangelism that avoids hell altogether.

Which is it?

David Rudd said...

David Brush,

I have three big issues with what you're saying here:

1) "Here" is spelled without an "a". You did that at least twice in you're several posts.

2) I think Dan was referring to Heath Lloyd with the NT Wright reference.

3)I don't believe that GWBush exists. I think he was an animatronic device invented by Dick Cheney.

Other than those things, I appreciate what you're trying to say.

David Brush said...


"I, on the other hand, think the "insensitive jerk" is the guy who believes he knows better than the Bible does how truth should be spun and packaged."

I don't disagree. Here is my question from a evangelistic perspective.

If you present the gospel as turn or burn, and they decide to step away from your presentation isn't it simply a cop out to say that they have 'elected' hell?

What about the relentless pursuit of the lost we are commanded to? "He didn't believe me when I told him he was going to hell, so I say let him." Please tell me I am wrong in my broad caricature.

There are those that will never turn to God so long as hell is the carrot leading the horse. They will however over time turn to God as they realize the error of their ways in light of a consistent Christian witness and lifestyle.

It is good to warn someone if they are driving toward a cliff. but it is calloused to say, 'I warned them' shrug our shoulders and walk the other way.

Anonymous said...

"it is calloused to say, 'I warned them' shrug our shoulders and walk the other way."

Who here is recommending that?

David Brush said...


I never said hell is to be avoided as a topic. I said there are ways to talk to people about Hell without being a jerk.


David Brush said...

David Rudd,

I have heard your admonitions for the correct speeling of me wurds. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree mostly with Phil on this one. I also agree that a lot of what's going to happen to the Church in the next 4 years will be benificial to it.

However, Daryl, "To top it all off you flip flopped completely, agreeing that hell is terrible and to be avoided after pushing for an evangelism that avoids hell altogether."

Where did David say that? I agree that Hell is central to Christian teaching, but where did David argue for leaving it out alltogether? Yeah, the theology is fluffy, but don't slander the guy....

God Bless.

David Brush said...


From your perspective, and because I know nothing about you other than your name"

How do you approach an unbeliever, and what is your responsibility to them?

As I said, it was a broad caricature and you are welcome to try and educate me.

DJP said...

"Others have tried."

"They tried and failed?"

"They tried... and died!"

Name that movie (or book)

David Brush said...


Perhaps it involves a rabbit hole?

northWord said...

Excellent article , Phil!
Very neatly wrapped heapings of truth.

This "rapid dissolution of society" seems to go hand-in-hand with the rapid degradation of the "church". Right now we are actually seeing our country "sprint" toward the destruction of democracy as we've ever known it...perhaps in lock-step (ahem) with the "church".

But I am excited about these times because they are signs! (and wonders ;) -though I hate what is happening in the name of "Christiandom" I can't help but harken Mat 13:24 - 30 and know that as the wheat comes into bloom, so do the weeds become all the more obvious to those with "ears to hear...eyes to see".

I was just talking to my husband about some of this last night, and pondering that it is soley out of God's will and choosing that I or any of us would be able to discern these things, and without His grace on me (us) I would have no understanding at all. I am in awe of this, of His great grace and mercy on us..incredibly grateful, and humbled.

"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
2Cr 4:4

Anonymous said...


Earlier, with no apparent context aside from the post which admonished us to not remove hell from the gospel, you suggested that we don't need to be an insensitive jerk about hell.

In the next sentence you said that hell was "never a motivator for Jesus". (Which is patently untrue by the way)

What other conclusion is there but that you were advocating not bringing hell up to the unbeliever?

How do I approach an unbeliever? Sadly, far to rarely, but I approach them based on them. That is, I talk with them based on them, their life, our life the weather etc.

My responsibility is to tell them, at some point, that God commands them to repent. They must know that there is an unmeetable standard and a price (hell) to pay for not meeting it. Then they must know that God has provided a sacrifice on behalf of all those who would repent.

I don't get what you mean by not "being a jerk" about hell? Who advocated THAT?

Phil Johnson said...

David Brush: "Please tell me I am wrong in my broad caricature."

OK, you are wrong in your broad caricature. Egregiously so.

Originally, you were implying that using straight biblical terms to describe hell makes one a "jerk," and you suggested that one could avoid finding oneslef in this category through the judicious use of euphemism and understatement. Hell (by your original description) shouldn't sound so much like a lake of fire or an outpouring of divine wrath. Instead you proposed a kind of bizarro-world description of divine enlightenment: "Judgment is not a vendetta, but simply what happens when God's light shines on what was once dark."

But in your later comments, you seem to be suggesting that the problem with hell is that those who speak of it in biblical terms are just callously indifferent.

Now, I read a lot of Puritan preaching, plus the occasional dose of 18th- and 19th-century sermons, and those guys tended to mention hell a lot more than the most rabid fundamentalist today. Furhtermore, they were graphic and passionate in their descriptions of what makes divine wrath so fearful.

But I can't think of a single sermon in all the corpus of things I have read where the preacher mentioned hell and managed to sound the least bit indifferent about it.

So I'm curious: Why do you take it as a given that someone who warns of the perils of hell is more indifferent to the plight of the loss than the guy who is content with reimagining hell so that it sounds like nothing worse than a bright light in the eyes of a sleeping sinner?

David Brush said...


You are right, I said never, and probably shouldn't have. To be fair what I want to express is that Hell was not the prime motivator, redemption was.

As far as being a Jerk, it is too easy to be one. Based on what you have written I don't think you are a jerk about it. But I can introduce you to few wandering the streets of my town that are. The problem with blog comments is I have no context for who you are, or you for me. Only black and white words on a disjointed conversation. I think you would that you and I have largely the same intent and approach, albeit our starting points and language would be different. Same goal, same gospel, different contexts and approaches.


Eric said...

"Who advocated THAT?"


I probably shouldn't go here, but perhaps David has created a caricature of those who preach or evangelize with reference to hell that is in the Darwin Fish or Fred Phelps mode.

farmboy said...

"If you present the gospel as turn or burn, and they decide to step away from your presentation isn't it simply a cop out to say that they have 'elected' hell?"

A couple of observations on the above quote offered by David Brush. First, as part of being called to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that God commanded, we are to accurately and fully present biblical truth, in general, and the gospel, more specifically.

Second, we can do this with confidence and boldness because the successs of our efforts depends not on us but on God's power working through us. Is hell an important part of the content of biblical truth? Yes. Thus, we are to accurately and fully present this part of biblical truth along with all the other parts. If a key part is missing, most models or puzzles don't fit together real well. The same goes with biblical truth.

Third, the natural condition of fallen human beings is that they love the darkness and hate the light because their deeds are evil. Fallen human beings don't need to elect hell. Instead, they are on the highway to hell from the moment of their births.

Fourth, without God's intervention we should expect that lost people who hear our presentations of biblical truth will respond by stepping away. Such behavior is fully consistent with their fallen condition. I was never big into poetry, but I seem to remember some poet saying something to the effect that only God can make a tree. Even more marvelous, only God can bring a spiritually dead person to life, and when He endeavors to do so, He never fails. Part of the reason God does this is to save this person from eternal punishment in hell.

Anonymous said...

"What other conclusion is there but that you were advocating not bringing hell up to the unbeliever?"

Daryl, I can think of several. Why are you getting upset at David's carachiture and not your own...?

Suffice it to say, Hell needs to be brought up. No excuses, no apologies. However, we also need to bring up our OWN failings and need of God's grace, that's what the apostles did as well.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

No caricature Joshua, simply replying to what David said.

David Brush said...


Indeed I am prejudiced by my ignorance. Aren't we all? Thank you for your response.

My contention is not that speaking of hell, especially within a biblical context, is a jerk-like thing to do. Indeed let the Bible be the Bible. What is a jerky thing to do, is to tell someone they are going to hell, but don't live your life any differently than the one you just witnessed to apart from the pronouncement of damnation.

The latter is something all too common in some church circles. We are to live as though Christ, and the reality of hell, has made some appreciable difference in our lives, we are jerks when it doesn't show.

I have found that people are drawn to the Christ when they see people that live out the gospel in front of them with both words and actions.

Thanks for providing me with a broader perspective.

Shinar Squirrel said...

David Brush,

"If you present the gospel as turn or burn, and they decide to step away from your presentation isn't it simply a cop out to say that they have 'elected' hell?"

When Paul spoke to Felix, "he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come." Acts 24:25

The judgment to come (i.e. "hell") is part of the message of the Gospel.

As someone told me years ago, "We are responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel, not the response of the listener." God's elect will respond to the Gospel, where and when He has decreed. Might be the 1st time they hear it, might be the 1001st time, but the elect will respond.

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -- 1Co 1:17-18

The Squirrel

Shinar Squirrel said...

Uh, farmboy said it much much better then I did :-)

The Squirrel

Anonymous said...

"No caricature Joshua, simply replying to what David said."

My apologies then. It just seemed a little similar in style to David's absolute statement. Sorry. :)

Anonymous said...

"Uh, farmboy said it much much better then I did :-)"

Ya did good Squirrel....;)

Tax Collector said...

"If you present the gospel as turn or burn, and they decide to step away from your presentation isn't it simply a cop out to say that they have 'elected' hell?"

We are simply called to preach the gospel clearly. We are not privy to know who is or is not going to be saved - that's up to God. According to 2 Cor. 4, if someone rejects the gospel it is because their minds have been blinded by Satan. As for 'electing' Hell, according to John chapter 3, sinful mankind is CONDEMNED ALREADY so there is nothing for them to choose to go to Hell.

DJP, I believe there are two answers to your mobvie/book question:

Dune and also from The Mummy? I recall it being it both. Probably Dune is the one you are looking for?

Great post, Phil.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Wow, is it untoward to mention the "Brush fire" that has broken out? Ironic, no?

I think I now see your point, David. When you first said "jerk" it did seem limited to hellfire preaching, but you've modified that to mean one who doesn't live like a Christian saying such things, and I believe all here would be on board with that.

You said the " Good News of Jesus Christ is foundational and should be the centrality of our message." I agree. But I don't see that the Good News can be truly and biblically be understood without the doctrine of hell.

But I appreciate your input, fellow Arminian, and would give you this clip from a sermon by Mr. John Wesley:

"And knowest thou not that "the wages of sin is death?" — death, not only temporal, but eternal. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. It shall die the second death. This is the sentence, to "be punished" with never-ending death, "with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." Knowest thou not that every sinner s in danger of hell-fire; that expression is far too weak; but rather, is under the sentence of hell-fire; doomed already, just dragging to execution. Thou art guilty of everlasting death. It is the just reward of thy inward and outward wickedness. It is just that the sentence should now take place. Dost thou see, dost thou feel this? Art thou thoroughly convinced that thou deservest God’s wrath, and everlasting damnation? Would God do thee no wrong, if he now commanded the earth to open, and swallow thee up? if thou wert now to go down quick into the pit, into the fire that never shall be quenched? If God hath given thee truly to repent, Thou hast a deep sense that these things are so; and that it is of his mere mercy thou art not consumed, swept away from the face of the earth."

Stefan said...

55 comments already!?

Hosea, Joel, Amos. Rinse and repeat.

And my verification word is "humbli."

Chad V. said...

David Brush

See,Tax Collector hit it on the head and he's pointed out the one critical thing I think you've missed altogether. Everybody is already damned. They are already children of wrath. (John 3:18, Eph 2:3) If you can't tell people that they are already under the wrath of God and the only escape is repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone then you have nothing to say to the unbeliever. I dare say, if you don't believe that yourself then you must find yourself still under the wrath of God.

And, hell is not just separation from God, it's God personally pouring his wrath out on lost sinners for all eternity. That's not debatable.

Eric said...

It appears my earlier comment on election has need for some clarification. The point I was making was a correction of David's comment that my logic was that God would elect people for hell. Clearly that is a misrepresentation of the doctrine of election. In showing that, I was pointing out that God is responsible for His gracious rescue of undeserving sinners through election to salvation, and that sinners are responsible for their own sin and the consequences of that sin. God cannot be blamed for "elect[ing] anyone for hell". My choice of words that sinners elect themselves for hell was not well chosen, but my point stands.

Anonymous said...

I just listened to Max Mclean's rendition of "Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God".

That'll make anyone rethink the omission of hell from the gospel presentation!!

I recommend it for this topic.

Stefan said...

David Brush:

Forgive me for jumping into the fray here, but I'm quite sure that nobody here is advocating or practises going up to a stranger on the street and saying, "You're going to Hell."

The eternal judgement to which we are all subject is, however, an essential part of unpacking the Gospel message—and it wouldn't really be "Good News" (Evangel; Gospel) without the context of the "Bad News" that it follows on from.

And I would agree with you that our own sinfulness, and the God mercy extends to us should be key elements in our witnessing. Taking a "holier-than-thou" approach to Gospel presentation is not an option, and again, I am quite sure that nobody here advocates or practises that, either.

Eric said...

Johnny D,

When very dry tinder with a sprinkling of accelerant is placed near a source of heat, the inevitable result is a "Brush fire".

Stefan said...

My "Hosea, Joel, Amos" comment earlier was in reference to the original post.

Amos, especially, seems to pertinent to us in this day, age, and culture.

And Donsands, I'm with you all the way on your observation:

"I have heard that the Church in Africa, India, and even China is becoming strong in the truth, unlike the Church in America."

You can add the Middle East and even countries like North Korea to that as well—places where believers are risking imprisonment and even death for a Gospel that cannot be suppressed.

donsands said...



Christopher Johnson said...


By way of backing up your premise, did you know that a diocese of the Episcopal Organization just elected a Buddhist bishop?


Then there's this guy:


My mom had me baptized Episcopalian and I spent the first 48 of my 53 years as an Episcopalian. And as a matter of fact, I am looking for a church in the St. Louis area where they believe the Gospel, why do you ask?

Phil Johnson said...

Christopher Johnson:


Thanks for the links. You just can't parody this stuff anymore. The reality is more bizarre than any reductio we could ever come up with.

Stefan said...

It's like Judges and 1-2 Kings all over again.

Oh, but yeah, that's the Old Testament....

northWord said...

..speaking of bizarre realities..

Deb_B said...

"I, on the other hand, think the "insensitive jerk" is the guy who believes he knows better than the Bible does how truth should be spun and packaged."

DING! DING! DING! We have a winnah!

Word ... X2

JackW said...

Phil, a great post that made me appreciate even more that "Truth Endures"

I was very pleased previewing my copy of Truth Endures and would just like to say wonderful job.

Off topic? Not really, it looks like John MacArthur's life and sermons, as documented in the book, reflects a commitment to the thinking behind James 4:4.

Bruce Byrne said...

For what it's worth: I've had occasion to hear Bruce Shelley speak and I suspect that he was trying to explain the motivation for not preaching on hell rather than agreeing with said motivationl. Could be wrong, but that's my take.

Anonymous said...

That Chrislam stuff is just sad. Shows how desperately God's word is needed, not just here, but everywhere.

Christopher Johnson said...

Glad to help. Here's three more if you need 'em. A oouple weeks back, the Episcopal Organization's "National Cathedral" put this show on:


They seem to have included every non-Christian religion they possibly could squeeze in which is par for the NatCat course, pretty much.

A lot of us wonder why this retired Episcopal priest bothers to get up early on one of his days off:


And Mrs. Schori recently said some things about some stuff:


I grew up in Episcopal Sunday schools but I needed Billy Graham to exlain to me who Jesus was and why He was important. All this is why I've begun referring to the church into which I was baptized as the Episcopal Organization.

Robert-the-Chemist said...

"Others have tried."

"They tried and failed?"

"They tried... and died!"

Morpheus and Neo in "The Matrix" (the only movie of the trilogy worth watching, in my opinion).

ezekiel said...


Exactly like Judges and Kings. Exactly

brother andy said...

David Brush,

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may recieve the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore THE TERROR OF THE LORD WE PERSUADE MEN." (2Cor 5:10-11)

to the unrepentant the final judgment is a terror(for they will be cast into hell at once). But Paul says that we are to use this dreadful doctrine to persuade men unto repentance!

was the Apostle being an insentive jerk?

Rick Frueh said...

Why don't preachers preach on hell much anymore?

* A culture of positive thinking
* Lip service belief about hell
* Church mortgage payments
* Too sophisticated
* Waning faith in the end times in fulfilling the prophecies of Jesus Himself

It is curious, however, that the same culture that loves the Jason/Halloween/Friday the 13th horror films designed to elicit $12a ticket fear takes offense at the concept of preaching on hell because it creates fear in people. I believe the duplicitous essence of that paradox is summed up in the term "fallen".

Dave B said...

My first post. I’ve visited a few times and appreciate the bold stance here against so much sliding. My only concern is that in an effort to counteract the general direction of the Church, that we don’t swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, so that we end up preaching a hell of palpable fire and heat and a heaven that is flimsy and pale by comparison.

Not saying that anyone here is doing that. My point is more this: the natural man can more easily imagine wrath, having seen it on a face or two and maybe in a fist or two. But what of the piercing goodness and depth and beauty of the Lord that is the flip side of His fiery holiness? What can he know of that, being spiritually dead? It is utterly alien to him. Who will show it to him if not those who have received God’s grace? Is that wholly the Spirit’s work? In our eagerness to see ourselves as Elijah bringing fire down on the Baals, we could lose the radiant joy of Steven facing the stones. We could. Lord knows, many have.

Please, again, I’m not saying anyone here is doing that. How would I know? I just hope that after rightly countering the emergent slide, there will be energy left over for self-criticism amongst the remnant. In this thread for instance, is it common to insinuate that a brother is still under God’s wrath on so little evidence? But no one said a peep, though there was a lot of energy along other fronts. Honestly, I found that a bit confusing and discouraging. Turn neither to the left, nor the right. Right?

Dave B said...

The insinuation was in comment #57.

David Brush said...

Brother Andy,

Why stop at verse 11? Why not continue the passage and enlighten us on Paul's doctrine of reconciliation that is for ALL men?

Andrew Faris said...


Check the "hell isn't sexy enough" pastor's name: Bill Faris.

My name: Andrew Faris.

For those not getting the connection: I'm his son.

And he deserves some vindication.

First let's consider the source: the L. A. Times. Second, genre: an editorial on church. So given those two, should we expect complete, reasonably unbiased, fair coverage? Probably not.

Here's the back story: my Dad, a faithful, godly, inerrancy-affirming, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving pastor, gets interviewed by the L. A. Times (I forget why they contacted him specifically). My Dad does at least two long interviews over the phone and folks from the Times were supposed to come and take pictures at our church (I don't remember for sure if they did or not). Point is there was a considerable amount of conversation and content.

And what does the article quote my Dad as saying? 5 words: "Hell isn't sexy enough anymore."

My Dad laughs about it, but the real killer is that it says this garbage that "you'd never know it" from being with us or that "He never preaches on it." That's patently false. If they actually visited, it was once only, and I guarantee you my Dad didn't say he never preaches on hell. Heck: I remember one sermon he did that was basically a brief systematic theology on hell!

The quote in its context if I recall correctly was about why so many preachers no longer preach on hell. Why not? Because it isn't sexy, and preachers want sexy topics.

In that context it rather accords with your whole point here.

So all that to say, don't let that article taint your picture of Bill Faris. Remember: it's the L. A. Times!

Just thought I'd let you know (not that I thought you were ripping him specifically- you generally went after the article as a whole and I appreciate that)!

Oh and by the way, this is a funny thing that this came up. I don't go around googling that article. I'm a regular Pyro reader and just came across this post in my Reader. Funny how that goes!


brother andy said...

David Brush,

This post is not about the scope of the atonement. We are talking about teaching the doctrine of hell in our evangelism and in our preaching. Let's stay on track here. People usually try to side track when they can't defend their position.

You never addressed the verse I gave. Why not comment on the passage I gave, and you exegete. Or at least tell me what you think of great preachers of the past(Watson, Bunyan, Edwards) who preached so vividly on the subject of hell?

Shinar Squirrel said...

Andrew Faris wrote:"And what does the article quote my Dad as saying? 5 words: 'Hell isn't sexy enough anymore.'"

Oh, yes! I've been involved in at least 4 incidents that made the news. Incidents where I was in a position to know what really happened . Not once did they get the facts right!

Bill Faris stands vindicated, it seems, by a primary source document; the eye (ear?) witness testimony of his son.

However, the original point of Phil's post still stands, as verified by multiple sources sited by him and others.

Preach on, Bill Faris!

The Squirrel

Chad V. said...

David Brush

Yeah, how about it? Mind answering brother andy's question? Your attempt to change the subject is pathetically transparent.

And umm, the passage never mentions "all men".

Mike Riccardi said...

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."


KM said...

This has been a great post and discussion. I haven’t commented and don’t much but I did want to on this subject because it’s a subject personally close to me because of my own experiences.

“But what of the piercing goodness and depth and beauty of the Lord that is the flip side of His fiery holiness? What can he know of that, being spiritually dead? It is utterly alien to him. Who will show it to him if not those who have received God’s grace?”

The above is one reason I see where David is coming from. I learned about heaven and hell when I was 8. I accepted Jesus then. But, I didn’t experience, see, expect, or even understand that I should expect anything else. There was no change, other than personal relationships became more difficult. I never blamed God for that. I just thought that was part of what life was about. But, I did not know God. I didn’t believe in prayer. The only thing my decision stood for was the fact that I wanted to be on Jesus’ team and I did not want to go to hell.

I didn’t stay with the church long after that decision. I felt that church was weird (Pentecostal) and my mom didn’t make me go so I didn’t. I didn’t read my Bible. I didn’t know I was supposed to. I didn’t pray. I didn’t know I was supposed to.

Fortunately, God is not so incompetent and neglectful as all the people responsible for my well being. He caused me to get it in my head that if I was going to call myself a christian I should probably know what that book said. So I read it. And, I read it again. And I’ve read it a million times since then and continue to read it. But, that didn’t come until I was 20 so all that time before I was in limbo not knowing or understanding what the point of all that was.

I did not see anything that I could or would associate with God's "love" for a long time. And when I did it was 1 person for a very short time while he was in my life (thank God for missionaries) But hey I knew about heaven and hell right?

And, in response to this:

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore THE TERROR OF THE LORD WE PERSUADE MEN." (2Cor 5:10-11)

Paul persuaded men because he knew the terror of the Lord and knew what was in store for us all. But, he also knew the love of the Lord and that’s why he didn’t sound like a jerk. He knew the Lord loved him and he knew the Lord loved the church. So he acted in a loving way by telling them the truth.

But, if you or anyone else does not know the love of the Lord and does not know His love for the Church then when you talk about hell to someone you will be a jerk.


Andrew Faris said...


Glad you understand.

And I agree that Phil's point still stands. I hope it doesn't sound like I meant to disagree with that much.


Phil Johnson said...

Andrew Faris:

The LA Times once ripped a quote from me out of context and had me saying the opposite of what I believe on their front page, so I feel your Dad's pain.

I rather suspect (as someone suggested above) they have done the same thing with Bruce Shelley. I don't know him, but his Church History In Plain Language is one of the finest single-volume treatments of church history you can find. It would be no surprise to discover he was merely describing, and not advocating, the lax attitude toward selective truths that dominates the modern evangelical mess.

I'll put a note in the above post pointing down to your comment. We need to help vindicate your dad.

Lisa Nunley said...

Preaching on hell isn't sexy ANYMORE???! *gack*

Shinar Squirrel said...

The thrust of Phil's post is that the First Worldness Church of Churchianity doesn't preach on hell and judgement because, since nothing is really wrong, there's no sense in punishing anybody for anything that they do (ie. there is no more sin anymore.(Except homophobia or "judgmentalism," right?))

Most of the "churchy" people don't preach on hell; because they don't preach on sin; because they don't really believe the Bible, anyway. They're don't care to see people convert to Biblical Christianity, they just want butts in the pews, and bills in the plate. It's also nice to be liked by people like The Las Angeles Times!

So, what are real Christians who believe the Bible supposed to do? Tell the lost about God; tell them that we are all sinners; tell them that we are all guilty in God's court and that we are all deserving of eternity in God's prison; that hell is not a reformatory, and that once their, you're there forever; tell them that God, in His love and mercy, and by His grace, has provided a way out, and that, if they would repent of their sins and follow Jesus, they will be saved.

We are responsible to tell them, we are unable to convince them. Any methodology that overly relies on persuading someone to believe by trying to make the message more acceptable to worldly standards is unbiblical and, ultimatly, doomed to failure.

Andrew: Yup, I got your point. Didn't think you were trying to refute Phil, just that you were defending your dad, who was taken out of context by those vile reporters.

My verification word is "oveness" -- sounds like a half-baked doctrine to me :-)

The Squirrel

northWord said...

Oh that dastardly MSM strikes again! (certainly an "element" in the grand "dissolution") I loves me a good vindicatin.

Praise God for Pastor Faris and all those who press on unabated in preaching the Word!

Lisa Nunley said...

My words have also been taken out of context when interviewed and it was very unnerving because they did that same thing... parked their misrepresentation of my words right on one of the most controversial areas in the topic of discussion making me out to be 'on the dark side' resulting in numerous e-mails and phone calls from angry people that thought that is what I really said... when in fact I said the opposite.

On another note, people are dying all around us. Headed straight for hell! And most of us who proclaim to be Christians just sit around and watch them without any concern for their eternal state... http://lisanunley.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-would-you-do.html

David Brush said...

Brother Andy and Chad,

First, let me say that there was no attempt to broach a new subject by myself. You did that by bringing in verse 11. If you are going to pull in a verse that is part of a new logical passage than deal with the entire passage and not just what you feel supports your point.

That being said I would be happy to comment on the verses you present.

Verse 10 comes within the broader context of victory. Paul is looking forward to Christ's final victory over sin and the establishment of his kingdom. I don't think you will find a single Christian that disagrees that a judgment is coming, however the prospect of judgment is not Paul's prime motivator here, it is his future and final reconciliation with his savior.

As for Verse 11. You quote the KJV which uses the word terror. Unless you are KJV only, which you might be, than you are aware that terror is a less than adequate translation of the intent of the original language. Terror can better be understood as reverential awe or fearful responsibility, which everyone feels in the presence of God's holiness. This reverential awe and sense of responsibility flows out of the knowledge that their are no secrets in before God, it is all laid bare. Paul is appealing to this issue of transparency and honesty before God as it is essential that they (the readers/hearers) understand that his presentation of the gospel is authentic, and not tainted by hidden human agendas. God has commanded Paul to make disciples, and it is out of reverential awe that he does as he is told. He is confident that he is doing as Christ would command.

As for my understanding of Hell, I believe that an eternal realm of unmitigated suffering and pain in which humans are constantly tormented is largely a remnant of Roman Catholic mythology. That statement does not mean that I believe all souls go to heaven.

As for your response Chad, I will kindly quote the KJV.

"14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

16Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. "

Phil Johnson said...

David Brush:

If it seemed like the conversation here was veering toward the subject of universalism, it's only because you are obsessed with that topic. I've read enough of your blog to understand that you're not merely arguing for a general atonement. You're apparently trying to see how close you can get to full-on universalism without having to call yourself a universalist.

You don't get to promote those ideas here. One day, perhaps, I'll do a post on the various quasi-Christian flavors of universalism that are gaining popularity today, and you can come back and defend your system. But it's off topic in this comment-thread.

David Brush said...


You are welcome to run your blog how you wish. Indeed I only ever have ascribed to atonement through the death and Resurrection of Christ. Thankfully I don't equate my human understanding of the gospel as the gospel.

I look for ward to the chance.

P.S. I love your artwork here.


Mike Riccardi said...

As for my understanding of Hell, I believe that an eternal realm of unmitigated suffering and pain in which humans are constantly tormented is largely a remnant of Roman Catholic mythology.

So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -- Matthew 13:50, cf. 8:12, 13:42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Lk 13:28.

Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; (AP)they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." -- Revelation 14:9-11

(All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. -- Revelation 13:8)

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. ... And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. -- Revelation 20:10, 15

Chad V. said...

David Brush

I never quoted the KJV. I just wanted you to answer brother andy's question.

Chad V. said...

David Brush
It has become patently clear that you don't believe in hell in the first place. It's no wonder that you find the mention of it offensive. I suspect you are still afraid of it.

Chad V. said...

In the words of John the Baptist speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ

"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

KM said...

“As for my understanding of Hell, I believe that an eternal realm of unmitigated suffering and pain in which humans are constantly tormented is largely a remnant of Roman Catholic mythology. That statement does not mean that I believe all souls go to heaven.”

I am concerned about this statement. What it says reveals where you are and where you are is a dangerous place. I’ve been a part of a type of emerging church environment. In fact I am still connected to that environment to some extent. As a result of that I have felt like screaming when I’d read some comments from people, particularly at this blog. I’ve always felt the urge, like you, to remind these commenters that Jesus is about love and restoration to God.

But, as I mentioned in my last comment I really like to read the Bible. It’s what I trust and it’s what I believe in. Period. Given that, I have had to do some personal battles with my own understandings of God. Through the scripture the Lord has made it perfectly clear that an understanding of God as the absolute authority with specific plans that only He fully knows has been missing from my vision of Him.

Sure, I would say that I believed Him to be the ultimate authority. But, like many in my current church I also have believed that my sins were not necessarily sins but rather responses to being brought up in neglectful, insensitive environment. Rather than being taught I need to repent of my beliefs because they are wrong and are sins against God I was taught that I needed to repent for cooperating with the enemy so I could receive God’s “healing.”

The reason I’m mentioning this is because I was absolutely convinced that these teaching were correct. They had Biblical backing and though they didn’t sit right with me at first I believed the more experienced believers in my church when they said that it was all because the enemy didn’t want me to learn the “truth.”

If I had not continued to pursue thinking and praying about the parts of the Word that weren’t matching up with what I was being taught I would have never found the real truth. I gelled with my church and that’s why I chose that one. I felt strongly that we all agreed on what being a christian looks like. But, as I started taking steps based on things the Lord was revealing to me through His word I discovered that my church and I were not on the same page after all. They didn’t believe in literally trying to do what the Word says because God wants it. They believe in something else and as it turns out I don’t know what that something is exactly. But, were it not for God teaching me through His word and the grace for me to get it I would never have known that.

That quoted statement above is not true. That image of hell is the exact one Jesus talked about over and over again. It’s the hell the rich man went to while Lazaras was in heaven with Abraham in that parable. What is quoted above comes from some other “teaching.” It is not the Word and it is not right.

No judgement, David, I just don’t want you to be deceived.


Sorry for deviating from the main point.

Stefan said...


Perhaps you can help, because your last comment mentioned came close to encapsulating a theology that appears in many places, but which I haven't exactly been able to put my finger on.

At the risk of being overly reductionistic, could it come down to this?

One camp believes (and we affirm that the Bible says) that God sent Jesus Christ to save us from His own judgement.

Another camp believes that God sent Jesus Christ to save us from captivity to Satan.

Is this far off the mark?

Rick Frueh said...

The Scriptures are replete with references to an eternal place of suffering and darkness reserved for the unregenerate after physical death. And since that is true, there is no greater issue than the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only escape from being cast into that place forever.

And as Spurgeon noted in numerous places, never let us banter about such a place with an aloofness that seems careless about sinners and that does not reflect the awful price that was paid for our eternal escape. May the Lamb that was slain be praised forevermore.

KM said...


That is exactly the way I would put it.

And, to add to that I would also say that the latter camp is incredibly convincing because people actually do experience (as in an actual feeling) something that can be labeled as deliverance or healing or whatever. I did. But, it was not sufficient or consistent and it relied a lot on the participant constantly scrutinizing his/her habits and behaviors and praying weird prayers to be “delivered.” It also required submitting oneself to others so they could pray even weirder prayers over you and often I didn’t agree with what was being said so I couldn’t allow that.

I guess it was a good thing I hadn’t been successfully “delivered” from my tendencies to rebel against bizzaro authority figures. :)


KM said...

I do want to add that not every church with a vision of Jesus as a savior from captivity to Satan looks like the one I described. They don’t all pray weird prayers, though a lot of them do. But, they all do something that isn’t taught or even suggested in the Word with the end goal being healing/deliverance/better life, etc. And, they all have Biblical backing to make it sound believable.


Stefan said...

I would venture to say that that belief is pervasive in the evangelical church, and not just limited to some churches that identify themselves as "emergent." (And it is probably fair to say that some "emergents" adhere more closely to the orthodox view.)

I had just never before been able to put my finger on the essence of the heterodox position.

KM said...


I know you’re right because it was in my former church too. But, the church I discussed does not identify itself as “emergent.” I have identified it as such because a number of things this blog has mentioned in criticism of the emerg* church exist in mine (a large number). Were it not for this blog I wouldn’t have known what the EC even was. But, since I have gotten educated on the subject I’m able to identify characteristics that are definitely from that place. In fact, I’m convinced that the new staff hires are all emerg* and have taken the advice of Neo in McClaren’s stupid book and are “infiltrating” our youth group and worship team.

I guess that was part of my motivation for commenting on David’s statement before. It’s all too easy for a church (or individual) with a bit of inaccuracy to be blind to the coming flood.


Anonymous said...

"It has become patently clear that you don't believe in hell in the first place"

Chaaaad....No it's not. His understanding of Hell is fluffy, not non-existent. Knock off the borderline slander. He never said that .


Hell as a place of suffering is NOT a Roman Catholic Myth. Even the way you described it, as seperation from God, screams of suffering. But I agree with you 100% that our gospel is not THE Gospel.

God bless guys.

Chad V. said...

No, hell is eternal torment. He denies such a thing, he does not believe in hell.

Go play semantic games with someone else.

Oh, and if you don't have THE Gospel, then you have NO gospel.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

"No, hell is eternal torment. He denies such a thing, he does not believe in hell."

No Chad, that's not an accurate statement. He believes in a soft hell, sure, not Hell not existing. If you want to say that he doesn't believe in hell as it really is, but don't say he doesn't believe in Hell period.

"Oh, and if you don't have THE Gospel, then you have NO gospel."

You miss my point. I agreed with him that our human UNDERSTANDING of the Gospel is not THE Gospel, that is, as God wills it. In this case, his flawed concept of hell. That's what I meant. I place THE Gospel as far more important than man's often flawed concepts.

God bless.

Chad V. said...

Po-Mo nonsense.

Phil Johnson said...

I was trying to stay out of this. But I can't.

I have lots of sympathy for young people nowadays who have been indoctrinated with postmodern notions about language from the first time they were old enough to watch the children's fare on Saturday Morning TV. So this is not a personal poke at Joshua Cookingham.

But let's analyze this: One of the first principles of the postmodern worldview is that all language is inherently imprecise. Everyday speech is full of figures of speech--hyperbole, symbolism, metaphor, etc. So that's one canon of postmodern dogma is that we need to interpret such language in context. For the most part, we would agree with that. A woodenly literal approach to language usually results in absurdities.

And yet, ironically, one of the most popular postmodern pastimes is picking ideas apart based on the technicalities of words' literal meanings.

Consider, for example, the scoldings Chad V. has been getting in this thread for pointing out a basic fact: David Brush is subtly arguing against practically everything the Bible says about hell. In essence, Chad says, Brush doesn't really believe in hell at all.

He is right. Mr. Brush denies that punishment for sin is eternal; he doesn't believe fearing God entails any real fear; and he prefers to reimagine the New Testament's teaching about eternal torment as something more like universal reconciliation. He's not merely quibbling over whether the flames in the lake of fire are literal fire-and-brimstone flames; he simply doesn't like the idea of punishment for sin at all; it is not compatible with his idea of God; and he would prefer to describe the afterlife of the wicked in totally different terms. In short, he doesn't believe in hell as Jesus described it.

Now, David Brush might well insist that he believes in a kind of hell, he has just toned it down a bit in a spasm of contextualization--trying to suit the message to these more-enlightened times.

Likewise someone else might insist that he too believes in hell; but he imagines hell as a an all-purple world totally upholstered in Naugahyde, where all the background music is Freddie Mercury. So he tells people that's what hell is like--not at all like what Jesus described.

I would certainly say a person like that doesn't really believe in hell at all--with all due respect to Mr. Mercury.

Anyway, it's a little irksome to see so much passion and fire aimed at rebuking Chad V. for pointing out in plain (albeit unqualified) language what is being said and implied, especially while it seems a more than equal amount of energy is being expended to be as friendly and magnanimous as possible to the person who is relentlessly contradicting Jesus.

In microcosm, that's a very fine illustration of what is wrong with the evangelical temperament today.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I see your point Phil. thanks.
Sorry for any disturbance on my part.

And Chad, I ask your forgiveness if my statements offended or hurt you in any way. For the record, I'm not siding with David in his beliefs concerning hell, I was just concerned that he wasn't being represented fairly, sorry.

God bless.

David Brush said...

For the record I do not deny the eternal nature of punishment for sin. I do however believe that while it is eternal in sentence, in that it can never be reversed one pronounced, that the unrepentant soul is utterly destroyed by God. Indeed an annihilation theology is not completely tenable, however I find it more plausible. Either way there is no joy for the damned, indeed it is utter despair, misery and regret that will burn within them when they realize the grace they resisted.

Do I believe God's holiness is an all consuming fire? You-betcha. And indeed the Almighty is terrible to behold and worthy of fearful reverence.

As for the Hell Jesus describes, Gehenna it is/was a real place outside of Jerusalem where the refuse of society was cast. Indeed there was no hope of return or of relief from the fires. I do believe his use of Gehenna faithfully represents the punishment awaiting those that refuse grace. The natural cycle of garbage disposal however is that it eventually succumbs to the process of death and decay and is no more. Believe me I have no rose colored glasses. I do however believe that most of the imagery and the grotesque power afforded Satan is largely the result of the over saturation of Roman Catholic, inquisition style imagery.

That being said, you do not know me well enough to speak for me. Just as I made a gross mistake and caricature of you and other Calvinists in my comments in a poor choice of words, so you make the same mistake of my beliefs and many others.

Either way the back-scratching and the free-pass you give Calvinists here shows you lack a common Christian charity and openness to any discussion. I wonder if the comments on this blog are intended to create dialogue, as most blogs are, or to build each others egos and acquire 'yes men'. In the majority of the responses I saw little of the fruit of the spirit manifested. Intellectual smugness was pervasive and arrogance seemed par for the course.

If you want to build a community of independent thinkers I guess you have lost. If you want a bunch of Calvinist ditto-heads then I guess your mission has been accomplished.

KM, thanks for being the only true Calvinist and independent thinker on here. I believe you are a Calvinist for the right reasons, because you have read the Bible and believed it, not just because Calvin said it.

To all, if I was unfair I apologize.

Shinar Squirrel said...

"If you want to build a community of independent thinkers I guess you have lost. If you want a bunch of Calvinist ditto-heads then I guess your mission has been accomplished."

Mr. Bush,

In reading through the comment thread, it is very clear to me that people were dealing with your arguments and finding them lacking. Some even rose to your defense, if not to support of your position, when they believed that you were being treated unkindly. Now, finally, after 3 days, you reveal your true position as an annihilationist.

You, Sir, have been given a fair hearing, and have been allowed to dialogue freely. Your snarkiness shows your true colors.

BTW, I am a Calvinist Ditto-head! Being both Reformed in my theology (as derived from my studie of Scripture) and a regular listener, fan of Mr. Limbaugh's, and a Rush 24/7 member :-)

The Squirrel

(Dittos, Phil, on todays Spurgeon quote!) :-)

Shinar Squirrel said...

studies not studie -- my bad

The Squirrel

Chad V. said...

Amazing, standing for the truth makes you uncharitable.

Joshua Cookingham

Don't sweat it. I'm sorry that I was coarse with you. Please forgive me.

andy spaulding said...

"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire TAKING VENGEANCE on them that know not God, and they that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall PUNISH WITH EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." 2The 1:6-9.

"And the smoke of their TORMENT ascendeth up FOREVER AND EVER; and they HAVE NO REST day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever recieveth the mark of his name." Rev 14:11

Stefan said...


The first 112 comments didn't even mention the name "Calvin" once, and the closest this discussion has gotten to "Calvinist" distinctives have been a few comments on the doctrine of election—which is not a "Calvinist" concept per se, but a plainly biblical concept.

Arminian commentor par excellence Johnny Dialectic even went so far as to quote Wesley, who in the way he described Hell, was apparently also a "Calvinist ditto-head." (And JD is not the only regular Arminian commentor here, either.)

I too appreciate KM's perspective, and the fact that he/she arrived at his/her conclusions after reading through the Bible.

The funny thing is that most of the people on this blog are at where they're at for the same reason KM is, because of years of searching the Scriptures, praying, and reading. We come from many different backgrounds—atheists; liberals; fundies; mainstream evangelicals; charismatics—and yet all of us, at some point or over the course of many years, realized that what we saw of the professing Christianity around us didn't square with what the Bible says.

As for the accusation that there's no true dialogue here and that this thread "lack[s] a common Christian charity and openness to any discussion," I observe that the first two people to reply directly to your first comment—Daryl and Eric—managed to disagree with you while still being gracious in their replies, and were in fact engaging you in dialogue. You responded to Daryl, however, that his comment "lack[ed] a hope in the transformational purposes of Christ." You replied to Eric by labelling yourself as a "heretical Arminian/Anabaptist brother" (!?) and taking his mention of Jesus' saving the elect (a biblical concept first and foremost, and only secondarily a Calvinist concept), by throwing a red herring and asking why God would "elect anyone for hell."

(And by the way, I'm a baptized member of a confessional Anabaptist church.)

It seems as if you came here with a certain preconception of the reaction you would get, and then allowed the comments to play out in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Shinar Squirrel said...

"Brush" not "Bush"

Golly, I couldn't type last night :-)

The Squirrel

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for the lively debate... I'm lovin' it! I only have two related questions for everyone.

1. In the opinion of those folks who are active participants in this Blog, is there an example of a church or churches, where they sought to be relevant, while at the same time sought to teach biblically sound truths (i.e. reformed theology)?
2. Was there EVER a church or churches, where they sought to be relevant while at the same time taught biblically sound truths... that wasn't then subject to ridicule by those believers who disagreed with their style, or music, or location, etc., etc.?

Shinar Squirrel said...

Tom T.,

First, the Bible is always relevant :-)

Second, I believe Grace Church (Phil, you were there then?) was decried back in the 70's for having someone playing the guitar. I seem to remember Dr. MacArthur saying somthing about it...

The Squirrel

Dave B said...

Phil and Chad,

I, for one, wasn’t calling Chad uncharitable for his stand for truth. I was calling him uncharitable for, well, his uncharitableness. His stand for the full-edged gospel was admirable. His personal jabs were, I thought, regrettable. When he says to Mr. Brush, “I dare say, if you don't believe that yourself, then you must find yourself still under the wrath of God.” and “It's no wonder that you find the mention of [hell] offensive. I suspect you are still afraid of it,” he veers from discussing what’s at issue to taking a swipe at Mr. Brush himself. I guess we’re all grown up enough to discern the difference between those two things.

Like you said, kids are spoon-fed pomo sensibilities in the highchair. The results have been disasterous for the Church and our culture. Thank you for having the guts to say so with a faithful voice. By your example, bobble-heads like me are made a little bolder.

But even before the highchair, from the very crib, us kids learn how to claw and bite and devour our brothers and sisters. For this lesson, in fact, we need no teacher but the flesh. That this tendency will sometimes rear its ugly head in a saint of God defending the gospel should hardly surprise us. None of us are immune. But when it does, what do we do? Turn a blind eye? I believe an opportunity was lost here to show some transparency and humility. If doing that seems to weaken one’s stand for the Gospel, I guess God can make up the difference.

Being wise as serpents and harmless as doves is no easy task. Ever. I fail at it most always. But we’re not given the luxury to choose between being bold and being blameless. We’re told to be both. Even when being bold seems so rare these days. Unfortunately, it’s often the simplest Christian duties that are casualties of the fray.

There. Two unsolicited cents from your friendly internet scold.