23 October 2014

Fear and Comfort are complements, not antonyms

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in October 2011. Dan explained why fear and comfort are both necessary parts of the Christian's walk.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Wouldn't you think that "fear" and "comfort" are antonyms, like "love" and "hate," or "darkness" and "light"?

In a Biblical context, we might most quickly associate the word "fear" with "of the LORD," or "of Yahweh." That topic — "the fear of Yahweh" — is a major Biblical theme. Clearly, in Proverbs, it is a literally foundational thought (cf. 1:7; 9:10; 31:30). In the Proverbs book, a chapter of 40+ pages traces the concept through its older Old Testament appearances, just so we can begin to understand Solomon's use of it throughout the book of Proverbs. One discovery is that the concept itself frames and must color our understanding of each individual verse within the entire book.

When we develop the concept Biblically, we feel the burden to show that the fear of Yahweh is not (as some might think) an Old Testament concept as opposed to a New Testament concept. Indeed, it is quite literally a pan-Biblical concept.

This stood out to me in a recent daily Bible reading. Acts 9:31 leapt out at me in this context:
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
There's that same phrase we find in the OT; in fact, the Septuagint of Proverbs 9:10 has φόβος κυρίου ("fear of the Lord"), as the beginning of wisdom. The post-Pentecost Christian church proceeded in that same fear. They lived their life from that motivation, the very same motivation found throughout the OT, and identified by Solomon as the necessary starting-place of knowledge (1:7) and of wisdom (9:10).

That in itself is instructive and thought-provoking. Though they'd been saved by the shed blood of Christ, though the Spirit had been outpoured, though non-Jews were beginning to be brought in, yet one thing that united them all is that they moved on in their Christian lives with the motivation of fear of the Lord.

It poses the question: how dominant of an element is this in the modern Christian's life? How does it affect the way he thinks, the way he forms views, the way he talks and lives and chooses and writes? How much is a lack of this quality a factor in the situations that vex us here at this virtual gathering? How many bloggers, writers, pastors are limp and passionless because they are less motivated by fear of the Lord than by fear of man, which is a snare (Prov. 29:25)? How many doctrinal errors, or errors of ministry or practice, can be traced to the want of that fear (cf. 3:7; 14:2; 15:33; 23:17; 28:14)? There's fertile ground for self-analysis, and re-examination of the genesis of wandering, in that topic.

Clearly, the jarring disconnect we feel between fear and comfort was not a problem to Luke. It was fear that gave the heart and mind the right stance before God; it was comfort given by the Spirit that assured and encouraged him in the life he was moved to live.

I conclude that either, to the exclusion of the other, is an unhealthy imbalance. Conversely each, coupled with the other, is a spiritually healthy blend.

What God has joined, we shouldn't sunder.