English, Theologie

Sin, Hell and Gospel

There is one sentence in the article of Jim Finn, which I wrote about yesterday, that I wanted to add some thoughts to separately. But first the sentence:

Remove sin from the Bible, remove Hell from the Bible and there can be no Gospel.

Jim is right here. Somehow, because the gospel means liberation, and without anybody being captive or anything keeping someone captive, there’s no sense in liberation. If you are free (or consider yourself free) you won’t see the point in someone offering you freedom.

But still, there’s a problem to this. Because the gospel isn’t about sin, it’s about how sin is overcome and defeated. Not that you wouldn’t sin anymore. We are all sinners and we will have to bear with that, but sin won’t have power over us any more.

The basic message of the gospel, if you’d want me to put it in one sentence, is:

God loves you.

Plain simple, and maybe too simple for many. Because the whole background is being left out. All that talk about sin, about how Adam and Eve ate from the fruit and all that.

A simple „God loves you“ won’t help a thing, if you don’t understand it. If you consider yourself a nice person, this message about God loving you maybe wouldn’t surprise you too much. Of course He does. Everybody does, right? But if that is your mindset, you wouldn’t very likely listen to how sinful you are. You’d rather think: Yeah, this person speaking about hell and all really has big issues with self esteem or something. As long as you consider yourself great, all of this will hardly touch you.

But consider to opposite: What if you run into problems? What if you see that you are not such a nice person? If you are aware of your flaws, the pain you caused. Maybe it’s gone so far that you’d hate yourself. What then? Would the talk of hell and sin help you out? No. Would it change anything? No, because you already hate yourself, sin and hell would only be the proof for the hate you have for yourself. But what about „God loves you“? This might come like a surprise. Maybe you’d think someone is making fun of you. How can God love a person like me? And maybe then you would realize that it isn’t about what you did, but who you are. That love based on deeds isn’t love at all, and that God loves you and always have, because you are His child, but that He hates your deeds like you do.

Here the message „God loves you“ can really be the point, where change comes in. Even without talking of sin and hell.

After all we don’t understand and wouldn’t even listen to talks about the severity of sin and how people go to hell and all. We even would either consider it normal that God loves us, or we’d consider it the most natural thing in the world, without coming to faith.

But this is something, we cannot decide on our own, this is given by God, out of grace.

So as a practical note, I’d say don’t use the fire and hell part of Christianity too offensively. Give witness when asked, but when you talk to people, especially to weak or painful people, start with the love of God without declaring everything they do good. It’s possible. And true.

God bless you all

English, Theologie

Fire and Brimstone

I have just come across a blog article on God, fire and brimstone by Jim Finn. It’s a reply to an article by the biblewarroiress, whose blog I follow.

The question that is… no, let me start differently: In her article which is headlined with „Terrorizing People to Jesus“ the Warrioress makes a valid point:

Asking someone to submit to Jesus Christ out of fear isn’t love offered freely. Threatening them and making them afraid isn’t how God wants us to come to Him.

The gospel is, and these are my words, but I guess there are people who would agree, a message of liberation. I don’t want to go too deep into how to understand the cross, because this will only lead to more debate about another issue which I don’t want to discuss here. But I believe that all of us, liberals, conservatives and even people like myself could agree on the liberating effect of the gospel. Once you accept it, you are set free, more than anything else could set you free, like all other freedoms are not really free.

Now I agree with the Warrioress: You can’t push people to freedom, and you can’t fear them into freedom either.

I’d say: If the people don’t grab freedom themselves, even pushing won’t bring them there. But maybe they’d try to be conform on the outward to avoid pushing…

Jim Finn on the other hand makes a very clear and valid point on love, telling the truth and before all the severity of sin.

If people think God would approve of their little sins because they aren’t so severe, just a little lying and cussing, you know, everybody does this… that’s just plain wrong. Those people are fooling themselves. This has nothing to do with forgiveness either. Whether or not God will forgive is not the question as long as there isn’t even a thing that people would want Him to forgive!

So Jim’s point is, as I understand him, that you shouldn’t lie to people: They do wrong, they do not repent and turn to Christ, they’re lost.

I think this is a bit different than what the Warrioress means. She was speaking of terrorizing people to Jesus. I think it’s one thing to speak of what you bbelieve and another one how you structure your evangelizing.

Jim mentions the rich man who was told to sell everything and follow after Jesus. There is another story of a rich man and a poor Lazarus in the bible (Lk 16:19-32).  I presume we all know it: The rich man lives in wealth on earth and does not care about the poor man. Then they die and the poor man gets to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man goes to hell, where he first begs for some relief and then for at least sending someone from the dead to warn his brethren before hell. And Abraham tells him:

If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The point I want to make is: You won’t push them, you won’t convince them either, no matter how hard you try. Even if you try to make them fear by speaking of hell. Nonbelievers won’t start believing when they hear this.

But there are believers who are weak in their faith who will hear. And threatening with hell can really harm their relation to God. Because if you focus too much on the whole hell and brimstone thing, it can all too easily twist the message of the gospel. Where it is supposed to be liberating, it can be abused for captivizing: If you don’t do, what the bible says (maybe even according to a certain preacher’s exegesis) you will burn forever in hell. This harms people. And this harms the gospel. And I think this is the Warrioress’s point.

Jim’s point is another one: You cannot just say God likes everyone and everyone’s deeds. That would just be complete nonsense. And what would you need God for anyway? If it makes no difference?

I think a major problem between rather liberal and rather conservative Christians lies in these two points, and that they consider it one. Liberals hear about hell and brimstone and all they understand is that people should be captivated with fear. I presume most conservatives wouldn’t mean that (though some might). On the other hand, when Conservatives hear Liberals speaking about how hell would terrorize people, they understand the Liberals would deny the severity of sin, which isn’t the case (at least with most Liberals I know).

Hell and brimstone have their places, certainly, but they are ineffective for real evangelisation. Fear for oneself doesn’t lead to fearing God, it keeps you focused on yourself. Only once you can let go of yourself, are set free, liberated by the gospel, you are also free to fear God, because you are no more busy fearing for yourself.

I’d say that this cannot be made by men, but is a God given grace: To accept Jesus, to be set free. No one is our liberator but God. Some might disagree, but this convinces me the most and it’s what I experienced myself.God bless you all!

Commenting Media, English

What is there to do in heaven

What is there to do in heaven

The author adds the following text:

I got the idea for this comic while reading Revelation 7. Serving and worshiping God all the time doesn’t exactly sound like paradise to me.

I’d like to add a few thoughts: There are actually peole who think heaven and hell are the same place, only differently percieved by different people. So if praising God is boring as hell for atheists, it needn’t be for Christians. Actually it is what they are doing (or claim to be doing) all their life long. And Christians are happy with it, aren’t they? So why shouln’t they be happy with it n heaven? As for all those atheists who hope to get into heaven for some fun time. Sorry, no hope for you guys, only weeping and gnashing of teeth.