Fear of Punishment

I flinched and waited for the blow descending from above
for the Bible tells me so that punishment is love.
What I had done I was not sure, but sin is everywhere —
each step and breath deserve the lash; the paddle shows His care.
When ‘be ye perfect’ is the creed what hope have mortals here?
Can yokes be easy, burdens light when weighted down with fear?
I cowered there a minute more but only silence fell
so I trudged on a weary mile. Some grace feels much like hell.

162 thoughts on “Fear of Punishment”

  1. Q. “When ‘be ye perfect’ is the creed what hope have mortals here?”
    A. Rom. 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

  2. Excellent! and so true – I remember thinking when I was in IFB that pretty much everything everyone does is a sin or has sin in it. This teaching backfires on IFB though – if everything’s a sin then why bother with Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday Night, all conferences, all revivals, at least 2 ministries and feeling guilty you don’t do more? All our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.

    1. Ouch! Having grown up in the Evangelical Protestant subculture of Northern Ireland this strikes a very raw nerve. I’m still trying to get away from that mindset and realise that Jesus took the punishment for my sin on the Cross

      1. Let me stretch your mind even more: Hundreds of millions of Christians, in traditions much older than Evangelical Protestantism, believe that Jesus didn’t take any punishment on anyone’s behalf on that cross because no punishment was to have been forthcoming. They believe that it’s the wrong metaphor for the mystery.

        1. This sounds quite interesting, Ms. Islander. Are you referring to the ‘Christus Victor’ concept?
          Could you expound a bit further and/or point out a reference or source for further history/reading on this subject?

        2. @Mr. Jones: No, I’m referring to penal substitutionary atonement being a late development in Christian theology. If I get the chance I’ll dig out my Education for Ministry textbook and go through that chapter.

        3. Yes, it’s called Pelagianism, actually, Augustine argued against Palagian and taught that salvation was done through Christ’s work on Calvary, so no, Christ substitutionary attonent isn’t a “new concept”

        4. @RecoveringIFB – substitution is at the core of NT Christology across authors. The “new” part is the “penal”. Athanasius was the fourth century theologian who really opposed Pelagius, and his On the Incarnation remains a seminal work on Christology. It emphasizes the theme of substitution throughout the NT. However, the idea of “penal” wasn’t really emphasized.

        5. Oh, I was mistaken good Dr. I really believed it was Augustine. And I do agree that Christ’s crucifixion is truly the “Good News” that the Bible speaks of

        6. I heard about this. Jenny, please tell me if I am on the right track.

          Jesus died for us to show us how far God was wiling to go to demonstrate His love for us. If God was willing to give His Son, then how could He be planning to hurt us? The enmity between God and us was not on God’s side, it was on our side. We were hurt by sin so much that we could not trust God’s love.

          Is that correct?

        7. @rtgmath: That’s one of them. Another is found in Orthodox theology. There is no Hell. All persons experience the presence of God. But–if you have repented, accepted God’s saving help and grace, and with God’s help kept moving toward the goal of the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, then God’s presence is perfect bliss and tangible joy. If you died unrepentant, however, it feels like burning. Therefore, since the status of the damned is consequence not punishment, penal substitutionary atonement cannot be the goal of Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, the point of Christ walking the earth at all was to unite God with humanity; remember Christ’s discourse about unity. So Christ died like any human being, and any human being can rise again like Christ.

          Actually this was what I learned in my Evangelical Lutheran Church in American youth group. My current Episcopal Church in the USA congregation hosts an adult education class that looks at this and many other speculations on the nature of the Crucifixion and leaves it up to the student to choose. In the end we can’t definitively pluck out the heart of the mystery.

        1. A bizarre and complicated mixture of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. Very much a product of the religious culture of Northern Ireland, but also having a lot in common with the Ifb mentality. Nobody understood the Ulster Protestant mentality better than he did, or was better at pressing all the right buttons. O was never a fan but nobody can deny thay amu people came to real genuine faith through hos. Ministry. Yes, maybe God had Anointed him but maybe some of his attitudes and actions did not reflect the nature of Christ and could have done more harm than good.

  3. Every time something bad happens, two things go through my mind: “Maybe God is trying to get my attention” and “Maybe God is chastising me.” Mind you, most of the time it’s either abysmal happenstance or my own stupidity/error that caused the disaster. But my brain still has that old holding pattern of guilt, self-blame and shame.

  4. Btw (and I should have written this first), I thought what you wrote was quite good. There are days when I feel as if I’ll never get past this kind of misunderstanding/distortion of grace.

  5. In the words of the great Spaniard, Inigo Montoya,
    “Grace. You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

  6. You nailed it, Darrell. Whenever I get *real* and say what I am really thinking about anything I am always nervous for days, waiting for someone to tell me I was inappropriate or that I need to recant or apologize. I’m 56 and still deal with this.

    1. Some of Frost’s poetry is very dark indeed.
      His bucolic settings keep some people from noticing that.

      1. Americans on the whole are not really into poetry. A lot of people just know about Frost and his two diverging roads. I have a book of his poetry and when I first started reading it I was amazed at how dark he was.

        I was fascinated when I went to a former Soviet satellite country that they had statues of Pushkin in the public squares. When’s the last time anyone saw a statue of a poet here in America? I dare say it’s not a common occurrence.

        1. Well, there is a statue of Ben Franklin in Boston. Of course, he was a bit more than just a poet… 😉

    2. I’m a big fan of Robert Francis (1901-1987), who was actually a friend of & fellow New Englander with Robert Frost. One of my most vivid teenage memories is of hearing Francis do a poetry reading live in Massachusetts. (I know–what must this say about my teenage years!)

  7. When I told my parents that I was questioning a lot of the things I was raised to believe, my dad said that God will take care of me and bring me back to believing. “Sometimes” he warned “he’ll bring you back to your knees through tragedy”. Why can’t God, the creator of this universe just have a normal conversation with us instead of orchestrating tragedy to improve our relationship with him? I posed this question to my father and he did what we all do. Make excuses for our cryptic master.

    I’m still bracing for his punishment redefined as “changing our desires” and I know that the above conversation will go through my head the moment I get some kind of bad news in my life.

    1. I was told a similar thing by someone I thought was a friend; “I can’t wait to see when god ‘snaps you back.’ ”

      First, what kind of “friend” wants to see something horrible befall a friend, and second, what kind of “god” was she serving?

    2. Bad news will come, sooner or later. Life isn’t all smooth sailing.

      Here in Maryland we elected a Republican to be our next governor. That’s not good news!

    3. In my life, many times God was not in the whirlwind or the earthquake, or the fire. It was those moments of quiet reflection when I became aware of his presence. When we see God through a picture that oversimplifies his nature and focuses on the attributes that support our position for what we are trying coerce someone to do, we have become idolaters.

      hover text note: many fundy churches could also be described by the metaphor of the “well of souls” from Indiana Jones. dark, musty, and full of snakes.

      (why did it have to be snakes)

    4. I’ve been making my journey out of Fundyland for just over a year now. Mentally I am already gone, but physically for reason I don’t want to get into right now, I’m still there on occasion. The more distance I put between myself and the IFB church, I find myself less fearful of being struck down for stepping out of line. About a month ago, I made one of my rare appearances at church, and the MOG was delivering one of his “If you don’t do this or stop doing that, God is going to do this to you!” sermons and it went in one ear and out the other. I just can’t believe anymore that God is sitting up there with a lightning bolt in each hand, waiting to zap me whenever I step out of line. If the MOG knew what I was thinking, he would probably have a hissy fit, knowing that he can’t control me anymore by fear.

      1. Going through this change now will help you once you are physically out. I was “out” for a year or more before leaving and most weeks I could sit there and hear this crap and just feel pity for the man whose God was so little and petty. Obviously there were sermons that really pissed me off, but the grip that stuff used to have on me was less and less. The spiritual and emotional bondage is much stronger than the actual control they wield so releasing those chains from your heart is more important in many ways to get done than the physical leaving.

  8. A long time ago, someone here (if I remembered who, I would give credit) that the IFB God is a mean tyrant, not a loving parent.
    It’s hard to picture a wise and loving parent, though, if you were raised according to the Fundamentalist “beat the sin out of them” program.

  9. Punishment is only for church schmucks. If something bad happened to a church muckity muck, it was because satan saw their great faith as a threat.

  10. This reminds me of the days of listening to my pastor say – “If you don’t give to God’s work, then God will get his money some how.” He would then talk about people having car problems, health problems, etc.
    He’s now a regular speaker at PCC, for the record.

    1. Well, the obvious follow-up question would be, “Just how exactly has God, rather than Joe the mechanic or Dr. Morgenthaler, gotten his money?

      1. Apparently there’s some kind of system of kickbacks.

        This is a view of God as little more than the capo of a protection racket.

      2. Now now, don’t go using logic and reason! I can’t tell you how many times I heard that same message, about giving God his money or he’s going to get it somehow.

    2. This. And I got so tired of hearing, “You’re either coming out of a storm, going through a storm, or getting ready to go into a storm.” What a miserable life; I can’t believe I was in it for so long.

      1. I am with you there. Oh, and God is teaching you so that you will be more like Christ when you die.

        And I get to use all those life lessons so I can play a harp and sing with a new, improved, 2.35.2.c voice (it may take a lot of upgrades!) be a glutton at the Lord’s table and otherwise have an afterlife of ease, wonder and lack of intellectual or moral challenges? Something seems a bit off, here.

      2. I know! I realize bad things will happen to us all at some point, but that statement makes it sound like it never ends.

  11. It is sad that many churches operate this way; with church members doing what they do, because of fear and guilt, instead of a love for Christ (John 14:15, 23). They forget (or are never taught) that the burden is so light (Matt. 11:28-30), because it consists of a few things: learning of Jesus and following after Him in His Word (John 17:14-19). Through this alone, we are made “perfect” (a better word is “complete”) (2 Tim. 3:17) in Him as He renews our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) and conforms us into His image (Rom. 8:28-29).

    This cannot happen by force, by begging another to do it, by bribing them, or by guilt-tripping them. This only happens as the believer decides to do it and with the help of a nurturing, loving church family.

    1. Do not get me wrong though. Part of the Christian life is operating through fear, but this fear is a respect for God and God’s Word. Just as a child respects his father, because of consequences his sin brings; we ought to respect our Father in Heaven, because of the consequences of our sin (Hebrews 12:1-13). A good parent disciplines their child to show them the consequences of sin and to draw them back to obedience. So does our heavenly Father do the same to His children. A balance exists. I did not fear my father until I knew I did wrong; the rest of the time I lived in peace and joy in our home, because my parents loved me.

      1. The problem with many Christians and especially fundies is that they don’t really believe that god loves them, He only tolerates them. Many, consciously or subconsciously, believe that even though Jesus died on the cross, and rose again, but apparently that isn’t enough – God is still pissed off at us. I was one of those believers.

        1. I agree. I have encountered many people with that mindset and have had the privilege to disciple a few of them. It is a freeing and wonderful thing to realize that God truly loves us, desires to care for us, and wants us to know Him; instead of just tolerating us, ignoring us, and letting us flounder around in life without His help! To realize these truths about our God makes Him one worth knowing and serving!

      2. Can we not respect our father for the joy and good things he offers us because he loves us? Why should we fear someone who loves us? That we go through bad times is mostly because we are humans living in an imperfect world, not because God is angry with us.

      3. You know, this idea that you should fear your father when you do wrong is a bunch of guff.

        There. I said it.

        A father should be like the one Jesus showed as an example, who when the rebellious kid went off, let him experience life outside the Father’s house, and when he came back welcomed him. Did the Father get out the whip? Did He give the rebel the whatfor his brother wanted him to get?

        There are better ways than beatings, I can tell you that. It wasn’t until my kids stopped being afraid of me that I gained their respect. My dad always had my attention. He had my obedience mostly. But he did not have my respect because he believed we had to fear him when we messed up. And boy, did my siblings and I have reason to fear him.

        The Scripture says there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear has torment. He that is afraid is not completely settled in love. Ever read I John?

        The problem is that we believe abuse is normal, and we perpetuate it. We call abuse “love,” when it is nothing of the sort. Discipline doesn’t have to be punishment or violence.

        At my IFB church we received training on child rearing that said the child’s will had to be broken, and that the child should feel it in the rear until it was. We were taught that children should be afraid to disobey — otherwise known as thinking for ones self, voicing disagreement, etc. Parents were in the place of God.

        Oh, you may say that you don’t go this far, that what I am describing is extreme. What I am describing is mainstream. Nobody admits to it getting out of control. Well, it did in my home. I had to learn better.

        Yes, it is difficult to find a balance. But the fact that you don’t see that you may be going to extremes doesn’t mean you are balanced. Of course, in Israel a child could be afraid that their parents would take them to the central concourse, accuse them of being rebellious, and being stoned to death by their loving parents! That’s in the Bible. It is a command of God, after all.

        Rocking your child to sleep had a different connotation back then, I suppose!

        What I want more than obedience in my children is confidence and competence and the understanding that they can be certain of my love and acceptance. I want them to realize their worth, not a lack of it. I want them to know I am cheering them on in things they love, helping them where they need it, and letting them make their own choices as often as possible. I want them to go out into the world unafraid.

        I almost lost one son to my “godly discipline” which spiraled out of control as I strove to break his will. When the police came and the Department of Social Services got involved and I was forced to realize that this wasn’t godly at all, I had to change. I had to unlearn what I was taught. It took time, but gradually I gained my son’s trust. He and I are close, today. He is married, and we talk about all sorts of things he is facing in life. But he can listen to me now because I learned love shouldn’t hurt.

        1. To reply, you must understand the different types of fear in Scripture. The fear in I John 4 is a fear that is terrified of God. I agree that this ought not to be, as I said previously. However, the fear we ought to have toward God is a reverence and respect. This is also clear in the scriptures (Colossians 3:22; Acts 10; Rev. 15:4, and others). Check out Strong’s word 5399 for reference and you will see.

          So, no, it is not “guff”. It is the Bible. We are not to be terrified of our Father in Heaven, but we are to reverence and respect Him.

        2. Then perhaps we should use the words “reverence and respect” instead of “fear”?

          But your own example had you actually afraid of your father when you did wrong. You were reverencing him. You weren’t respecting him. Your example was more of the terror aspect, and you used it as an example of how we have to see God.

          I will also note that the Old Testament is filled with contrary examples of how God seemed to want to build relationships. There was Abraham, face to face. Then God pulled back on the friendship side and was a lot more formal with Moses. After that, God did not appear to anyone. He either sent angels or spoke to the people, but wasn’t about to actually allow personal relationships.

          Finally, Jesus comes along and says that God wants a personal relationship after all. That means that God wasn’t satisfied with the formal stuff either.

          Yes, I know there are different words with different meanings for “fear.” But yes, this idea that you should fear your father when you do wrong IS a bunch of guff. IF you are afraid of Him, as you yourself indicated you should be, then you won’t easily come to him to get things right. If you look up to him (reverence) and respect him and know He isn’t interested in punishment, then you can go to him expecting to receive grace and mercy.

          Read your own statement to understand what kind of fear you were actually promoting and what I responded to. But it’s okay. We are all less than clear at times.

        3. So I should let my two year old figure out for herself what it means to get electrocuted because she wanted to play with the covered sockets where the Christmas lights are plugged in? Would that be the living thing to do?

        4. No. But you don’t have to beat her to get the concept. And you might put in some cheap little plastic plugs into the sockets to help prevent the problem.

          I call Poe here. The question is too much like the ones people pose, thinking their little ones are chock full of sin and it has to be beaten out of them. In the last few years there have been some deaths of children a a result of such discipline. Or “discipline.”

        5. Loving, not living, George. Get it right, or you’ll be sorry you ever crossed me!

        6. Alright, so I’ve put the covers on, and now while she’s unsupervised during play time, she pulls the covers off. Do I keep building walls around the problem, like fences to keep her away from the cliff? I thought we were against that mentality.

          It seems like you are advocating some kind of punishment in her instance. Just not beating her.

        7. Nope. I am not advocating punishment. “No dear. That will hurt. But you are curious, so let’s read a book and play with these marbles to see what will happen.”

          Then you get the little plastic plugs that fit snug and flush into the sockets so that the little dear can’t put a fork into the socket. If you need to, put the forks in a safer place and give her plastic toys that won’t light up her Christmas Tree if they go in the wrong place.

          Might it take longer for her to learn the lesson to not put things in the sockets that don’t belong? Maybe. But when she is older there may be other ways you can get the message across, and being of a more rational mind she might be willing to listen — provided you get that educational play set about electricity.

          She doesn’t need the shock of her mommy hitting her, or having a scary face. Misdirection and a bit of prevention will do.

          The olde paths are in Davy Jones’ Locker.

        8. John Paul Jonesin’ for the Old Paths commented on Fear of Punishment. Alright, so I’ve put the covers on, and now while she’s unsupervised during play time, she pulls the covers off. Do I keep building walls around the problem, like fences to keep her away from the cliff? I thought we were against that mentality.

          I am thoroughly against that attitude for adults. For kids, well, if she can take those covers off she has strong hands and a very bright mind. There are other, more expensive outlets that would make it harder for her to do.

          But if you notice that she is determined to learn about those things, at her young yet brilliant age there are things you can do to accommodate. You can show her the lights and the switches and explain to her how they work. And endure the on again, off again results of enlightenment while listening to her cackles of glee! You can show her that some things belong in the plug, while other things do not.

          Evidently in my youth I succeeded in inserting a fork into an outlet. My mom tells me it glowed red and I had a small burn on my hand, but otherwise no damage. Nor did I do it again! It turns out that some things parents are convinced will kill their kids don’t. We tend to be overprotective, I think.

          That said, leaving knives and sharp instruments and guns and such around for your child to play with seems like asking for trouble. Why not put the metal forks away? Why not have your child “help” you put forks away and tell them a story about where forks belong once they have taken a bath?

        9. rtgmath:
          Commenting on two of your posts. I think King David exhibited a personal relationship with God.

          And re your conversation with JPJ: I think your response advocating absolutely no physical “punishment” is lacking. First of all, enlightened parents can agree that “punishment” is the wrong term and attitude. What this discussion is about is discipline which might possibly include physical pain sparingly/appropriately administered. You gave the example of outlet protectors. I raised 5 children and my wife and I now have 2 foster children. So I know all about safe environments. My 5 children were sometimes spanked. My foster children will never be. I have a feeling that no matter what example you are given of a dangerous situation, you will think of some way to train that avoids physical discipline. So I will mention the wood heating stoves we had in several rooms in our house growing up or the street or country road into which any one of our kids could run chasing a ball and die instantly hit by a truck—and I know that might not convince you that a child can appreciate and not learn to fear the parent who inflicts a little pain—it’s an easy way to learn what can be a really hard lesson. No child is emotionally scarred by this kind of discipline that is applied judiciously and sparingly. Having said that, I will say again, as long as my foster kids are in foster care, they will never be spanked, not for any reason. Not because spanking is absolutely always wrong, but for a myriad of reasons that we are all aware of, not the least of which are the horrible circumstances that bring most children into foster care to begin with. So no, I am no Poe. We can agree to disagree. I will continue to respect your opinions, knowledge, wisdom and insight.

        10. Mark, thank you for your kind, reasonable and rational answer.

          I agree that there may be times when physical discipline — a mild swat, a spanking, or whatever — could be effective and not traumatic.

          The “physical discipline” I received from my parents was indeed effective, but it was most definitely traumatic. While I am convinced that my parents thought they loved me, they were also abusive. Emotional abuse was compounded with physical abuse, and at the times I was the object of their wrath, I could sense no love in them.

          I do not believe I have the ability to start physical discipline of a child and measure an exact amount or do it while making sure I feel love toward the child. Maybe you can. I cannot. I have felt the trauma. When I did punish my children that way, I inflicted trauma, God forgive me! And nearly all the “godly” instructions on disciplining your child to break their will and ensure obedience guarantee traumatic, terror-filled episodes for your children.

          My own trauma taught me that hitting was okay. You did not have to respect the other person as much as you protected your own sense of privilege and outrage at the other’s bad behavior. In my experience it was always punishment, my parents as prosecutors, jury, judge and executioner. What I had to say, what I wanted to explain was not worth hearing. I was never allowed to explain myself. Well, maybe once. After the punishment was done. But usually my offended parents were uninterested in the circumstances, my feelings, or what they might have contributed to the problem. I had to bear the burden of guilt alone, whether guilty or not.

          And even when the punishment was over, there was still the anger. I was often sent to my room afterward, while the parent continued to seethe.

          But as much as I hated what was done to me, it was how I learned discipline, and it is what I inflicted on my children at the encouragement of the church until I was stopped. And how good it was to be stopped!

          But like an addiction, I know that I cannot control it. I might tell myself I can — but I would be lying.

          So my position is based on my perspective. Your foster children will have had experiences similar to my own, I’d bet.

        11. rtgmath:
          I hope that it is therapeutic for you to recount hard memories of both your childhood and parenting experiences—or at least not traumatic.

          I must confess that in both cases in my own experience—in receiving physical discipline from my dad, and in meting it out myself as a parent—it has been a mixed bag as to whether it was done properly. I know that I can relate personally to some of your stories from both life stages, but only to a certain degree. I know there were times when my dad was inappropriately angry, unjust, unfair, harsh or possibly even abusive. I have likely been guilty of those myself as a parent. But I would say, the lion’s share of the time, my dad and myself acted lovingly and retained trust and respect from the child. Part of this was maybe due to obvious empathy on the part of the parent and also it would have had to do with a realization by the “punishee” of the serious nature, dangerousness, or just plain stupidity of the offense leading up to a spanking. I remember one time, when I was about 9, my neighbor looked out his window and caught me literally pouring gasoline on a leaf fire I was tending. I knew what a stupid thing that would be to do, but I thought it would be fun and it never occurred to me that someone might see me doing it. I never resented the spanking I got for that, because I knew how concerned my dad was that I learn fire safety and I knew it was a lesson I would never forget. Yeah, sometimes my dad was harsh, but he kept me and my brothers safe, and we loved and respected him for that.
          I get it that your experiences have brought you to where you are in life. You are making the best decisions you can with the information you have. That’s what we all have to do. Unlike what our friends in fundystan would say, what is right for me, might not be right for you. Regards.

        12. “What is right for me may not be right for you.” True. Romans 14 or 15 says something about this, IIRC.

          As for whether recounting my experiences are therapeutic …. well, I probably do not think about it in those terms. I am what life, circumstances, my reactions to those and my active choices in life have made me.

          But I do envy those who had a stable home life. It is very difficult for those who had a stable home life to understand those who haven’t. (While I am not saying that you are thinking this,) Many people look at the stories people tell of their homes as exaggerations. But usually the stories those of us who experienced violence at the hands of our parents allow ourselves to tell are sanitized, often in favor of the parent, and often at the expense of ourselves. We tell ourselves that somehow “we deserved it.” And our parents would have agreed that we did. You can see how that experience, among others, would shape the child’s view of God? of religion?

          I really don’t know whether telling such things are therapeutic or not. I see it as being open, defying the honor-shame cultural remnants we who were in fundamentalism had instilled in us. Maybe some others feel it to be therapeutic to talk to someone who had the same kinds of experiences they did. For some, the stories will be uncomfortable to hear, but educational as learning what others go through can challenge some of our own assumptions. At the least such stories should help us be more sensitive, recognizing why people would take certain positions or do certain things. And learning about others should make us aware that we cannot be certain that we would not travel the broken pathways if we had been where others are.

    1. IFB fundamentallism just loves that sermon! My (or rather my wife and daughter’s) current pastor has been in love with Puritan writers for some time.

      If God were dangling me over hell by a spider’s thread, I’d be tempted to cut the string. I would rather suffer hell than worship a monster who delighted to toss sinners there. And the God of Wrath the IFB worships is very much like a monster.

      1. Agreed. I must say that reading Matthe Paul Turner’s new book “Our Great Big American God” helped me put the Puritans in perspective, and all the crap that they taught.

        1. Don’t get me started on the Puritans 😀
          But yeah, terrible sermon and completely at odds with large chunks of the NT, but…that is what tends to happen when we put “systematic theology” ahead of just reading the books of the canon for what they are, on the authors’ terms.

  12. I had an interesting grammar conversation with our Latin teacher yesterday. (Yes, I’m a nerd; grammar is interesting.)

    We were discussing past perfect vs. past imperfect tenses. She said that past perfect meant the action was completed at one point in the past; past imperfect meant that it was ongoing in the past. Which statement brought up the concept of “be ye perfect”. Perfect doesn’t mean sinless or without error; it means complete. It’s entirely possible to be complete in Christ; it’s impossible to be sinless.

    I wasted a lot of years in guilt, hopelessness, and then indifference… all because I didn’t understand grammar!


      Anybody out there read Koine Greek? The word in John’s Gospel that Jesus uses to talk about joy being complete in the great farewell discourse–is it the same word that is translated “perfect” in “Be ye perfect?”

      Because if it is–wow!

      1. I used Strong’s to find the Greek word:
        teleios: having reached its end, i.e. complete, by ext. perfect
        Original Word: τέλειος, α, ον
        Part of Speech: Adjective
        Transliteration: teleios
        Phonetic Spelling: (tel’-i-os)
        Short Definition: perfect, full-grown
        Definition: perfect, (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character.

        1. Be careful with Strongs – Koine doesn’t have “tense” in the traditional (Latin) sense; it has “aspect”. When books like Strongs and even BDAG were written there was less knowledge of how the language worked, resulting in some questionable writings.

          In the case of Matthew 5:48, which the ESV erroneously translates “You must be perfect”, the state of being verb is actually a future middle indicative – not an imperative. A better translation, after giving the Sermon on the mount and talking ethics, would be something like “[by doing these things] you will (in the future) be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Of course, translation committees – especially in the Reformed tradition – are very hesitant to actually, you know, translate what Jesus said, because it sounds like salvation by works.

  13. This does remind me of the time spent in a Hyles-clone church; “guilt-ridden” is a good description. Whatever you did was not enough. If you didn’t “go soulwinning”, that was bad, and you should go. If you went, but didn’t see someone saved, that was bad, and you should have “gone until you got one”; if the ones you won hadn’t been baptized, that was bad, and you should have harassed nurtured them in the faith. If you see one saved, you should burn with desire to see more saved, and so on.

    Soulwinning was the most oft-used area, but it was used for giving, too. If you give “x”, perhaps you should give more – after all, you want the church to succeed and honor Christ by doing things “first class”, right?

    Lots of guilt; lot of people with high stress levels.

    …and the leadership lived well, and had expensive custom-made homes built while the members lived in trailer homes and could barely keep up with payments.

    1. Guilt-ridden, I usually feel like you went to my old fundy church. The guilt was strong with that one.

      1. My IFB church was strong on door-to-door under the first pastor. And he laid on the guilt for those who did not participate. My wife and I lived 22 miles away, in another town altogether, with my job often being in the evening. That work and distance and expense and time traveling and all of that entered into our decision about how much “ministry” to engage in did not make him change his mind. We were slacking off.

        There is still something of that attitude with the present pastor, but not nearly as much — possibly because his children participated in community soccer, he volunteered as a coach for little league, and several other commitments. He wound up not having time for the church schedule himself, so it quietly got pared.

  14. There has been a horror movie franchise, Final Destination, based largely on the notion that damnation is inescapable. Perhaps it’s an IFB fantasy.

  15. This from the “Bruin Core” website, a site for defenders of BJU to interact with naysayers. Prof Brody is the site’s moderator. This exchange was about a recent chapel message:

    Steve Bright says:
    November 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm
    According to truth seekers, this was spoken in chapel today:

    “Did my cancer [at age 17] occur because I had taken communion unworthily?”

    ~Brent Cook, 18 November 2014

    This is further proof that these teachings are common and rampant in fundamentalism, Mike.

    professorbrody says:
    November 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm
    He did say that. I heard him. However, if you believe the Bible — including I Co 11 — what he is saying is true. I do not understand the problem. If you do not like that, take it up with your Creator.

    For now,

    Professor Brody

      1. BJU folks still guilting people about such things as ‘taking communion unworthily’ (whatever that means) and connecting that to a life’s catastrophe (such as youthful cancer). These posts were in response to a BJU chapel message 2 days ago. Apparently the speaker was using the same IFB manipulation that God is ready and willing to strike you down if you commit a sin. I just thought it was a contemporary example of this stuff in fundamentalism…

        1. Dear Bald Jones Grad:

          I recall that ‘communion’ was served periodically in the Sunday service. Since that was no ‘church’ in the sense of having installed a pastor and elected church officers to exercise ecclesial discipline and oversee the administration of the sacraments, I’m left wondering what application might be made to administering sacraments unworthily.

          Christian Socialist

        2. Ok, so Brent Cook is posing the question and Brody doesn’t agree?

          If this is the Brent Cook I know, he is a professor at BJU.


      2. The real identity of “Professor Brady” is unknown. He may be a poser, but he also may be a member of the fine arts faculty at BJU. He’s obviously defending the chapel speaker.

    1. I remember creaking out that I was going to die because I had some nonconfessed sin. That is why I like our United Methodist communion prayer of confession – “Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
      This is followed by a time of silent prayer, presumably of confession. Then the leader, typically the pastor says:
      “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love for us. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven!
      The people respond: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

      Wonder what Brody will say if he gets cancer?

      1. Maybe the inverse of this line of thinking is that I WON’T get cancer if I only take communion in a worthy fashion. It gives us some feeling of control over our future, however ill-informed it may be.

      2. In the Catholic liturgy the people recite that they have sinned in thought, word, and what they’ve done and what they’ve failed to do. While I have problems with reciting things by rote because it can become meaningless, the idea behind this prayer is a good one.

        1. In our Lutheran liturgy we say the same thing. Actually absolution is my favorite part of the service. And unlike alter calls, where one gets right with God after worship, absolution comes first in our service, reminding us of God’s forgiveness and allowing us to worship in peace.

  16. Wow, so true. I still deal with this even though I have left a couple years ago. When you have thought this way your whole life it’s hard to get off that mindset.

    1. I left a good deal longer than you have. I still deal with it. I don’t think I will ever get to the place where I won’t be dealing with it.

  17. And where did this crap come from? Scripture? Doctrine? Jesus’ words?
    This warped view of God comes from the pulpit! From men who are not qualified to be there, preaching about a subject they have no more perception of than spoon perceives the taste of food. Men who at best are incompetent and at worst are religious con artists. This view of God is from the superstitious pagan mind of men who do not know what the Gospel is. To them the Gospel is merely a tool to use to get people to pray the magical incantation that will allow them to be baptized and put on the rolls of Church membership. grrrrrrrrrrr!
    And those of us who lived under these spiritual tyrants, and who were indoctrinated with this cult teaching have fear baggage that will forever be lurking in the shadows of our minds just waiting for the right circumstances to spring a load of guilt and fear on us.
    I’m so done with industrial churchianity. If someone introduces themselves to me as a preacher/pastor/pulpiteer… in my estimation they are the lowest life form on the planet and will have to prove that they even deserve to be placed at the same table as politicians. The more one of them claims to be a man of god the less believable he becomes.

    Pastors, *pleh* spit that word out of my mouth.


    1. I feel your pain, Don, but few will listen.

      We love our pastors.
      We love our sacred buildings.
      We love our passive pew dwellers.
      We love our “tithers.”
      We love our 401 (c)(3) status.
      We love our top – down coporate structure of “church.”
      We love our titles.
      We love the outward appearance.
      We love our TRADITIONS.

        1. Simply stunning!

          I wonder on whose backs those stones were laid, and what extent of human suffering resulted.


      1. Well I for one LOVE sacred buildings. Now those crappy and cheap middle-American boxes called “churches”…not so much.

  18. The Church of Christ with their doctrine of salvation by works teaches that one can lose their salvation. Sin before you die without repentance and burn, baby, burn!

    You come to American fundamentalism that preaches individual salvation and most of them, like the IFB, preach once saved, always saved! Sounds better. Well, at first.

    It really boils down to much the same thing. If you sin egregiously, people say you were never saved to begin with. There are the stories of the pastor’s wife who, after several years in the ministry with her husband and lovingly leading hundreds to the Lord, suddenly discovering that she herself was never ever saved! She thought she was saved, but somehow she doesn’t remember the exact event, the exact date and time, or maybe she said the words wrong or didn’t have a full understanding of what sin was, or some other thing. God is given no leeway to judge the hearts and bring someone to salvation gently. It must be all or nothing,

    To fundamentalists, the punitive nature of God definitely outweighs His love or compassion. God, who Makes the Rules, follows them mercilessly. God is in a Box. Press the wrong button and you die. God cannot change, so God cannot respond to change. If God’s Holiness says that part of His Creation is trash, it not only gets burnt, it burns forever, as if God somehow must take out on His Creation the flaws He created into it.

    Oh yes. Who is to blame? If the vessel cannot say to the Potter, Why have you made me this way?, still the Potter must bear the responsibilities for the flaws in his creation.

    I cannot call God my “father.” To me, the word and the relationship are too filled with abuse to allow any room for trust in that matter. To me, God as my Father conjures up all sorts of horrific memories. To read in Hebrews 12 that it is God loving us that makes him take up the scourge (the KJV word conjures up lashes that tear the flesh!). The persistent looking over my shoulder, waiting for God to smack me, hammer me, and judge me for not being able to measure up. The IFB church that would rather judge my flaws than recognize a heart for God, and whose Pastors were ultimately more concerned about appearances than reality. The inability to trust God even now, as I pray with needs unmet. The inability to trust God as I have discovered some needs will never be met and some wounds will never be healed. The realization that if God is indeed all powerful, He allows a lot of sinning in His Name without any rebuke, and kills thousands arbitrarily, send people who had no opportunity to believe to Hell in the blink of an eye. The idea that God is in Complete Control says that God is part and parcel of the evil that people do, from the rapist to the direction of the bullet that kills the innocent child. The idea that God is Holy Arbitrary, everything He does is Right because He says so. Might makes right. If you don’t think so, tell God that while you are in Hell.

    The Christmas Tsunami of 2004 almost caused me to lose my faith altogether. Preachers actually said that God killed 250,000 people because He was angry with the way “Christmas” was celebrated (so He killed people who didn’t celebrate it!). There were lots of other horrid things. Some said God “allowed” it so that we could be more compassionate. The utter stupidity of that statement was overwhelming.

    These messages about God are sent out to the world by American Fundamentalism in a constant, nauseating stream of filth parading as the water of life. That God does not supernaturally judge fundamentalism and allow sanity and love to have a chance makes me want to doubt God’s existence.

    The problem is the fear that such a god actually exists, one who is such a monster as they worship, as I once worshiped.

    I have told God that He is ruining His Reputation allowing these people to tarnish His name with their hatred, prejudice, greed and vice. I have told God that He needs to do Right, that even He will be judged by a Standard. Abraham and Moses both reminded God of this. The Judge of all the Earth should do Right, should keep His Promises, should not be partial or arbitrary.

    No hammer has fallen yet — unless one considers that my losing my job is the hammer. I don’t. But I can’t stop looking over my shoulder.

    I apologize for the rant and the ramble. Some things make my heart hurt.

    1. rtgmath:
      God bless you for your honesty and desire to know the truth. If God is not righteous, holy and just, He does not deserve your worship and trust. I pray that some day it will all make sense (not just for you, but for me too) and we will be able to know this God in whom we have believed. I feel your pain brother. Everything you have just expressed is rational and I’m sure you’re speaking for a lot of other people who feel the same way. I hope you don’t give up your quest for truth.

      I also hope that you have found or will find a community of believers (not just online–but real flesh and blood) that can encourage you and help you make sense of this world. I fear that your personal experiences in fundystan may have scarred you more than you know. Or maybe I’m reading more into your self revelatory writing than I should.

      1. Rtg, it is unfortunate that you such experiences as a child. It is true that experience colors our perception, perception informs our beliefs and beliefs our actions. Not to say that I know your actions. Just illustrating how our childhoid molds our adulthood. Having said that, it pains me to know that your childhood experiences with your earthly father have so effected your views of Our Heavenly Father. I can see where it would be difficult to reconcile your father and the Heavenly Father.

        However, by faith and through His Word, He can show you what it is like to be adopted into the Family of God, where you can come before Him and cry “Abba, Father.” I don’t believe He is there waiting to pounce on us when we sin, or strike us down when we stray. However, like a good Father, He may chastise us if we knowingly continue in sin.

        I love my daughter very much. But how could I say that I love her if I don’t instruct her to avoid that which causes harm? And if she ignores my instructions to stay away from that which causes harm, should I just let her deal with the consequences of shocking herself on 120V electricity? Would it not be more loving to chastise her? I’m not talking about beating. I believe there is a line that is not to be crossed in that regard.

        Call me a Poe if you like, I guess this does seem like the typical argument. But it’s not about breaking their will or making this submissive, and it definitely is not about beating your children until they cry “uncle.” It’s about Christ being formed in them, and my loving duty to make sure they live to make that decision for themselves.

        1. I am not saying that you shouldn’t instruct your daughter to avoid harm.

          I am saying that a lot of what Americans think is harmful are influenced by advertisers wanting us to buy this or that so they can make money. Funny, there can be things that are very harmful, but if there aren’t solutions that will make somebody a boatload of bucks, those issues won’t get addressed.

          Japanese parents typically allow their 4 and 5 year olds to walk to the local park by themselves. They don’t interfere in the children’s play, even if someone gets hurt. They recognize that some hurts are a part of life, minor, and need to be experienced. Children need to develop confidence in situations we adults often keep to ourselves. They are smarter and more able than we think!

          And a loving parent does not have to be the one to hurt their child in the quest for obedience. It takes time and effort and reason and love to build a trusting relationship. Obedience may get what you want, but it doesn’t give you what you need.

          Yes, I have issues. Fortunately my wife’s family treated me as if I belonged. I have no complaints about them. That helped. I looked at my parents’ upbringing and circumstances and I can talk about why they reacted the way they did to each other and to us children. I have tried to make sure my children don’t have the same reaction to God as I have had. And I want them to understand that parenting is complex. I have told my children that I was sorry for how I reacted in several situations.

          I definitely want my children to grow up to be better people than their father.

        2. My preschool son went around for several months with a short string of Christmas lights, plugging them in every outlet he could find. He got zapped dozens of times. At first he cried: big production. Many times later he simply moved on, barely a whimper. Finally, his curiosity about electricity got satisfied.

      1. It is certainly an interesting video. I commend him for effectively doing away with the Sovereignty of God and Providence issues. It is nice to see some conservative theology that is willing to tread that dangerous path.

        However, his argument is flawed. He easily ignores certain Scriptures, and redefines contexts in a manner that isn’t the true context in the Bible. So he redefines the context of God’s interaction with Job by ignoring the fact that Job WAS the victim of a conspiracy between The Lord and Satan. God didn’t tell Job that he was right and his friends were wrong, but yelled at Job, intimidating him and telling him to shut up.

        Udo Middelmann is a very likeable person from the video, and obviously very thoughtful. But he makes obviously illogical mistakes “believers” typically make. His theology, like all theologies, colors his interpretation of Scripture and alters what a simple straight reading of the text actually says.

        I think I would get along with him. But he tries to put Christianity into a unique place among religions, when nearly everyone here has had the experience of Christianity (or its perceived representatives) telling us to “sit down, shut up and make do.”

        Even so, granted that the World runs according to natural laws, God made it clear to Israel that if they did not obey, He would bring calamity on them. If they were obedient, He would bless them spectacularly. It was spiritual cause producing physical effect, and God took credit for the disasters. In Isaiah God lays claim to not only creating good, but evil (calamity).

        Evidently those who see all things as being pre-ordained, God caused and providentially driven have clear basis for their beliefs in Scripture. And likewise, you can argue against it from Scripture. It depends on your point of view, what you want to believe.

        Thank you for the link. It made for some good listening.

        1. I think I would disagree with you on several issues. First, the “Bible” is not a book, it is a library, and has multiple authors and redactors. We can read this library together, but we have got to come to terms with the authors on their own terms – a simple act of courtesy which is sometimes ignored in Christian circles (as well, ironically, in post-modern circles – maybe they are on to something). But your reading of Job is thoroughly modern and Western. Job has to be read not merely within the Wisdom tradition, but in the honor-shame culture in which it was written. For example, God comforting Job or alleviating his suffering would be seen as insulting and emasculating – it would have been inscrutable to the original readers. And while you seem to be reading a certain “tone” into the work, the original writings are very close to poetry. Even using the term “conspiracy” doesn’t make sense within the worldview present during the time of Job’s writing – the physical realm was seen as the stage on which the actions of the gods and spirits manifested. Think Greek writings – thunderstorm = Zeus is beating his wife again. Same kind of thing. Now, I happen to have a significant amount of education in theology and biblical scholarship, so I don’t expect everyone to know what I know, but I think perhaps you color the text just as much as the “believers” typically do.

        2. Well, I could be wrong. And you have some good points. But I am not ready to change my POV on Job, yet.

          God points Job out to Satan, provoking Satan to propose a challenge. God used Job’s children and servants as pawns, sacrificing their lives for the sake of this cosmic bet. Job behaved as a good slave in his culture would, not objecting. God could do what He wanted, after all, and not give an explanation or a thought as to his slave’s feelings.

          Essentially, God won the first bet. So God ups the ante, gloating about it to Satan and provoking Satan into proposing a kind of double-or-nothing sort of bet. But God was behind the whole thing. God did tell Satan that he had provoked Him into moving against Job without cause. And while God knew the outpouring of wrath and suffering on His servant was not deserved, still he did it. Satan was operating under God’s permission, and since God had instigated the whole thing, as God’s agent.

          Of course the three friends insisted Job had to have been guilty of something. Job had no knowledge of guilt, and began to call on God to explain Himself. This was uncharacteristic of a good slave, right? The Good Slave always assumes that the Master has His Reasons, and holds the power of life and death. But Job holds his integrity dear. God is punishing without cause, Job insists, unaware that God has already admitted that to Satan!

          Finally Elihu speaks up. (32:15-17 — In Elihu’s speech there is a tense change which potentially identifies him as the author of the work.) His perspective is the holiness of God, and he hopes for Job’s trials to continue because he perceives Job’s complaint to be like the complaints of wicked men. He says that whatever God does is right because God is doing it.

          When God finally speaks up, His position pretty much reaffirms Elihu’s stance. Quoting Elihu, God accuses Job of speaking words without knowledge, and begins a long list of the things He has created and why. Even though God says, “I will demand of you and you answer me,” God is still saying, “sit down, shut up, don’t think for yourself and just endure it.”

          Job’s troubles *were* the result of God’s doing. They were not the “vicissitudes of life, things out of God’s control.” This was God stabbing His Servant in the back to see how he would respond. And when His servant asked why, he was told to shut up. God essentially argues with His Great Power that He can do anything He likes, and does.

          Nothing is said about the sad shape the world is in, as Udo Middelmann proposes. God is not explaining anything at all. God is asserting His Right to Not Explain. And He doesn’t.

          So God gives to Job twice as much as before — as if more children could replace the children God killed, and more servants could replace the servants God killed. Still, the writer believed that God had treated Job justly.

          But despite the master-slave relationship that is evident in the cultural outlook, Job wanted an answer, and an answer would not have been emasculating. What was emasculating was to be punished by his master without any word as to why. One only treated the lowest and the worst in that way. Nor would stopping Job’s suffering be emasculating, unless you think that is what God did to Job at the end of the book.

          The God in Job is very much the extension of an oriental king who views all of his people as slaves for him to do with or to toy with as he pleases. The message of the work is that your misfortunes may be the result of God’s Design, a Test instead of a punishment — but you will never know because God will never tell.

          Again, I could be wrong. But I don’t think so at this point. I would need more evidence.

        3. What was emasculating was to be punished by his master without any word as to why. One only treated the lowest and the worst in that way. Nor would stopping Job’s suffering be emasculating, unless you think that is what God did to Job at the end of the book.
          Well, no. Patriarchy and honor-shame culture have been hot topics in biblical theology for about fifty years now. There is a lot of information on the topic available. I’m not saying that your interpretation is invalid; I’m only pointing out that its original readers would have read it very differently. This might be problematic for fundamentalists, since it is difficult to justify Job with a) the other wisdom lit and b) the prevailing Hebrew cosmology. For most Biblical scholars, Job is an interesting theodicy that is probably several centuries ahead of its time.

    2. rtg – I remember an evangelist’s wife, who after years of marriage and traveling the country with her husband, magically realized that she was not really saved. It just so happened to occur during the week of the tent meeting. What a coincidence, I mean look how the Holy Spirit moved that week! What better way to make people come forward and put more in the offering plate. After all, if Mrs. Evangelist wasn’t really saved, how do I know I am?
      It is manipulation at it’s finest.

      1. You nailed it Scorpio!
        Manipulation works best when the message being preached puts all the decision and work on the individual to decide and work out his or her salvation. The manipulation works because with the man centered message the individual can never be certain that they said the pray correctly enough, that they were sincere enough when they made their decision, that their decision was good enough…
        Man centered decisional doctrine always leaves a seed of doubt regarding the end product. And THAT is what the pulpits prey on, that nugget of doubt. Doubt that causes fear and takes the focus off of the finished work of Christ and his work of Grace… and focuses on the broken vessel of mankind. It is a wicked system that creates altar athletes and fills the pews with those who need constant assurance of their salvation, who need a constant experiential, emotional, religious fix.


  19. There is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Healthy fear is awe and reverence for God and appropriate boundaries. Unhealthy fear is guilt induced by man.

    1. “Appropriate boundaries”?

      Like what? Only saying to him what you think he wants to hear? Telling him that everything he does is right — even if it isn’t?

      Moses and Abraham pushed right to the limit. They told God what He should and should not be doing, considering that He was God. In Moses’ case, God heeded the rebuke and changed His mind and “repented” of His attitude and intent. Pretty remarkable, that.

      Like with anyone else, speak truth with love and kindness. Want the best for other people, just as you want the best for yourself. Strive to be better at appreciating others, at encouraging others, and being thankful for what they do.

      If they mess up, and they know it, you don’t have to go hard on them. Help them make things right. Give them room to improve. If they mess up and continue to mess up, tell them what the effects of their actions are doing now. Show them the affect on their grade, their influence with others, their hope for the future.

      Be respectful where their knowledge exceeds yours and be ready and eager for them to explain. But don’t just believe something without proof or demonstration.

      Does this sound atrocious? Does this seem out of place with God? I used to think so, to. But the examples of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets teach us that God can take the criticism and can even learn from it. You don’t need to see yourself as a puppet on a string, either. If you do God’s will, it should be from your heart, not from fear. It should be with understanding, not blind obedience.

      God should be big enough that even if you are inappropriately familiar with Him, He is able to take it without being offended.

    2. I thought John said that perfect love casts out fear? Is not God perfect love? How then can we talk about fear when talking about God?

  20. Life has more mysteries than we may account for, but I think two truths may be asserted:
    1) Bad things will happen to you, as they will to everyone.
    2) They don’t mean God hates us.
    Vengeance is indeed God’s, not ours, and he knows what to do with it. I suspect, in most instances, he does nothing with it.

  21. I can remember when I first had contact with Christians outside of IFB. They weren’t afraid of God. They weren’t afraid of hell. They believed there was such a place (or state) but they didn’t live their lives in constant fear of offending God. They had joy in their lives and were dare I say it….happy in their faith. After spending time with them and after I came to the conclusion that what they had was ‘real’ and not some sugar coated front (being in IFB makes us suspicious of people’s motives) there was no turning back. That was Christianity as it was meant to be.

    1. That type of fear of God is more in line with pagan beliefs, you know, Greek and Roman Mythology. Zeus sitting on Mt Olympus just itching to hurl a lightening bolt at the slightest misstep.

      1. This sounds like a good blog topic – “Do you believe in Zeus or the God of the Bible?”

  22. I tried to post yesterday, but my comments didn’t go through.

    It’s like you’re in my head! This type of inner dialogue happens nearly every day.

    And when you’re living in fear of perpetual punishment, grace indeed feels like hell.

  23. IFB World has no taste for poetry.

    Also, they seem to have taken out Psalm 23 from the Bible:

    Psalm 23 Living Bible (TLB)

    23 Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!

    2-3 He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.

    4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.[a]

    5 You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest;[b] blessings overflow!

    6 Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

  24. Because The Lord is My Shepherd, I lack nothing. NOW. Not when I do something, or walk to the altar, or pray some magic words. Not when I die and go somewhere. NOW.

  25. I’ve been teaching a class in a BJU Christian school for my seniors. The book is both stupid beyond use and a bit blasphemous, and since I can’t quite bring myself to teach my children that crap, I’ve been turning the class into a group discussion class based on the themes of the chapters we cover, like how a secular college intro to philosophy class might do things.
    It broke my heart the other day. We were discussing something minor, like the proper role of a woman in life, and one of my very smart students flagged me down in tears. She said, “what if we’re discussing something and my opinion is wrong? Will God judge me for me sin? Will I go to hell because of this class?”
    It broke my heart because she was dead serious. It’s ridiculous that this mindset has gone so far. Is there no Balm in Gilead for this poor girl?
    We sing about grace, but we have no clue what it is.

    1. That is sad. Unfortunately, fundamentalism does not allow one to think for oneself. You have to drink the koolaid. You have to agree with the “doctrines.”

      Was it Gothard who put out that book and seminar on “Youth Conflicts?” He pointed out that the perspective people bring to issues is indeed a matter of life and death. “Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (IIRC). It was also a reason for discouraging secular college. Students who went to a secular school often started questioning the faith and “falling away.”

      And though IFB people usually preach “once saved always saved,” they also preach a “they went out from us because they were not of us. For if they were of us, they would no doubt have continued with us” message. You disagree? You probably were never saved to begin with!

      So I understand her fear. But for me the point has to come down to this. I put my trust in Jesus Christ long ago. No one could have wanted to be saved more than I did. So the Salvation question has been answered for me. On other things, if I am wrong, I hope He will show me and answer my questions — the book of Philippians says He will, though the Book of Job indicates He probably won’t. Right now I have a lot more questions than answers.

      I will do the best I can, worship with what knowledge I have, acknowledging that I do not have all the answers (but neither did the mess I came out of despite their assertions!). I am willing to be shown. I respect evidence. But I will examine it. I have no use for blind belief any more, seeing where it has led too many people.

      Would God rather she be fully persuaded in her own mind, or give up her ability to reason to follow what some other person, group or system tells her to think? If God is Good, then He should be big enough not to punish us for using the gifts He gives us.

    2. Will I go to tell because of this class?

      I’m stunned at a senior at BJU thinking that they could go to tell for some sin. Do they not know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from ALL sin, which includes the sins we commit after we trust Him.

      …and that is even assuming that it is a sin to have a wrong opinion.

      I’m just amazed that a senior at a Christian college knows so little of the basic tenets of Christian salvation.

      1. She is a high school senior, thus about 17 years old.

        My guess might be that the fear is that asking certain questions “proves” that she’s not REALLY saved. She’s scared that if she holds a specific opinion, it might indicate that the Holy Spirit is not active within her and if she doesn’t have the Spirit, she’s not saved.

        I agree that most teens raised in the IFB should know theoretically that “the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.” The problem is in applying it personally. People are taught that saved people MUST believe and behave only in very narrow, proscribed ways because God will guide them. If they are not believing or doing those things, it could be because God’s Spirit is not within them (meaning they’re not saved) or that God’s Spirit is guiding them right now but they are refusing to obey Him (which also could mean they’re not saved.) It’s a deadly whirlpool of doubt and fear.

    3. Broken record: The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. NOW. not when I figure out (correctly) all the questions I have.

      You know, the father saw the prodigal son from afar and started preparing for the big bash. He did not know if his son was coming back with questions, with anger, blaming him for all his problems, asking for more money.

      Do you have children? Do you expect them to simply parrot back what you tell them? If your daughter asks you for bread, will you give her a stone?

      Life is not about finding a rule for every occasion, Instead, it is about finding grace for every instance, for every minute of our lives.

    4. Dear FormerHACGirl:

      Not to tell you how to run your class, but something like this comes to mind …

      ‘I’ve been thinking about your question the other day … I think that we need to grace to admit that we will be wrong. Jesus’ disciples were often wrong. Paul once corrected Peter and wrote about it in the Bible [Ga 2:11].’

      ‘Jesus said that the Spirit would guide us into all the truth. But we are a lifetime learning to listen for the Spirit’s whisper. There are times when we will be wrong. The important thing is that we are always ready to be taught and led by the Spirit. And Jesus’ Jo 16:13 promise will stand forever.’

      ‘We stand by our convictions; but we also hold them graciously, knowing that there is always more to learn. And because there is always more to learn, we can be honest with our questions, uncertainties and our doubts. That is a mark not of weakness but of strength. Remember — fools refuses correction. But we welcome guidance from God’s Spirit and word.’

      For what it is worth …

      Christian Socialist

  26. Re the theme here: fear. A truly egregious current example: Bob Gray Sr., on his blog about solving church problems, this week posts an argument against Calvin with a poster showing Hitler!

    This is reprehensible man — when he isn’t posting his head count (over a million witnesses, 100’s of thousands saved, …) he is comparing other doctrinal positions to those responsible for genocide. That he has, as he says of himself, a genuine misfortune for Christianity.

    1. I find it interesting that we have so subtly perverted the gospel. We have turned the gospel away from Christ as the One Who Saves, to salvation being the Belief in Christ. The Belief has become the Savior using Christ as its agent.

      Thus we transform salvation into a system of works. Christ only saves those who *believe properly*, if you don’t believe properly, Christ will not save you, cannot save you.

      At that point it becomes easy to add more and more things to list. You can’t believe in Christ if you don’t also believe this and reject that. Instead of putting one’s trust in Christ, one has to be a virtual theologian before being saved.

      A scientist who believes the Theory of Evolution comes face to face with the fact of his sin and need of a Savior. Does he have to disregard the facts of the world around him in order to get saved? Is his salvation dependent upon renouncing science, or is his salvation dependent upon Christ? If he comes to Christ for salvation, is he still damned if he does not believe in a literal Adam and Eve?

      Jesus died for me, rose for me, and lives to save me. He can save me, and I want Him to do that. Is there anything more to the gospel? Is there anything more that has to be done or believed? Anything more mars the gospel.

  27. Once I lost the fear of asking God questions about what I didn’t understand, I actually found out how loving He really is. I grew up with a birth defect that required numerous surgeries and has limited my mobility as an adult. I also come from a home plagued by domestic violence and substance abuse. Asking God those questions didn’t bring lightening bolts or, always, specific answers, but I learned how much He loved me and that my circumstances could be used for good. I’ve had a rich, full life thus far with a ministry to some that never would have happened if it weren’t for my background.

    1. Yep. That one has been preached thousands on thousands of times no doubt. Ananias and Sapphira — you lie to the Holy Spirit by not meeting the pledge we pressure you into and you could be struck dead when confronted about it!

      Interesting note about miracles in the Bible, though. There was no formulaic approach to the healing, the sign, the wonder, etc. No two miracles were performed the same way. So one really can’t use Ananias and Sapphira as an example of how the Holy Spirit works today. And as far as I know, the Holy Spirit has not since that time killed people who “lied” to Him (or to leaders of the church) at the time of their lie and exposure.

  28. Okay, now that my number three son and I have moved the couch (actually a 7-foot long sleeper sofa) from the living room to the dining room at my wife’s request, we need to discuss the subject of Hell.

    My back is telling me I am going to regret doing that for a bit.

    When I first arrived at BJU, a person I consider a friend and mentor, long passed now, asked me to do a favor for him. A couple from the church (Plymouth Brethren) had fallen into heresy. They believed that every person would eventually be saved and go to heaven. He asked that I try to talk to them.

    So I did. Needless to say I was unable to convince them. At the time my mentor and I considered this to be a severe distortion of the gospel. The couple left the church and went elsewhere.

    Over the years the subject of Hell has presented itself to my active consideration. God is a God of Wrath, after all. Jesus talked about Hell. John speaks of the lake of fire where the unsaved will be cast to suffer agony forever.

    Some preachers have noted that Jesus preached more about hell than about heaven. I haven’t counted, but I can believe that. I think there was a reason, however, and not one that orthodox theology deals with, and certainly not one that Fundamentalism deals with.

    Hell is a distinctly New Testament concept. It is not found in the Old Testament. Nowhere. Nada. Zip. In fact there is no afterlife in the Old Testament. There is no heaven where God’s people go after death. There is only the grave, where saints and sinners go alike. The few verses pulled from the Old Testament that are asserted to be talking about the Resurrection are not talking about that doctrine, since there was no such doctrine. Job’s declaration of “yet in my flesh I shall see God” was hope of vindication. It was not a New Testament style confession of a resurrection theology.

    When God promised Adam and Eve that “in the very day ye eat thereof [of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] ye shall surely die” He was talking about physical death. The Old Testament says nothing about “spiritual death.” Interestingly enough in that passage God is the One who lied while the serpent told the truth!

    Again, Adam and Eve did not die. You cannot even assert that the promise meant to begin to die, since Adam lived 950 years! Death in the Old Testament was to go to the grave. The promise of the future was always in one’s children and their children. It was through children that you inherited the promises, and it was through your lineage (back to Abraham) that you claimed those promises. There was no promise of rewards “in heaven.” There was no threat of punishment “in hell,” certainly not an everlasting torture of fire and brimstone.

    Had God said to Adam and Eve, “If you eat of the fruit of the tree [etc] you will not only die physically but I will send you to be tortured forever in a lake of fire where your suffering will never stop” I think the outcome of the Garden Experiment would have been different.

    Had God said to the Children of Israel that obedience would bring rewards in Heaven while disobedience would bring suffering in Hell, that would have been reasonable. Except all the rewards and punishments were in physical terms on the earth. Blessings about crops and life for obedience or famine, disease and captivity for disobedience.

    And yes, obedience was equated with faith while disobedience was equated with unbelief.

    If Hell is real, why did God tell His people in the Old Testament nothing about it? Why did God not warn about the eternal suffering at hand?

    Perhaps because Heaven and Hell as we understand them now were Persian (Zoroastrian) concepts added to the Jewish faith during the Captivity?

    That is enough for now. I will be available for burning at the stake by appointment only. Fundamentalists to whom I have asked my questions have responded with alarm. They have never answered the questions, mind you, just condemned them.

  29. Bible Hermeneutics. Here is the thing: choose one of the seven canons out there. Then select one of the 20 or so actual Greek apparatus. Then, declare that YOUR canon, and your selection of Greek verses are God’s own, and that they are inerrant. Then choose one of the translations and add your own flavor of interpretation. By this time, the “Bible” will be saying exactly as you believe.

    Don’t think so?

    There are 2.1 billion Christians out there. EVERY possible variation of belief about anything can be ascribed to one or another of the Christian denominations.

    1. I appreciate these honest discussions. They are usually just exactly on topics I wonder about. I believe I learn a lot from them. Again, let’s keep thinking and wondering with the brains God gave us.

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