Tag Archives: Belief

Always Tell a Child Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted

This is the other side of Never Tell a Child They Are Personally Worth the Sacrifice Jesus Made.

The side I seem perfectly incapable of articulating. So much so I actually need someone else to write it to get it right.

The person who knows my blind spots inside and out. And protects me against their dangers like a champ.

See, I knew yesterday’s post deserved a balanced treatment. I was just exploring a fraction of God’s majesty. Tinkering with but a fragment of the whole counsel of God.

So not long after I published it I began to nurture today’s post in my mind. To toy with text like  and an idea about “self-worth” versus “God worth.”

Then my wife commented. And wrote the post for me. So much better than I ever could have.

Here is an excerpt:

Maybe it isn’t our job to bolster self-esteem (and maybe it is), but it is certainly our job to point to the One who desires to bind up those hurts enough to allow a person to love others AS he LOVES himself. We don’t want to be too glib about the deep hurts that abuse cause. Christ obviously wasn’t. He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. If abused children aren’t counted among the brokenhearted and the captives, I can’t imagine who is.

Read the whole thing here.

If you liked what you read . Then share on Facebook and Twitter.

Your Simple Statement of Faith (2012 Update)

Back in 2009 I wrote a post in the Curmudgeon’s Guide to Sharing the Gospel on creating a simple statement of faith.

The point behind this exercise was to create a one-word sentence that defines you.

That defines your faith.

That serves as a compass in tight situations when you have to think fast or answer hard questions. Or serves as a filter to run through all of what is competing for your attention.

And then defines you in the future when you are dead.

In other words, how people remember you.

That year I chose as my simple statement “Christ and Christ crucified.”

That’s served me well. And it still serves me today. But…

Fast Forward to 2012

Last November I stumbled across a similar idea in Daniel Pink’s book .

Pink shares an anecdote where Carol Boothe Luce confronted John F. Kennedy with this statement:

A great man is one sentence. Abraham Lincoln’s was ‘He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.’ What’s yours?

My mind was off to the races.

Throughout December and the early part of 2012 I sketched some ideas. Here are three of the more memorable ones (memorable is debatable):

  • “Nobel prize winner of literature and professor.” How insanely self-serving, right? Not even punctuated with a verb. Fail.
  • “Innovated literature and raised a godly family.” Okay, half of it seems to be on track. But raising a godly family, while noble, is not all-encompassing. It is, in the scheme of Christianity, short-sighted. Let’s try again.
  • “Slave to Christ and walking New Testament concordance.” All right, much better, don’t you think?

This is actually how I have it written in my journal/daily calendar:

That is how I would like my grave stone to read.

The first half is obvious and sound, but the second half I think may come off like I want to be a warehouse of biblical trivia. That is, an .

Not so.

The purpose of becoming a walking New Testament is established on these three verses:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

In other words, I want to renew my mind. I want to encourage and exhort believers. And I want to share a sound faith with unbelievers.

Things impossible to do with out a solid foundation in God’s word.

By the way, this is not to neglect the Old Testament. This is just a recognition that  will be more than I can handle.

Your turn: Do you have a simple, clear statement of faith? Please share.

By the way, if you liked what you read please .

Then share this post on Twitter and Facebook.

“The Definition of Marriage in the US Is Dead and It Was Killed by Christians”

That’s a quote from a discussion I started on Reddit. I asked the question ““

The answers fell into two general categories: one, without question, sharing the gospel was more important. And two, the two are not mutually exclusive. They are the same thing.

My own bias leans toward sharing the gospel. In the introduction to the question I gave a 300-word reason why.

But I have to say that the arguments from those who said the two were the same thing were persuasive.

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are the Same

Keep in mind that this discussion occurred in a thread where users affirmed the teachings of Calvin and embraced the ideas behind TULIP. In other words, the group as a whole were opposed to same-sex marriage. We did have one dissenter, an Episcopalian. I thanked him for joining our discussion.

The arguments for those who defended the notion that saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel were the same thing centred around the premise that we were given two commissions: the great commission and the cultural mandate.

As a previous student of the cultural mandate to subdue the earth, I understand where those who use this argument stand, and where they were going with it.

We were to create and cultivate civilization by building schools, businesses, art, laws and communities…and raising families, which are the bedrock of civilization. If the family unit is broken, then civilisation is broken.

As many pointed out this is equivalent to Jesus’ statement to .

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are NOT the Same

While I can buy that, I’m stuck on this: the gospel is a story about what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished for us, namely peace with God.

To say that sharing the gospel is equivalent to defending biblical marriage I think is tantamount to saying we can live out the gospel, which is impossible.

How do you live out the narrative of redemptive history?

Certainly I believe that our lives can be a testimony to what the gospel can accomplish. While the gospel can save a marriage that is headed for divorce–and that testimony of its power can lead to a discussion about the gospel–a saved marriage is not the same thing as the gospel.

Why is this even important? Because God commanded us to , and through that method people are saved by the Holy Spirit.

So when energy is invested, at the expense of sharing the gospel, in preserving an institution that some people in a free nation don’t want then we look bad. Furthermore, we then start to look like we believe that we can create a utopia by preserving this nation through legislation…not salvation.

There was one key comment for me in this discussion. The one that said marriage is dead in the U.S. Here is the comment in full :

The definition of marriage in the US is dead and it was killed by Christians and non-christians alike long before the homosexuality issue. So when people see us yelling about the definition of marriage they see us yammering over something which does not exist.

It was killed by divorce and abusive and neglectful parents. Marriage is seen as just so easily breakable, by Christians and non-christians. Parenthood is defined by what the parents want to do, not by what is best for their children. These sorts of marriage and parenthood are just as displeasing to God as gay marriage.

As long as these issues are not taken seriously, there is no reason for seculars to view us as anything but anti-gay idiots, because it is what we are. We are rightfully labeled as hypocrites. Not that confronting those problems will solve everything, but I find it much more important to fix Christian marriages than nonchristian.

I think that last line is sublime, and reminds me of

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The statement made by bygrace-faith is a strong statement. However, is there any proof that marriage is dead in the U.S.?

Proof That Marriage in the U.S. Is Dead

Well, you have the that from 2000 to 2010 nonfamily households doubled in growth over family households. A common nonfamily household is a person living alone, with an increase of 25.8 percent in 2000 to 26.7 percent in 2010.

In addition, the number of non-married partners living together grew by 41 percent.

However, the divorce rates actually declined in 2009. So, is America on a moral slide?

I’d argue that it is. But that’s debatable. And misses the point. Because regardless of our moral condition, we desperately need Jesus.

Clearly as Christians we are to take the biblical idea of marriage very seriously. But we can’t expect the culture around us to do the same thing.

So do we acquiesce? Do we let civilisation crumble around us?

No, I think we attack these issues head on. But there are better ways to do this than by legislation.

Mentoring young men who are at risk of abandoning their families. Supporting single mothers who are struggling to raise a family. Adopting children who are abandoned or abused by a family.

It’s a bottom-up approach versus a top down.

History is full of instances where Christians make very bad politicians. History, however, is abundant with examples of charity that have saved the lost, protected the forgotten, healed the wounded, visited the prisoners and fed the hungry.

Christianity didn’t spread because missionaries like Paul and Barnabas changed Roman law. It spread because of their relentless efforts to obey Christ. In that wake civilisations and their laws grew based upon Christian principles. And this is the appropriate way I believe in which we redeem the earth.

Your Turn

Do you think I’m off my rocker? Do you think that America is on a moral slide? Is there evidence? Is marriage dead in the U.S.? Did Christians kill it? Am I off with my bottom-up approach? Is there any room for a bottom-up and top-down approach? Is saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel the same thing?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Van der Weyden’s Last Judgement Spooked Atheist Peter Hitchens in Broad Daylight


Scoffing, he said, ‘Couldn’t these people think of anything else to paint?’

If there ever was a case of art in the cause for Christ then this anecdote will certainly qualify.

In fact, as Peter Hitchens put it in his book , 500 years after his death Van der Weyden was still earning his fee.

Stumbling across The Last Judgement

The story starts with Hitchens and his girlfriend visiting the u in Beaune in search of fine foods and wines. Being seasoned travellers they strayed off the beaten path to explore the ancient hospital.

According to their Green Michelin guide, Roger Van der Weyden’s fifteenth century polyptych  , was a must see. So he and his girlfriend hoofed it to find it.

Upon coming across the apocalyptic altar piece Hitchens’ instinct was to scoff. He then leaned in to peer at the details of the painting–and gaped.

What struck Hitchens was the naked people in the painting didn’t appear to be from the fifteenth century A.D. Nor did they appear to be tribesman from the Neolithic Age. Nor any remote age for that matter.

They appeared to be his contemporaries. And “one of them is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the last trumpet.”

How The Last Judgement Changed Hitchens

Hitchens points out that this didn’t lead to a mystical experience. No vision or swoon. Just a sense that religion was real. It was current. Not distant or remote. But something just as important as the study of economics or psychology.

If not more important.

The other effect that Van der Weyden’s altarpiece had on Hitchens was that it gave him a sense that he was among the damned. If there were any damned. And like the feeling any good horror novel would give, Hitchens was scared.

Unlike a good horror novel, however, Hitchens couldn’t close the altarpiece and sink into the comfort of a bed or couch with the horror gone. This time his conscience had been spooked, and the fear remained. Yet he began to think very clearly.

Hitchensexplains that fear is a gift. It puts us on high alert when physical danger is near. It could be during a motorcycle accident, in a car surrounded by an angry mob or when a soldier is shooting into the crowd you are in. Whatever the situation, fear keeps us sober and calm so that we make wise decisions.

People who are blind to fear miss the danger. In this case, their rebellion towards a gracious God.

Hitchens walked away from Van der Weyden’s altarpiece chastened. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed that it was fear that motivated him to seek God and atone for his sins. But he regards that the lesser of two evils.

Well said, Mr. Hitchens.

Your Turn

Has a piece of art–a painting, a novel, a play–ever scared your conscience? Did it play a part in driving you back to God?

Please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Sublime Definition of Beauty That Leo Tolstoy Pooh-Poohed

In which I encounter one of the most sublime definitions of beauty–because God cares about art.

In the last two decades of the 19th Century Leo Tolstoy went on a philosophical and polemical tear, attacking the Russian church, landowners and even the Gospels. It culminated in a book called  

To say this book is intense is a gross understatement. He condemns Pushkin, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bach and Beethoven. As well as his own novels.

He considers What Is Art? a challenge “hurled at all educated men.” He wants to strip art of mystery, irrationality and ambiguity.

What does he suggest as a substitute? China dolls, door knobs, chickens. Peasant women singing to the clanging of scythes. Sentimental genre paintings–like ?

If he lived half a century later he might have been chums with who penned “the red wheelbarrow”:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Or who wrote “The Snowman”:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Or even Marcel Duchamp who submitted a porcelain urinal to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition and called it “.”

That may be pushing it.

The Beauty Definition in Question

The third chapter of the book, after a compelling narrative of a disgruntled visit to see the rehearsal of an opera that spans the first two chapters, he runs through the philosophical definitions of beauty.

He skips the ancients and medieval philosophers and starts with Enlightenment thinkers like Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten.

What follows is a catalog of these thinkers views. Most of these views are abstract and confusing. You can ignore them. Until you reach a fellow named .

Hemsterhuis is Dutch and a follower of German aestheticians like Goethe. His thoughts on art fascinate me to know end. I quote Tolstoy:

According to his teaching, beauty is that which gives us the greatest pleasure, and that which gives us the greatest pleasure is that which gives us the greatest number of ideas within the shortest amount of time.

This is pragmatism. This is efficiency. And the stuff of .

Hemsterhuis may have enjoyed living in our generation where . He may have been just as comfortable in Athens during the :

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Naturally Tolstoy dismisses Hemsterhuis’ definition, as well as the dozens of others he provides. He prefers art to be religious in the same way that Charles Murray described it in his New Criterion article :

By “religiosity” I do not mean going to church every Sunday. Even belief in God is not essential. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism are not religions in the conventional sense of that word—none postulates a God—but they partake of religiosity as I am using the word, in that that they articulate a human place in the cosmos, lay out understandings of the ends toward which human life aims, and set standards for seeking those ends.

I think it would be safe to say that Tolstoy believed that God cared about art.

But Tolstoy was not an orthodox Christian. Neither was he evangelical. He was a moralist and an anarchist. And a tormented soul striving to balance wealth, fame, family and asceticism.

What Is Art? is a product of that torment.

For grins, here is one of the , a movie about the end of Tolstoy’s life in which he abandoned his wife and family.

Feeling Sorry for That Poor Man in Sierra Leone? Don’t

Talk about flawed. Read the following verses from :

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall sthis wicked congregation grumble against me? tI have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, u‘As I live, declares the Lord, vwhat you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 wyour dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and xof all your number, listed in the census yfrom twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I zswore that I would make you dwell, aexcept Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

What was your reaction to reading that? Sorrow? Sorrow for the rebellion of a people toward their gracious God?

Want to know mine? I was sad. I was sad that that generation was forgotten. It was erased off the face of the earth. Erased out of collective memory.

I was sad that no one’s name–except for Caleb and Joshua–was preserved in history. And that that fate was more than likely my fate.


The Man in the Sierra Leone Village

I am obsessed with obscurity. I fear falling out of earshot with the literary elite–both living and dead.

I fear if my name is not embedded for AT LEAST four hundred years in our anthologies that I will have failed.

As you can imagine, this has created massive and unnecessary grief in the mornings spent agonizing over my future. Stupid attempts at attention.

Strangely enough, I used to feel sorry for the anonymous of the world. The man in the small village in the hills of Sierra Leone.

I used to feel guilty for my fortune of growing up in a country where opportunities are abundant. Where fame is at arms reach. While they were damned to obscurity.

Then it dawned on me: if not for the grace of God, those forces are at work on everyone.

Including me.

How I Have It Backwards

But that scheme is all wrong to begin with. I am elevating popularity in this life over popularity in the next life. On this note, the Bible is clear: popularity in this life equals .

However, obscurity–anonymity–in this life equals popularity in the next. Every advantage I have over that man in Sierra Leone in this life amounts to a disadvantage in the next life.

He will be honored beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And that is the more precious prize.

Creeds + Catechisms: Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid


Creed and catechism. Two words that scare a lot of people.

Do they scare you? Turn you off? If so, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe catechisms scare you because of your rigorous Catholic school upbringing.

Perhaps creeds appall you because of your experience in a church that split over “doctrine.”

Or maybe somebody simply told you from the pulpit that creeds and catechisms were of the devil.

Whatever the reason, you don’t have to fear creeds or catechisms. They’re your friend.

Why I’m Talking about Creeds and Catechisms Now

Over the last week I’ve been grooming the idea of what we believe as Christians.

I’ve done this through posts like How Do You Know Christ Is Real? and the Problem with Your Personal Testimony.

Today I want to close this short series by talking about creeds and catechisms and why they are important to a believer’s life.

Short History on Creeds in the Church

In , Paul lays down the backbone of what we believe as Christians–a message he preached as of first importance:

That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Gary Habermas in his book  argues this is an early creed–a simple statement of belief shared by the early church.

Other early creeds recorded in the New Testament are found in ,  and .

Why Creeds Are Important

Why this emphasis on standard creeds and doctrine by Paul and others in the New Testament?  gives us many reasons. Here are four:

1. To equip saints for the work of ministry.

2. To have a unified church.

3. To mature believers.

4. To avoid the seductive power of false doctrines.

The importance of creeds can’t be overstated: Maturity and growth hinge on a unified doctrine. But how do we make creeds part of our faith? Catechisms are one way.

Why You Should Care about Creeds and Catechisms

Catechisms–systematic summaries of doctrine usually recorded as a question-and-answer manual meant to be memorized–are an important  part of a believer’s life.

In fact, the purpose behind catechisms is the education of believers–both children and adults–into a full understanding of Christian life.

But if you don’t have a unified, universal creed, you can’t have a unified catechism. And if you don’t have either, you’re at risk of diluting the original message and ultimately retarding spiritual growth.

So, whether you know it or not, creeds and catechisms are very important to your spiritual growth.

Here’s My Point

Creeds frame what we believe. Catechisms help us learn what we believe, namely the good news of Jesus Christ.

But if we don’t have a unified understanding of what we believe, we have chaos. Personally and corporately.

Thus, don’t re-invent the wheel. Creeds, confessions and catechisms are timeless. Read and memorize a few creeds if you haven’t already.

A good place to start is the . Then the . Better yet, memorize . And other creedal portions of Scripture.

From there you can tackle larger creedal texts like the Canons of Dordt or the .

So tell me: What’s been your experience with creeds and catechisms? Good? Bad? Have you ever thought of using creeds or confessions in your own family devotion time?

The Blind Men and a Queer Animal


In the Buddhist version of the , a young man approaches Buddha with a dilemma…. Part of a series on truth.

Dozens of hermits and wandering scholars are making contradictory claims about reality.

Some claim everything is infinite.

Others claim all is finite.

Then some claim just certain artifacts are infinite while other artifacts are merely finite.

Who’s right?

In response Buddha tells a story:

Once upon time a great king told a servant to round up all the blind men in their province and let them feel an elephant.

The servant does so. And each blind man inspects the elephant.

One reports an elephant is like a pot–he inspected the head.

Another reports an elephant is like a winnowing basket–he touched the ear.

Another suggests an elephant is a plowshare–he felt the tusk.

Yet another reported the animal was a plow–he ran his hand along the tusk.

And another said it was a grainery–he made his way over the side of the elephant.

Some held the foot and said an elephant was a pillar. Some climbed on the back and decided it was an overturned mortar.

Others messed with the tail and pronounced the animal a pestle. Then others ran their fingers through the tuft of the tail and asserted the beast was a brush.

It wasn’t long before the blind men fell to blows with each other.

At this point, the king explained to his servant that the preachers and scholars who fight and argue for their limited view of reality are simply blind and unseeing.

And, in typical Buddha fashion the story ends. The student is required to figure out the conclusion on his own.

Not a bad educational strategy. In fact, it’s an exceptional strategy.

The only problem with Buddha’s conclusion is that he doesn’t interact with the original problem: Men argue, yes. But is what any of them saying true?

Just because they are bigoted, blind and quarrelsome doesn’t mean they are wrong.

Buddha’s answer amounts to an attack on character. But not a reply to any of the truth claims presented.

Blind Men and a Queer Animal [Indian Version]

In the Indian version of the Blind Men and the Elephant parable, the conclusion makes another bald assertion: All religions lead to the same God.

You’ve more than likely heard this parable before.

The argument goes like this: each blind man is feeling the same part of the same elephant. All are partly right. But in their limited view, all are wrong.

Another way to say it is like this: All paths lead to the same mountain. Or like this: Religion is a wheel whose varied disciplines are spokes that ultimately lead to the same peace and harmony at the core.

In other words, no one has a superior view of religion.

Here’s my point: This assertion is leveled at Christianity all the time. [Frankly, it’s leveled at pretty much all religions, but since I’m a Christian, I’ll interact with the Christian side.]

It’s meant to convey that we have no right to claim an exclusive hold on truth: Who dares anyone say they have a superior view of religion?

To suggest they do would be inflammatory and offensive.

First off, why should I believe that all religions lead to the same God? Second, isn’t that a superior view of religion–in itself inflammatory and offensive?

While such an assertion is clothed in humility, it demonstrates an undercurrent of arrogance and imperialism.

It says “I have the superior view of religion. Not you.”

It’s an appearance of truth. But that’s all. It’s nothing more than an arrogant claim that needs to be backed up.

In fact, any close inspection of world religions will reveal that all religions DO NOT lead to the same God.

Spelling Out the Uniqueness of Christianity

For instance, in the monotheistic three alone you have vast disagreements about who God is. Judaism and Islam reject Christ as God who Christians embrace as the one part of the Trinity.

While the prevailing slogan might be “Unite or perish!” by those committed to a religious consensus in the name of tolerance, to do so means watering down Christianity [all religions, in fact].

But in the end, it indicates a refusal to interact with the veracity of Christianity’s truth claims.

So, if you are sincerely interested in an introduction to the unique nature of Christianity, read Erwin Lutzer’s . Leslie Newbigin’s . Or Ravi Zacharias’ .

And listen, spelling out how Christianity fundamentally differs from other religions is not an invitation to fight. Rather, it’s an invitation to explore who we feel–based on the evidence–is our only messiah, Jesus Christ.

Your Turn

What other versions of the blind men and the elephant parable have you heard? Can you suggest any other books on comparative religion? On the uniqueness of Christianity?

Hell: What’s at Stake If We Neglect It?


What happens when orthodox Christians neglect the doctrine of hell? We begin to tinker with orthodoxy in some unhealthy ways.

Hell doesn’t get much press.

Blame it on the  and its fear of all things supernatural.

To be fair, Enlightenment writers were reacting to a gross abundance of commentary on hell.

In fact, this environment forced  to remark that some Paris theologians wrote so well about hell that they evidently had been there themselves!

However, contemporary Christians have lost their backbone on this important biblical doctrine. That’s troubling for many reasons. Let me show you what I mean.

Hell: A Ghastly Nightmare

The doctrine of hell is a repulsive doctrine. In fact, it’s hard to believe someone just made it up. But the Bible says a lot about hell. Mostly in the words of Jesus himself.

First off, what is hell? The orthodox meaning is eternal punishment for those who reject God and His grace.

What does that punishment look like? . Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. .

Fire, no doubt, is symbolic. But this shouldn’t comfort the lost because fire is symbolic of something much worse.

How much worse? We just don’t know.

We do know that hell will last forever and in addition to physical agony, occupants will experience unrelenting guilt and regret due to their decision to reject God’s offer of mercy in Christ.

Objections to Hell

As noted above, some people simply dismiss hell as superstition. These are your skeptics and atheists.

Then there are your evangelicals…

Some evangelicals–Unitarians, for example–believe in universalism–the idea that everyone will eventually be saved. But Jesus’ words are unmistakable: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” 

Others believe in postmortem evangelism. These evangelicals insist the dead will be given another opportunity to repent after death. Again, the Bible doesn’t support this notion. Just the opposite: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

Finally, you have your annihilationists who believe that the wicked are exterminated at death. But annihilationists must hold this belief in the face of ample biblical reference to .

Now let me ask you: Why are so-called evangelicals busy reducing, revising and removing the biblical doctrine of hell when those who were evangelicals in the past would’ve ferociously resisted such ideas?

Here’s your answer: Hell is marked by so much awkwardness and embarrassment evangelicals are looking for anyway out of this doctrine.

The Logical Reason Behind Hell

Yes, hell is terrible. But NOT the least bit unfair. It is simply a gesture by God to honor those who reject him, his love and his offer of grace through Christ.

In essence, he gives them what they want: separation from God.

However, because of sin everyone deserves hell… including both those who accept God’s offer of rescue through Christ and those who reject it.

Yet hell is not a fate God wants people to experience:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

The Benefits of the Doctrine of Hell

Yes, even though hell is a horrifying doctrine, it does provide certain benefits.

One benefit is a sense of relief and gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness and promise of heaven. Mercy and forgiveness and heaven are meaningless if there is no depth…

We would certainly respond one way to a friend who kept us from stepping into a puddle. Quite another way to a friend who kept us from stepping off the edge of a cliff.

Another benefit involves our future and reminds us how important life decisions are here and now. The doctrine of hell motivates us to share the gospel when we know the outcome for those who reject Christ or remain in their sins is eternal physical agony.

Why We’ve Lost Our Backbone Over Hell

Yet, in spite of these benefits, contemporary Christians have lost their convictions about hell. There is at least one good reasons for this: Our view of the nature of God has changed.

In an attempt to shed any repulsive concepts attached to God, we redefine him to suit our preferences. Here are four ways we’ve done that.

1. We redefine God’s love so that it resembles sentimentalism and indulgence minus God’s hatred for sin. In turn, we love the sinner and ignore his sin.

2. Hell seems so excessive, so we limit God’s holiness. However, the traditional doctrine of hell argues that eternal punishment is a just penalty for an insult against the infinite holiness of God.

3. We limit God’s knowledge to suggest that he doesn’t stop decades of megadeath simply because he didn’t see it coming. This is the heresy of .

4. We minimize God’s justice by arguing that it would be easier to persuade a skeptic to embrace a God without wrath and righteousness.

But what’s more important: That we properly market God to our culture? Or that we stand up for orthodoxy–no matter the cost?

What’s at Stake if We Neglect the Doctrine of Hell?

Here’s the deal: The Bible presents hell as a concrete reality. It’s existence is not up for Debate. Revision. Or vote. To do otherwise is to pervert the truth, reduce the sting of sin and minimize the threat of hell.

So WHAT if hell is scandalous or too out of step with the contemporary mind?

That won’t make it go away.

We must deal with it. As Christians, that means defending it’s classic treatment. If we don’t, what’s at stake? Our very concept of God and the gospel are diluted.

And where does this end? Our culture gets to define our model of God? To do so would be to feed on lies. And I don’t want that to happen. Do you?

Subdue the Earth: Exploring the OTHER Great Commission


The great commission for creative types like musicians, illustrators or writers. Subdue the earth explained. Finally.

It’s 33 A. D.

You’re on the side of a mountain in Galilee within earshot of the resurrected Jesus.

You hear him , “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Now, travel back in time to just after the creation of the world–give or take a few thousand years.

You’re in a garden. You see a man. A woman. You hear God tell that man and woman this:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. 

That, my friend, is the OTHER great commission.

Whatever Happened to Subduing the Earth?

Unfortunately that commission has been nearly abandoned by Christians.

Listen. We are no longer dominating culture. We are copying it. Mimicking it. Shadowing it.

In fact, our culture–not Christ–is dominating us.

That’s why you have long-standing biblical doctrines like hell shoved into the basement.

That’s why you have gaudy knock-offs in “Christian” bookstores.

It’s as if we are afraid to be bold. Courageous. Risk takers. And God forbid we offend a culturally-savvy skeptic.

This is what it boils down to: We are not being obedient to God’s original commission. We’ve become followers–in every sector–not leaders.

Yet this is simply not about being a visionary. It’s something all of us can do.

What Does Subduing the Earth Look Like?

What do we do to roll back this tide and overwhelm our culture–the world–with a Christ-centered, God-exalting mandate to create?

For me, as a writer, subduing the earth looks something like this: Write wide and write often.

1. Write novels.

2. Write blog posts.

3. Write articles.

4. Give lectures.

5. Write poems.

Mind you, the point behind this exercise is not to exalt self. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m done with exalting self.

What I want to do is exalt God. To give glory to Christ. And to take some outlandish risks along the way in my reckless pursuit to proclaim the gospel.

That means much more than simply sharing the gospel. Nor does it mean this civilization-creation stuff is reserved for creative types like musicians, illustrators or writers.

Subjugating the earth includes all types.

Who Can Subdue the Earth?

It includes software engineers. Political negotiators. Produce buyers. Librarians. CEOs. Automakers.

You name it. We need people in those fields subduing the earth for Christ.

God blessed us so we could build civilizations complete with governments, businesses, technology, schools and museums.

And then fill them.

Now, on the outside, these institutions may look strangely like pagan institutions.

But they’re not.

Look on the inside and you see a soul transformed by Christ.

You see a utility company worker bent on providing ample water to surrounding communities. And charging a fair price.

You see a pharmaceutical company designing affordable anti–convulsant drugs for children in developing countries.

You see a blogger reporting on the financial investment world. And telling the truth–no matter how much it costs him.

That’s subduing the earth.

One benefit of subduing the earth is it offers an enticing haven to unbelievers. Who wouldn’t want to live in a community where selfless cooperation, beautiful creativity and honest communication were in abundant supply?

We have the means to build a moral, just world. And the love to fill it.

So what about you: What can you do to build a civilization that honors Christ? Who do you consider to be Christian visionaries subduing the earth? Looking forward to your thoughts.