Tag Archives: doctrine

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.

Does God Care About Art?


Guest post by copywriter and painter .

Our introduction to God at the opening of Genesis places us in the midst of His work as creator of the universe.

We get to look over His shoulder, if you will, and watch as He creates everything from nothing.

Beauty for it’s Own Sake

Not only do we see God create things that serve a purpose and function, but we also see He creates some things simply to be “pleasing to the eye.”

While beauty is the sole reason for some of God’s creation, it is also apparent in all of His handiwork.

Created in His image, we too have the ability and desire to appreciate and create beauty.

The imagination, creativity and beauty are clearly important to God, making them important to us as well.

What About Now?

But what role does imagination, creativity and art play in our lives as Christians today? Is being an artist a legitimate vocation for Christians? Why do some churches have such a negative view of the arts?

First, by “art” I mean every creative discipline: music, dance, painting, sculpture, performance, film, writing, and those endeavors that combine and straddle these disciplines.

So let’s look at these three questions in order.

Cultivate Culture

In his book, , N. T. Wright says, “The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are the highways into the center of reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way.”

Creativity and the arts are central to our response to the  mandate to “cultivate the earth.”

This is a culture-shaping directive.

We are told to influence and impact our culture (which by definition includes art, music, literature and other endeavors) to reflect God’s glory.

In his book, , Philip Graham Ryken says, “Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart. What we need to recover (or possibly discover for the first time) is a full biblical understanding of the arts—not for art’s sake, but for God’s sake.”

Christian painter and writer Makoto Fujimura, in his book, , wrote, “Art is a building block of civilization. A civilization that does not value its artistic expressions is a civilization that does not value itself.”

And John Calvin said, “All arts come from God and are to be respected as divine inventions.”

Art of the Bible

And if we look at the content of the Bible itself, we see that 75% of it is narrative,15% is poetic, and 10% is instructional.

This means that 90% of the Bible is story and poetry, which engages and appeals to our imaginations in order to communicate God’s truth.

The imagination, creativity and the arts are intrinsic to our understanding of God, the world around us, and ourselves.

Artists Are Called

As the Bible has the answers to all of life’s questions, this is where we will look to determine whether or not being an artist is a legitimate vocation for Christians.

In , God has just given Moses explicit, detailed instructions for building the tabernacle, the structure where God will manifest His presence on earth and communicate with His people.

God then tells Moses that He has chosen Bezalel to build it, with the help of Oholiab. God says:

…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.

Not only does God call these artists by name and bless them with the very gifts they’ll need for the task, but it is also worth noting that this is the very first time in Scripture where God fills someone with His Spirit.

Ryken states, “Taken together, skill, ability, and knowledge refer to what the artist is thinking in his mind, feeling in his heart, as well as making with his hands. The artistic work that Bezalel and Oholiab did came from their whole persons.”

But God could have built the tabernacle himself.

On this issue Ryken adds, “Instead, God called artists to make the tabernacle, and to make sure that they did it well, He equipped them with every kind of artistic talent. By doing this, God was putting the blessing of His divine approval on both the arts and the artist.”

In addition to calling Bezalel and Oholiab by name, we see in  that Jabal is called “the father of all who play the harp and flute.”

God clearly chooses some men and women to be artists.

I could go into more depth than this post will allow to cover how we can know if we are being called to be an artist, but suffice it to say that the short answer is passion, gifting, commitment to developing and honing our skills, and submitting our work to be judged by others.

Artists and the Church: a Rocky History

But why does the church tend to hold a negative view of the arts and artists?

At one time in history, the church was the world’s largest and most influential patron of the arts.

Then came the Reformation, where the arts, particularly the visual arts, were deemed secular endeavors that encouraged idol worship and were essentially banished from the church.

In its defense, the church has a right to be suspicious of an endeavor that is so susceptible to becoming idol worship. The commandment not to create graven images is still debated in some circles today.

Suffice it to say it is not the image itself that is sinful…it is what is done with the image and the image maker.

But the answer isn’t to simply reject all art and all artists.

Doing so has caused great harm and has resulted in many lost opportunities to glorify God through the arts once they were rejected by the church and relegated to the world.

As Ryken stated earlier, we need to regain a full biblical understanding of the arts, and that goes for both the church and the artist.

Reclaiming The Arts and Imagination for Christ

While the church has made tremendous strides to embrace the arts and its artists over the last two or three decades, there is still more that both can do to reclaim the arts and imagination for God’s glory.

I’m greatly encouraged to see more churches embrace and support its artists, not only by making them part of the worship service, but also providing encouragement and support outside of the church’s walls.

There are many churches that now have pastors and affinity groups for artists.

And there are more Christian colleges offering degrees in nearly every artistic discipline today than there were even a decade ago.

A Call to Christian Artists

My appeal to Christian artists today, who by nature tend to be isolated because of their work and temperament, is to become part of the body of Christ and submit their lives to the oversight of a pastor, preferably one who understands the blessings of their gift and the temptations and potential pitfalls artists face every day as they pursue their calling and hone their craft.

If God puts such a high value on the arts, so should we. But not, as Ryken states, only for arts’ sake, but for God’s.

I’d love to know what your experience with the arts has been, either as a pastor, an artist, or an observer.

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?

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?

Judging Others Is Smart, Biblical and (Absolutely) Vital

Does the Bible really teach that judging others is smart and vital? Indeed, it does. Here’s my case.

One of the most common objections I get to my critique of Jason Westerfield is this: Do not judge.

The preferred text to back up their objection is :

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

True, this text forbids hypocrisy and a condemning spirit rising from self-righteousness…

And I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of self-righteousness. Wicked self-absorption. Fierce condemnation.

But not so in this case.

Condemning Someone Is Different from Judging

In my critique of Jason Westerfield [or any book or doctrine or ministry for that matter] I’m not condemning him…

I’m simply evaluating his book and ministry the same way I’d evaluate any book or ministry: how it measures up to the Bible.

There’s nothing bizarre or unbiblical about that. It’s plain, garden-variety discernment. This is how John MacArthur puts it:

There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment []. Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous or other kinds of unfair judgements are forbidden.

MacArthur goes on to explain “in order to fulfill the commandments that follow it is necessary to discern dogs and swine [] from one’s own brethren.”

In other words, how are we supposed to tell the true believers from the false if we don’t discern and evaluate their deeds and doctrine?

The deal is, we can’t.

And if we can’t we are in opposition to God and his church because the Bible makes it abundantly clear that mature Christians must discern truth from error…

Even if that puts the unity of the church at risk. Which brings me to my next point.

The Mis-Guided Emphasis on Unity over Purity

Another accusation that usually gets thrown out their [and relevant to our discussion] is this:

Unity needs to happen in the body.

The implication is that I’m causing dissension when I critique Jason’s book.

Funny thing is, isn’t it just as reasonable to suggest that Jason is actually the one who’s causing dissension? Couldn’t his doctrine be cause of confusion and contention in the church?

But using the unity card concerns me for another reason. It suggests people are willing to look over sin for the sake of church unity.

Yes, having a unified church is important. But I don’t get that impression from reading my Bible that we strive for unity at the expense of purity.

Judging Others in the Old Testament

In fact, span the nearly 2,000 pages of Holy Scripture and it’s clear that God places a high-premium on purity–and it’s when purity is protected that unity prevails.

Let’s look at some examples. First in the Old Testament.

1. The Holiness Code found in  levels devastating sentences [capital punishment by stoning] on those who strayed from doctrinal purity.

2. God disintegrated priests who put unholy fire on the altar.

3. He executed a man for the hubris of believing that his hand was more clean than dirt.

4. He destroyed an entire generation of Israelites for their repeated disobedience–banning them from entering the promised land.

5. God finally drove the Israelite’s into exile and slavery for their chronic unfaithfulness, which usually took the form of wholesale worship of idols and pagan ideas.

And that’s just the Old Testament.  In the New, we see the same intense concern for purity.

Judging Others in the New Testament

Paul scolded the Corinthians for harboring a sexual misfit in their church. He  for deserting the gospel for a “different gospel, which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Peter even condemned a husband and wife for lying about their assets–and ordained their deaths by the hand of God.

And  from one of exhortation to one of correction:

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God int licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

In every single one of these cases someone could argue “Did Uzziah have to die for his hubris? Nadab and Abihu for their deviation from God’s sacrifice prescription? Annias and Sappharia for tucking away a little cash for a rainy day? Do we have to chastise a few brothers because they snuck in a little gospel corruption?”

Obviously God answers “Yes, it’s absolutely necessary” because the purity of the church is important. In fact, when we get the purity down, unity naturally emerges.

Mature Christians Can Judge–and Handle Judgment

In , “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

In other words, a mature Christian with a mature mind established by the word of God can spot spiritual truth and error.

So a call for “more unity and less purity” is actually an unbiblical suggestion that spiritual error is not important.

That should concern us.

We want brothers and sisters in Christ to discern truth and error–using the Bible as template.  says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

But what does being judgmental look like? Here’s  again: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

That is a clear example of being hypocritical. And exactly the sense that Jesus was talking about in  when he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

And this reproof would apply to me if I ducked away at night to indulge in the rituals of New Mystics like Jason.

But I’m not.

Final Thoughts

In the end, we all need to be acutely aware of the state of our spiritual condition–especially me.

And that I’ve got a disposition to hypocrisy and self-righteousness…trust me when I say that working out my salvation is an activity loaded with fear and trembling.

The same feeling extends to brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, I have deep concerns that Jason is being led away by his stomach–and in the long run is leading others away. Thus this is not a witch hunt. Rather it’s one Christian brother telling another to be careful–you could be out of line.

I know I was glad when someone pointed out error in my life. When someone corrected me. Rebuked me. It’s healthy. Smart for proper Christian growth. And vital for the church.

, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This is true for every single one of us. Not just for Jason. Or his fans. Or me. But for you. All of us. The church body proper.

So if I got this judging thing all wrong, let me know. Evaluate. Criticize. Reprove me. It’s biblical. And healthy.

How to Teach Your Children about Hell

Implied in my headline is this: we SHOULD teach our children about hell.

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on the justice of eternal punishment, the doctrine of hell is there in the Bible…

And we, as Christians, are liars if we neglect it and cold-hearted if we refuse to warn the unregenerate.

John 3:36 states the wrath of God . Mind you, this is the same unbeliever God loves and does not want to see perish.

Yet his fate rests in his decision on who Jesus Christ is.

And you may not like this, but before their conversion, our children are unregenerate. Like it or not, God’s wrath abides over unregenerate children.

Thus, it’s our pre-eminent duty as parents to guide them in the ways of salvation. This includes teaching them about the doctrine of hell.

Objections to Teaching Children about Hell

Some Christians may resist this on the grounds that teaching children about hell may give them nasty nightmares…

Keep them awake for days on end. As a parent the last thing I want to do is upset my children.

But let me ask you a question: Is it justified in the prospect of a fatal eternity for them that I withhold a biblical doctrine that has its greatest defender in Jesus Christ to save my children a little grief?

The answer would be “no” since the doctrine of hell is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What We Can Learn about Hell

We ourselves could lose a few nights of sleep over the doctrine of hell. Our culture doesn’t fear the Lord enough. Doesn’t respect his majesty, strength and wrath…

The neglect of hell by the church is partly to blame.

By neglecting hell we’ve drained the gospel of it’s potency, God’s mercy of it’s power and our sense of dependency on God has become a carnival devoted to amusing ourselves.

If there are no consequences clearly articulated [whether God’s wrath in this life or the life to come], there is no good news.

There is only a hollow, somewhat baffling sense of why Jesus died on the cross. Without God’s wrath and Jesus is just another man executed on a cross.

Abandon God’s wrath over sin and we do not have a god of justice. Nor a god of holiness.

Instead, we have one of complacency and promiscuity. In other words, we have an unbiblical god. One Jesus did not affirm.

Our Teacher on the Subject of Hell

I don’t know about you, but I want to be on the side of Jesus. I want to affirm what he affirmed. I want to teach my children what he taught his children.

Did you see that? I’ve given you a clue on how to teach your children about hell.

Look to Jesus and what he said in the Bible. In other words, crack open the Bible with your children and systematically walk them through the New Testament.

Eventually you will cross paths with the doctrine of hell. That would be a perfect time to tell them what hell means. [Keep it age appropriate.]

But please, don’t wallow in the doctrine. Let curiosity guide them, answer their questions, but at some point you must direct them to Jesus Christ, the cross and God’s grace.

A Way to Teach Children about Hell

You must tell your children it’s not hell, demons or Satan they should fear. It is : ”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’”

Tell them hell is real because sin is real. Tell them that the wrath of God will abide over them as long as they remain unrepentant sinners.

They must know “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And then show them the :

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

Tell them the glorious end of repentance is fellowship with God. It is joy unimaginable. Peace unsurpassed. Love sublime.

Bathe the whole procedure in public and private prayer. And push the beautiful grace of God from there.

The Healthy Tension Hell Creates

Yes, in the back of their minds a fear of hell will persist. Therefore it’s our duty to smother that fear with the grace of God.

Sing with your children : “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Yes, a tension survives in the Christian’s walk [whether a child or an adult] when we allow space for the doctrine of hell. But that’s a healthy tension. One that reminds us that God’s grace does not come freely.

This tension is a small price to pay for the never-ending riches a comprehensive, genuine relationship with God brings.

And that, in my humble opinion, is how we teach our children about hell. What do you think?

Is Eternal Punishment Fair?

The argument goes like this: ‘Eternal punishment for seventy years of sin is excessive.’

But is that the way justice works? Do we actually determine the sentence based upon the duration of the crime?

No, we don’t.

If it takes 13 minutes to rob a bank, we don’t sentence the criminal to 13 minutes in prison, do we?

If it takes 10 seconds to drown a baby, do we sentence the murderer to 10 seconds in prison?

No. So there must be something else to justice.

How We Determine Punishment

Let me ask you a question: How much time would you get if you assaulted me with a knife? In Illinois you might get five years in prison.

But what if you assaulted the President with a knife? Would you get the same sentence as if you assaulted me?

Of course not.

We don’t determine justice strictly by the duration of the crime–but by the heinousness of the crime. That’s not all though.

We also determine justice by the dignity of the person you’ve violated. As the case with assaulting me versus assaulting the President, by virtue of his office, the President is endowed with more dignity than I am, thus a crime against him is considered more heinous than a crime against me.

And it’s the same way with God.

The Most Important Question about Eternal Punishment

An infinite and holy God is endowed with infinite dignity. A crime against a being endowed with infinite dignity is not excessive punishment…especially if we are talking about deliberate rebellion and hard-hardheartedness.

However, you might be surprised to learn that you can reach hell without deliberate rebellion. Indeed, we can drift comfortably into hell.

That means the most important question about hell, as about heaven, is the practical one: What roads lead there?

For when we understand the nature of sin and how one commits sin [whether deliberately or not], we see what must be done to avoid it.

The Value of a Fear of Eternal Punishment

Fear of hell is not an inadequate means to salvation. God doesn’t sweep it aside because it’s the best we can muster.

No, even though a  motive such as fear of hell may be considered a base motive, God’s graciousness will nonetheless accept it.

In the end, we need to hear about and teach the doctrine of hell for two reasons: honesty and compassion.

The doctrine of hell is in the Bible, most notably in Jesus’ sermons. So we are dishonest if we shy away from it.

We must teach it out of compassion, too. , “When an abyss looms ahead, the least compassionate thing to tell the traveler is ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace.’”

In other words, out of a love for God and a compassion toward man, we should tell the truth about hell.

And forget that we’ll be labeled vindictive fundamentalists. That, my friends, is a small price to pay for an infinitely precious soul.

Demons: Can We Still Believe in Them?


In 1998, four psychologists interviewed twenty hospitalized psychiatric patients from the Hebei province in China.

Chinese physicians diagnosed these patients as hysterical.

The patients, however, believed their bodies were .

In other words, possessed.

Samples of Spirit Possession

One woman spoke of her dead aunt walking through her house as “a white person, but without a head.”

At times she actually believed the spirit occupied her body.

Another women–a 40-year old peasant women with five children and a Buddhist background–complained of chronic possession (some one suggested by a turtle) in which she blacked out and couldn’t remember the episode.

Here’s the million dollar question: Are these patients really possessed? Or severely psychologically disturbed? Let’s explore.

Dismissing the Doctrine of Demons

In today’s world, belief in demons is usually brushed aside as primitive–in company with elves and a flat earth.

In fact, one of the conclusions from the study above was that individuals who lacked education were more susceptible to folk beliefs.

They also raised the question of “whether the possession experience is a socially sanctioned mechanism that allows individuals in an oppressed social role to act out intolerable socio-psychological conflict.”

Both interesting points. Then this shouldn’t come as a surprise: While possession is a common experience in many cultures, in Western industrialized cultures such experiences are not the norm.

As Christians, then, what are we to do when skepticism about angels and demons is contrary to biblical testimony? Let’s see.

Biblical Testimony to Demons

Satan appears in the first book of the Bible and his activity doesn’t let up until Revelation.

And while demonic activity is somewhat subdued in the Old, the frequency of demonic appearances increases during Jesus’ ministry.

We even have a demonic proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah.

But outside the biblical assumption of demons, we have other reasons to affirm their existence.

  • Science ultimately can’t answer this question. Science seeks to observe and describe natural phenomena. Like it’s inadequacy in answering questions of morality, science isn’t fit to answer the spiritual.
  • Purely natural explanations of evil in this world are not adequate. The horrors of the  or a mother roasting her child in an oven imply a powerful force at work–not a mere chemical imbalance.
  • Learn from the broader sweep of history and culture. When you explore the cultures in Asia, Africa, Haiti and the Pacific Islands, you see a belief in evil spirits is a deep part of their culture. We need to respect that native soft knowledge. They may be on to something our science can’t reach.

In the end, this topic deserves a LOT of sensitivity. We certainly don’t want it to lead to uncritical views on demons. Nor do we want to open the door to bizarre practices of extreme individuals or groups.

Instead, we need to carefully craft a complete view of reality–one that balances both the natural and spiritual.

C. S. Lewis warned in the Screwtape Letters that we can give the topic too little attention–and too much attention. Both are mistakes.

The goal is to seek balance. Let me know what you think.

By the way, got a question you’d like me to answer in a post? Email me.

Why I Didn’t Defend a Six-Day Creation

You may think less of me after this post.

Then again, maybe not.

I guess it just depends on where you land on this debate.

Let’s lay the groundwork first.

Groundwork Ahead

Last Friday I got an email from Daniel Wilson of  blog.

He asked a simple question. But very penetrating.

The kind of question that, in a sense, “calls you out.” That makes you pause and–well, think.

I knew exactly what he was referring to.

And I had a great reason for doing what I did. Indeed, my motives were good…

Just in the dark, ergo, Daniel’s question. What was THIS question? Here’s Daniel’s email:

There’s a question I’ve seen you avoid twice on your blog. I can understand why, but I am still very curious.

Do you believe in a literal, 6-day creation by God of the various kinds of living things?

Tough question.

Let’s run through my thought process on how I answered it. I think you’ll benefit.

How Important Is Creation to Me?

To begin, let’s deal with why I avoided this topic twice on my blog.

Really, it’s pretty simple: I’ve never had a firm opinion on this topic. I’ve never made a firm stand.

Why? I actually haven’t put enough gray matter to it.

Sure, I did listen to  and agree but walked away with a tad bit of uncertainty.

But why? If the Bible IS the inspired word of God–which I believe–then indeed those days mentioned in Genesis were in fact each 24-hours long as stated.

Hence, I affirm a 6-day creation.

Here’s Where I Started to Sweat

Part of me finds that answer insufficient though. I feel very uncomfortable claiming to be a 6-day creationist.

Why? Science’s domination on this topic. Assert yourself as a 6-day creationist and you’ll get scoffed. Ridiculed. Dismissed.

Scientific opposition 101.

What is that opposition really, though? Evolution and it’s suggestion that macro-evolution [non-observable event] is extrapolated from micro-evolution [observable event] plus time ad infinitum.

Personally, I don’t want to look like a fool because I’m hooked on the approval of man. But do I really have a case?

If I truly believe God to be omnipotent, then I could easily believe he created the world in six days.

Heck, I could believe he created the world in six hours. Standing on one arm. Singing opera. [Note: I don’t believe God has a body. Just saying.]

But that’s not the way it’s described. The writer of Genesis stated six days. So I affirm a six-day creation. In opposition to science.

To those who will complain that such a view is credulous and unsophisticated, :

It is certainly superior to the irrational notion that an ordered and incomprehensibly complex universe sprung by accident from nothingness and emerged by chance into the marvel that it is.

I agree.

Where I Don’t See Eye-to-Eye with MacArthur

There is one point I might disagree with MacArthur: I don’t think defending a six-day creation matters. Let me qualify that statement.

I don’t think it’s worth emotional or intellectual equity defending a six-day creation…especially with a non-believer…when we’ve got bigger fish to fry, namely new birth.

It’d be like me bickering with my wife over the placement of patio furniture on a deck attached to a house that we were losing to foreclosure.

Thus my tendency to avoid the issue and change the topic.

What’s paramount in the creation account is The Fall. The creation narrative is the setting. The Fall and subsequent redemption, the plot.

Don’t get me wrong. We need Genesis 1:1-3 in it’s entirety. Here’s MacArthur again on how  it is:

If Genesis 1-3 doesn’t tell us the truth, why should we believe anything else in the Bible? Without a right understanding of our origin, we have no way to understand anything about our spiritual existence. We cannot know our purpose, and we cannot be certain of our destiny. After all, if God is not the Creator, then maybe He’s not the Redeemer either. If we cannot believe the opening chapters of Scripture, how can we be certain of anything the Bible says?

It’s the WHY in my mind that trumps the HOW.

One Final Thought

Funny thing is, a six-day creation event is small beans when compared to some bigger beliefs we Christians share.

Take the Incarnation, for instance. God invaded his universe as a human. What?

Or what about the new birth–the belief that God raises us from spiritual death? Hell? The Second Coming?

Those, my friend, are tough nuts to swallow.

We are fortunate to live in a region of the world where apologetic materials are abundant. Answers to objections are everywhere.

Not so with those in restricted or persecuted countries. But this shouldn’t bother us. Or them.

While I respect science and what it says, in the end I need to go with God–and so do they–and his purposes revealed in the Scripture.

Listen: This is sometimes very hard for someone who unapologetically embraces the title intellectual snob–but persecution and hardship are the name of the game. Opposition is real.

And sometimes all we have is the Holy Ghost and a Bible. Fortunately, we have more.

Final, Final Thought

Here’s what I learned from Daniel’s email: We worship a creative God who demands singularity in our affections and dismisses all competitors…

And neglecting allegiance to him is simple blasphemy–even if that means rejection from our peers.

Therefore, I’d rather be at odds with the establishment than the God who created and sustains the people in that very establishment.

Christianity is a thinking man’s religion. , “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”

This means we need to exercise all spheres of our beings–body and soul–if we want to honor God. This means beefing up in areas we are weak in. [For me, that would be the creation account. What about you?]

This also means answering challenging questions–questions that may challenge our very allegiance…questions that come from both outside our camp–and sometimes from inside.

It’s not always easy. But it’s necessary. Especially if we want to –a mandate no Christian can avoid.

So tell me: You still love me? Give me your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Soul Sleep: Deviant Doctrine to Avoid

Most Christians agree that the soul survives death. What happens until the resurrection, however, is a matter of debate.

What happens to the human soul when a person dies?

Does it disintegrate the moment a person’s brain flat lines like materialists argue?

Or does it survive the body to live forever?

Of course most Christians agree that the soul survives.

However, not everyone agrees on what happens to that soul once a person dies.

Roman Catholics insist they trudge through purgatory.

Sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, believe the soul remains unconscious until resurrection day.

This is called “soul sleep.” Or “conditional immortality.”

Soul Sleep: Biblical Proofs

Sects who embrace the soul sleep concept base their beliefs off of a host of verses:

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…. 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

The soul that sins shall die. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

At first blush it seems they might have a case. But they don’t. These verses have been wrenched out of their context.

Here’s how.

Soul Sleep: Where These Sects Went Wrong

Yes, First Timothy 6:16 suggests that it is God alone who has immortality. No argument from me. But in no way can we assume that he’s the only one.

In fact, Paul argues it’s BECAUSE God is the author of immortality that he is also the giver of immortality. We live forever because God sustains us.

I’ll admit, the notion of death in Genesis 2:17 is peculiar simply because Adam and Eve don’t actually die. At least not right away.

What’s going on? Here we have the promise of [future] physical death AND [immediate] spiritual death…

But the spiritual death the author of Genesis had in mind isn’t the soul sleep kind. No.

He had in mind the deadness in our desire for God…we turn the corner from agents who can sin to to agents who are slaves to sinblind to his beauty and incorrigibly bent to reject his son Christ.

What about Ezekiel and Romans? They simply echo the notion that physical and spiritual death is the punishment of sin. Adam’s original sin.

Okay. If souls don’t sleep while they wait for resurrection, what do they do? Here’s what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox View of the Soul After Death

Traditional Christians affirm that the human soul survives death. But not in a slumber.

In  Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Apostle  meant the “shedding of this body” and union with Christ in spirit.

Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” .

Then you have the spirits of the martyred tribulation saints in heaven who cry:  ”O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

The clincher, of course, is Jesus who said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” .


As you can see, the biblical evidence for soul sleep is lacking while evidence for the souls immediate union with God is strong. In a nutshell, when a redeemed person dies his soul is united with God immediately to wait the final resurrection of his body…

And when an unregenerate person dies, he is immediately ushered out of the presence of God to await final judgment.

Now, it’s your turn. What did I miss? Got any questions?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.