The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How important, to God, is Fear??

I confess this topic really bothers me; that the God of such extravagant Love whom I worship and adore, would seemingly have no trouble “stooping” to use such a tactic as fear – in order to accomplish His desires and purposes.

It is put in stark and brutal terms: LOVE me (is it even conceivably logical to “command” love??) or I shall kill you. Or my law will do it; or the consequences of your acts will do it. Doesn’t matter. Fear is induced as motive for salvation… Salvation is good; so anything in it’s service must also be good. —> therefore fear must be good at some salvific level.

Boy does this make me uncomfortable… Philip Yancey writes about the blessings of pain; it is a kind of protective warning sign of things gone amiss. Listen to it, and you will benefit. Pain informs you that something is wrong and compels one react. To move, change, alter course, divert. It’s self preservation in a nutshell. Pain saves lives. Pain, much as we dislike it then, is our friend.

Does fear work like that?

The precise moments of pain – and of fear – are not pretty, nor overtly desirable. It is dissonance, disorder, anguish. One’s only impulse, at such times, is to remove oneself from this environment. Quickly. Pain is ugly. And so is Fear. Yet their benefits are obvious and unarguable. Pain can save; might Fear also work this way??

More sobering, can one detest a thing – yet be grateful for it all at once??

This is what seems to be involved with God, fear, and our ultimate salvation. I’m imagining that it breaks God’s heart – in ways we can only imagine in vague shadows – that He must engage the inferior tact of fear to effect our eventual conviction. I’m further guessing that His preferred mechanism is the positive force of Love. (But does Love, looking forward as it does, feeling guilt if it must, out of necessity, bend to use fear to accomplish it’s purpose??)

Ahhh: the perpetual problem for me… Are the problems of life, problems through which God ultimately redeems and reconciles us, (as a Universalist, I think it must be so) therefore problems ordained and blessed by God?? For me, this is a dangerous precipice indeed; fall on one side and God has ordained evil. Fall on the other, and God has no control and is left to scramble and pick up the shattered pieces of our disastrous choices. Somehow, SOMEHOW, somehow… God neither ordains evil, nor is commanded by it. In His sovereignty, He allows it (evil) and gently shepherds we who are caught in evils cross-currents through the confusing waters, back to the home He has prepared for us.

Yes, I cringe at and shrink away from Evangelism that overuses the tool of fear. Fear, it seems is negative, repulsive, overly concerned with self. Love, on the other hand, seems far preferable to God’s character.

What do you think? Does fear, which has NO place in God’s eternal Kingdom, have it’s proper place here on Earth, in God’s service, and to His good ends? Or, is fear always a sign of the enemy; foreign, selfish, and destructive.


Fear has torment. He who fears is not mature in love, but is still a child who cannot yet understand. Fear has no place whatsoever in the heavens (that is, in the heights of spiritual understanding). AISI most of Christendom is content to dwell in the lowlands of fear and in a lower (carnal/animalistic) system of reward/punishment.

Bob, I share many of your sentiments and don’t doubt that there are Biblical exhortations to ‘fear.’ But it might be helpful in evaluating them concretely if you could cite the main texts you’re thinking of that urge fear, or I’ll kill you. I suspect my conclusions would ultimately depend on the nature and context of the fear, but I’ll be reflecting on your interesting question. Bobx1

Well original Bob (ie Bobx1) and fb888, this is one of those questions that is really hard to ask. I think we all share the instinct that fear is, in fact, foreign to God and His ultimate purposes. Yet it’s existence and reality are quite real. I agree with fb888 that fear reflects immature love, and has no place in heaven.

As we all well know, we belong to a movement (followers of Christ) who have made frequent and ample use of fear in bringing souls to God. Hell (as in ECT) is where you are headed UNLESS… That’s fear. Repent – or else!! – even if it’s an eon or age or period of immeasurable suffering and re-mediation, can not help but bring fear.

So Bob, the texts I envision are simply the ones which MOST Christians use to defend hell and the horrors of judgment. We’re imperfect (little corroboration is needed to sustain this fact) and imperfections get judged and need to be remedied before eternal union with God. So, logically, I might BE among that crowd. How can that BUT engender fear? Even for we believers in UR, there remains the potential that WE might be among those judged as needing “extra time” to get it right; for contemplation; for further purification by fire. Thus there’s even fear incorporated in UR!!! (gulp)

Except UR comprehends God much better than other constructs do (that’s my foundational bias) yet still has no valid answer to fear. Which leaves me with the weak advice that there is no need to fear this God of love who WILL save you. (yeah but via many years of “necessary” hell; dude, that scares me)

I’m sure you recognize here my ongoing struggle with those experiential realities which God is SAID to take part in (evil, and violence for starters) yet which seem so foreign to His character.

Does God really get to stand back and take advantage of this thing we call fear? Does He even have a choice? I’m guessing not; fear is where WE reside so, coming to US as He does, He risks being seen as incorporating fear as one of HIS tactics. Which would be unfortunate because much confusion results.

But, if fear does result in getting certain ones to ponder anew their eternal fate and turn toward confession and repentance, might that mean fear somehow HAS a valid use?? Which would mean God has no worries about employing it in His salvific armamentarium.

Fear: not of God, but used by Him nonetheless??


Like evil perhaps :smiling_imp:

I like the way Lewis succinctly puts it: perfect love casteth out fear (quoting from scripture); but there are plenty of other things that cast out fear, too, like drunkenness, ignorance and pride. (I forget his exact list, but it was similarly colorful and disreputable. :mrgreen: ) We do well to be afraid until we are perfected in love; in that sense, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I am not sure there won’t always be available to us, though, a fear of God related to numinous admiration of Him. Maybe not; maybe the emotion will ever be something else. But we as derivative creatures must always be perplexed, at least, when we attempt to perceive that which is beyond our full comprehension–and I see no reason why that perplexity can even possibly be remanded (except by mere ignorance again). Awe of the sublime is far from being an ignoble response to anything actually real; it goes well with humble appreciation of God and the gifts of God, including God’s creation.

I know that the one I love the most, even under God, I am also consequentially in awe of when I consider her. That becomes idolatry when substituting the object of the awe in the place of God; but I don’t believe it is wrong to thus respect her in my love for her. Devotion need not be worship; but how much more strongly shall I feel toward God as a proper result of my devotion to Him Whom I ought to worship, than I feel toward one who is not God but beloved of God?

That kind of fear is the very farthest pole possible in principle from torment! If it is better that I be deprived of it, too, then let God do so; but I do not at this time expect that that fear is anything God shall deliver and save me from.

It is from that understanding of a proper fear of God, I think–a fear of God concurrent with love of God, not opposed to it, even if God intends to deliver us away from that fear, too–that we should try to understand not only why baser fears of God should be refined away, but also why God would permit and even (temporarily) sometimes inspire such baser fear. Just as we should understand discipline from first the perspective of God’s love–a discipline that would still occur in some way even apart from sin–so should we understand fear.

Bobx1! (this is Bobx3 on Auggy’s comuter, and) like most thoughtful believers (and Biblical heroes), I acknowledge difficulty in comprehending God’s role in evil and violence (cf. Christopher Wright’s recent book, “The God I Don’t Understand”).

But if your central texts for inciting “fear, or I’ll kill you,” are the warnings about “hell,” I wonder if that’s the best characterization. For if we embrace the parental analogy for God, and see such warnings of future judgment as references to redemptive (but temporary) disciplines of love, I’m not sure that “or else,” or “I’ll kill you” is an accurate summary of the grounds of fear.

E.g. should a child “fear” their parent, when they warn them of discipline or consequences when they transgress others (say a ‘time-out’–your “extra time,” or a spanking–“fiery purification”?)? If so, is such a ‘fear’ illicit, or appropriate if it’s understood as the loving pursuit of character and blessing in the child? I presume (I think similarly to Jason) that the rightness of ‘fear’ may depend on the definition of fear. Could it be (as you phrase it) “a valid use” of reverent fear when it involves a trust that the Parent only uses measures which seek the child’s welfare, while a ‘dreadful’ fear of the loss of the Parent’s love or of their commitment to our blessing would be improper fear?

I’m all for accentuating our security in God’s love and mercy, but I’m less sure we should interpret that as requiring a Father for whom any painful lessons or consequences in pursuing evil would be illicit and out of bounds.

Just came across this thread- love it!!! Fear has been my primo bugaboo as long as i can remenber. My paternal grandmother was a harborer of fear and i caught it from her very deep internally over my first 10 years of life. When my father died I was 8. I had never known anyone who died personally. I know I had a slew of mixed emotions,thoughts,nightmares,imaginations etc about fear in regards to death. I was raised Catholic but I think fear was used in an unspoken way, especially when you had to go to confession. I wonder what the trigger is to spring us from immature fear to mature love free from fear??? I see mixed messages especially in all ECT views, which give nothing but horror and ultimate fear because ECT is the ultimate terror. I have come across so many people who become angry when talking about fear. They are like, how can you have fear?? Fear is wrong it is a SIN Stop being afriad it’s NOT Love!! HMMmm gee i wonder how someone struggling with fear could ever come way from THAT exchange helped. :confused: :unamused: :astonished: :cry:

Fear in contrast to love seems to be a constant paradox. All the replies i read on this thread were very helpful and interesting. Any new thoughts or expanded thoughts about it??

A lot of things cast out fear. Faith hope and love is one. Also I have found that emptying your mind of all the violent, and negative things help. Things like violent and filthy movies and music. Staying focused on all the lovely and beautiful things has helped me. I find all that filth to be disgusting now. I’m not attracted to it anymore. I like the scripture that says:


I’ve also found that expressing myself through poetry helps.

I don’t think God EVER said anything like, “Fear me, or I’ll kill you.” There are records in the Old Testament which state that God killed people, but that may have been but the Hebraic interpretation of events.

However, it seems God DOESN’T WANT people to fear. The expression “Fear not” occurs 62 times in the Authorized Version of the Bible:

Jeremiah 46:27 But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
Lamentations 3:57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.
Daniel 10:12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
Daniel 10:19 And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me.
Joel 2:21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. {will…: Heb. hath magnified to do }
Zechariah 8:13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. {oppress: or, defraud }
Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. {conceived: Gr. begotten }
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 28:5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
Luke 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 5:10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
Luke 8:50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
Luke 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luke 18:4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
John 12:15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
Acts 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Revelation 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

Sometimes, the command to “fear” is actually a command to respect, for example, Paul’s instruction for women to fear their husbands.

God can and does use everything in His creation to bring us into His Kingdom. If a man’s fear of (for example) wolves in a dark forest can do the trick, then I have no doubt that man will be hearing those wolves howl.