I have been thinking about this recently and reading out of Matthew in chapter 1 vs 21where it says “he shall save his people from their sins”(KJV). I was also listening to a lecture by Steve Gregg on the three views of hell over at Narrow Path Ministeries (like him, I believe in hell but am agnostic about the nature of it) and he made the good point that hell was not explicitly preached in the book of Acts. I wonder when this whole idea of “turn or burn” type of evangelism came. I know that the idea of the fear of hell is effective in drawing people but I am unsure of the staying power. I suspect that the converts it would make would be those who only use it as fire insurance that either use it as a license to continue in their previous lifestyle or those who would become so emburdened with trying to measure up to what they percieve to be a regenerated life that they are no longer placing their faith in Christ but their own righteousness and infact may end up resenting God for it (I say this as someone who has experienced both ends of the spectrum and know that it is driven mostly by a sense of self-preservation than being drawn to the goodness of God). I suspect it may have been revived with People like Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon (although I like Spurgeon as he seems to profess a genuine love and concern to those whom he preached). what do you guys think?
i agree, it’s a very interesting question. even Jesus didn’t preach a turn or burn message…the warning of punishment is given to the religious leaders who are self-righteous and proud, but to the sinners he just said “go and sin no more”
where did our strange emphasis come from?
I think there is condemnation to the general populace with Jesus saying “woe unto the world because of offences!”(Matt 18.7) and in the idea of cutting off your hand or removing your eye if it causes you to sin but that passage is also surrounded by warnings to those who cause the little ones to stumble. When I first read these passages, I used to think it meant encouraging sinful behaviour but I think now it also includes believers really living the way that they claim to believe. I know that salvation and a person coming to faith in Christ is truly a work of God through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I think that we can and do put earthly obstacles in the way of people believing through the way we act towards others. so I can see that these warnings can be levelled at Christian teachers and believers and our role in living the gospel and presenting the work of God in our lives. I was on an Orthodox forum the other day and they were discussing evangelism. For them, the greatest form of evangelism is in the way that they live their lives and interact with other people and I do think that althoung people do need to know about Jesus, it is amazing the number of people who actually want to know without being “bible bashed” and they will come and ask you. I remember speaking to a muslim girl who I was studying with and at the time, I was quite far from God and she asked about what I believed about Jesus and I ended up speaking about sin and Jesus’ death and resurrection and she thanked me, but it was a conversation I never thought I would have with her and I know from my own experience that I have sought answers and looked to people for learning about Jesus by what I believe was God prompting me out of spiritual sleep and it is in these cases where our words and handling of the situation are crucial and need to be Spirit-led. I was thinking about the fact that Jesus was preaching mostly to the Jews, to people who believed in God and were awaiting a messiah and what might have been said differently to those who were not Jews, who had no concept of the True God and promise of restoration. Just some musings, sorry this is not a blog.
I believe that the doctrine of ECT grew in importance to the “church” as the “church” grew in numbers and in the political power of Rome. Rome, being the dominant world power used fear to control those who they conquered. Such emperial use of fear grew in the church as it became increasingly Roman. And fear was used to control the masses that “converted” to Christianitybecause of Christianity being the state religion but who did not know Christ .
The State using the fear of torment in the after-life was certainly not new with Rome; the Egyptians used it also. And it is very significant to me that God inspired Moses to NOT use such a warning in the establishment of Israel’s Theocricy! If ECT was a real potential threat, or if God thought it was a good threat to use to control the people, surely God would have spicifically laid out such in the teachings/Law of Moses, using such to motivate Israel to not only live right but to conquer the heathen so as to give them a chance at being delivered from ECT.
Fear is a powerful motivator, though NOT the most powerful. I believe that the most powerful motivation is love. Fear will cause us to flee a raging inferno, but the love of a parent for his/her child will cause a parent to set aside all fear and brave, even suffer, the flames of a raging inferno to save his child though there be no chance in reality. Love sees possibility in even the impossible! There is nothing more powerful than love! The power of love to motivate is abiding, lasting; but the power of fear to motivate is only momentary and even then it can be overcome by love or desire. How many times do people set aside fear of punishment to embrace what they love and desire! Fear is momentary; love is abiding!
Love hopes all things, even when there is no hope. Even when evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, one will alway hope the best for their loved ones. Fear puts one in a state of hopelessness.
fantastic post, Sherman. i think you are probably right!
Thanks, I actually went back to it to edit it a little and ended up adding to it. I’m just overwhelmed with the power of love and the ineffectiveness of fear.
Yes, great post Sherman… I agree with you totally
Note also Sazag84, Never once does Paul use that kind of language in all his letters to the church. The nearest I could think of off the top of my head was when Paul told the Corinthian believers,I believe ,to let a sinning brother over to satan so that even in the end, the brother would be saved.
But Paul is silent on this “MOST IMPOTANT” teaching. I love to tweak the ECT’ers brain on that one… because …after all isn’t hell all over the Bible
I agree with you about love being the most powerful motivator and “casting out all fear”. It is strange that it has remained such a potent and almost domineering element to Christian preaching. I remember a sermon about being soundly saved and he was saying that he was preaching the sermon hoping to cause discomfort because he knew that in about 100 years some of the people listening to the sermon would be in hell. Although the sermon itself was really good (although took some parts from both Paul Washer and Ray comfort). It did seem to be driven by a sense of hell avoidance, leaning on some of the things like those who didn’t believe that a good God would send them to hell were worshipping a god of their own making (although I sadly agreed with him at the time, I think the EU Forum has shown me that Christian universalism premise isn’t based so much on pleas of emotion or thinking that we don’t deserve hell as much as it is on scriptural interpretation and the reliance of URs’ understanding of God’s love and mercy) and a sin against an infinite God was an infinite sin and worthy of infinite punishment (is there a scriptural reference for this?).