Tag Archives: unbelief

A Sermon Series on the Book of 2 Kings- Ch. 7

Friends: I will be doing a series of three sermons on the book of 2 Kings in April for my friends at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in South Plainfield, NJ. So I want to go chapter by chapter through this Old Testament book. With you! I’ll put the chapter in the post and give a few comments of my own under the text.  Comments always welcome! Let’s dive in!

My notes:

Here we are in 2 Kings 7! What do we see? Elisha prophesies that food will be dirt cheap “about this time tomorrow” (v. 1). But the officer on whose arm the king was leaning said, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” (v. 2). Oops. UNBELIEF! So Elisha says, “You’ll see this with your own eyes — but you won’t eat any of it!”

The siege is lifted when four men with leprosy decide to surrender to the Aramean soldiers. When they got to the camp, the Lord had caused them to hear the sounds of chariots and horses and a great army. The soldiers flee, thinking the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack them! They abandoned everything in the camp.

The lepers feasted on what the Aramean soldiers left, but said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves” (v. 9). They report to the gatekeepers of Israel. The king of Israel thought the Arameans were faking, so he sends five men to find out what happened. It was just as the lepers had said. The people of Israel went out and plundered the Aramean camp, fulfilling Elisha’s prediction about cheap food.

The officer of the king gets trampled in the gateway and dies, just as Elisha predicted he wouldn’t partake of the bounty. GOD HATES UNBELIEF!

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Posted by on February 20, 2023 in 2 Kings


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Great Quotes from A.W. Tozer (Unbelief)

“Unbelief is not the failure of the mind to grasp truth. It is not the unsoundness of a logical premise. It is not a bad conclusion drawn from a logical premise. It is a moral sin.”

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Posted by on April 11, 2022 in A.W. Tozer, Uncategorized



A Cure for BBS (“Broken Brain Syndrome”)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I suffer from a condition called BBS. I’ve created the term for this malady because I think many of us are afflicted by it. BBS stands for “Broken Brain Syndrome.” I’m not talking about some head injury that I’ve sustained. I’m talking about how my thinking is often distracted, confused, unfocused, muddled, and unspiritual.

But I’ve found the cure for BBS. It’s here in Hebrews 3 where the writer says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus!” I need my thoughts fixed. How about you?

Three Steps in Curing BBS (Getting Your Thoughts “Fixed”) from Hebrews 3:

1. Take responsibility for your own thinking! The writer — guided by the Spirit of God — wouldn’t have commanded us to “fix” our thoughts if there weren’t the opportunity and power for us to do so. We must take charge — by the power of the Holy Spirit — of our minds, our thoughts, what we ponder on and ruminate about. And, by the way, the command is to fix “your” thoughts. I’m not responsible for what others think. I’ve got some mechanical work of my own to do. And I need to get to it.

2. Marinate your mind of the Person of Jesus Christ! We’re to soak our minds on who the Lord Jesus is. And in this passage He is “our apostle and high priest” (v. 1). He is the One who was “faithful to the one who appointed him” (v. 2). He is the One who is “worthy of greater honor than Moses” (v. 3). He is the builder of God’s house and is God Himself (v. 4). He is the Son over God’s house (v. 6).

3. Don’t Ignore the Things That Will Break You Mentally! If we need to “fix” our thinking, the assumption is that something is broken with our thinking. The writer here in Hebrews 3 points out what those brain-breakers are. I count three: (a) spiritual wavering. We are told in verse 6 that we are His house “if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” We are to “hold firmly.” Not let go. Not have a weak and distracted grip. We are to hold on to what we know to be true with a biblical tenacity and an uncompromising hope. (b) The second brain-breaker I see is unbelief. We are commanded not to “harden our hearts” (v. 8). We are warned by the history of Israel’s rebellion. And their issue was that their hearts were “always going astray” (v. 10). The believers here in Hebrews 3 are directly addressed: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart” (v. 12). (c) The third brain-breaker I see here is a hardening by sin’s deceitfulness (v. 13). Believers in Jesus are completely susceptible to the hardening effects of sin! And we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise! The writer challenges us “do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (v. 15). We choose to allow our hearts to be hardened. Worse than that, WE harden our own hearts by not believing God and by determining to go our own way!

A testimony: I could give examples of where I’ve failed to fix my thoughts on Jesus, but we sometimes see BBS better as we look at others. And grieve for them. People I care deeply about have abandoned their spouses, gotten involved romantically and intimately with a wrecker of their household, and are defending their disastrous choices by statements like: “I deserve to be happy.” “I’m on my own spiritual journey and my God is supporting me in my decisions.” “I’ve been spiritually abused for decades and I’m just DONE.” “I have no desire to salvage my marriage. But my God knows what I’m going through.”

Can you weep with me over these two real situations? And will you choose to “fix your thoughts on Jesus”?


Posted by on July 18, 2021 in Hebrews 3


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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #28 “What I DO Understand in Romans 11!” (A Study of Romans 11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 11 each day this week.

1. There are two categories of people: Israel and the Gentiles.
2. There are some clear advantages to being born a Jew (v. 1).
3. There is a remnant chosen by grace (that we may not be aware of) (v. 5).
4. Grace versus works is a fundamental conflict (vv. 5-6).
5. There were/are two categories of the people of Israel: the elect and the hardened (v. 7).
6. Somehow God is involved in the hardening of some (vv. 8-10), as predicted in the Old Testament.
7. But Israel’s “fall” was not “beyond recovery” (v. 11).
8. Israel’s transgression = salvation has come to the Gentiles (v. 11).
9. Somehow envy is important to the Lord (v. 11).
10. Israel’s transgression means riches for the world and their loss means riches for the Gentiles (v. 12).
11. But there is hope for their “inclusion” (v. 12).
12. Paul takes pride in his ministry to the Gentiles, as the apostle to the Gentiles (v. 13).
13. Somehow arousing envy in God’s people will save some of them (v. 14).
14. Their rejection brought reconciliation to the world (v. 15).
15. Their acceptance will bring life from the dead (v. 15).
16. We get the imagery of dough, firstfruits, and branches (vv. 16ff).
17. The Gentiles are a wild olive branch that has been grafted in (vv. 17ff).
18. The branches were broken off because of unbelief (v. 20).
19. We dare not forget the kindness and sternness of God (v. 22).
20. Israel’s “hardening” awaits the full number of Gentiles coming in (v. 25).
21. In some way all Israel will be saved (v. 26).
22. God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on all (v. 32).
23. God’s plan and purposes should drive us to praise (vv. 33-36).

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Posted by on February 3, 2021 in Romans 11


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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #27 “Spiritual Botany 101” (A Study of Romans 11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 11 each day this week.

I will be the first to admit that I know virtually nothing when it comes to botany. I was cursed with a black thumb (except when we lived in Manitoba and everything grew like crazy!).

Here in Romans 11 Paul is discussing Israel and the Gentiles. And he resorts to a botanical metaphor. Following are a few of my observations on this passage:

1. If the root is holy, so are the branches (v. 16).
2. Some of the branches have been broken off (v. 17).
3. The Gentiles are called “a wild olive shoot” by Paul (v. 17).
4. They, this “wild olive shoot” have been grafted in among the others (v. 17).
5. This grafted in shoot now shares in the nourishing sap from the olive root (v. 17).
6. There is no reason for that grafted-in wild olive shoot to consider itself to be superior to those other branches (afterall, it did not graft itself in!) (v. 18).
7. If that wild olive shoot does think itself superior to those other branches, it should be reminded that it does not support the root. The root supports it (v. 18).
8. The wild olive branch might say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” (v. 19).
9. Okay, but those branches were broken off because of unbelief. And the wild olive branch is challenged to “stand by faith” (v. 20).
10. That wild olive branch is also challenged to not be arrogant, but to tremble (v. 20).
11. Why should that wild olive branch tremble? Because “if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (v. 21).

My takeaway?
As a “wild olive shoot,” I’m grateful for God’s mercy in grafting me in to the nourishing sap of this olive tree! I want to beware of unbelief in my life and I long to “stand by faith”!


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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in Romans 11


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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #10 “Not Wavering Through Unbelief!” (A Study of Romans 4:20-21)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 4 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

I will be the first to admit that there is much in the Old Testament that I do not understand. I’m not claiming to understand all of the New Testament, by the way.

But I don’t understand how Paul could write these words in Romans 4:20-21 –

As I read Genesis 16, Abram obeys his wife Sarai (who had borne him no children) and sleeps with Hagar, her Egyptian slave. Sarai’s reasoning is “The Lord has kept me from having children. . . . Perhaps I can build a family through her” (v. 2).

Abram agrees and Sarai gives Hagar to Abram and he sleeps with her and she conceives. I don’t know that he had to sleep only once with her. Perhaps it was multiple times over a significant time period. But Hagar becomes pregnant.

We know the rest of the story. Hagar begins to despise Sarai (v. 4). Sarai gives Abram the gears and says, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering! . . . May the Lord judge between you and me” (v. 5). Ouch.

Abram gives Sarai permission to do to Hagar whatever she thinks best. And Sarai mistreats Hagar who flees to a spring in the desert.

The angel of the Lord meets Hagar there, tells her to go back and submit to Sarai, and that the Lord would give her innumerable descendants. Hagar names the Lord who spoke to her (note: “angel of the Lord” = “the Lord”) “the One who sees me” (v. 13).

Hagar bears Abram (at the ripe old age of 86) a son whom he names Ismael.

This whole episode sure sounds like Abram is, indeed, wavering through unbelief regarding the promise of God. Or am I missing something?


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Posted by on December 23, 2020 in Genesis 4


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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 6 (Conclusion)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. We continue our study of several verses in Chapter 2:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an olfactory impact on others! We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ. We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.”

We also saw, third, that our primary audience is GOD! We read, “For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of Christ . . .” (v. 15). HE is our “audience of one.” We smell like God’s own Son.

We then recognized that “we are a pleasing aroma of Christ” to two human audiences (v. 15). Amazingly we are told that we are a “pleasing aroma” to both (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. Wow. Those “who are perishing” might not think that our aroma is pleasing, but if our primary audience is God, it is HIS opinion that matters the most! What “those who are perishing” may regard as a terrible stench, God says is a “pleasing aroma” to Him.

In our last post we observed that, apart from God as our primary audience, we believers are “smelled” by two groups. Verse 15 describes one group as “those who are being saved” and the second group as “those who are perishing.” The Bible is quite clear that the wages of sin is death. We begin to die the moment we enter the world. And, while physical death is awful, spiritual (or eternal) death is the worst possible situation one might encounter. Those who have not trusted Christ are presently dying. This bifurcation of all of humanity into two groups is incredibly offensive to those who are not yet believers, but it is still true.

As we conclude our study of this amazing text, let’s notice that the believer’s aroma brings something with it. For those who are perishing, it brings DEATH. For those who are being saved, it brings LIFE. One would not think that a mere smell would produce such dramatic results, but our aroma stands for a personal, saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. Believers find that image fragrant and pleasing; unbelievers react to that image as some odorous and repugnant.

The logical question that Paul asks is “And who is equal to such a task?” (v. 16). What task? The task of representing Christ in this world and recognizing that some will literally and figuratively turn up their noses at the gospel of our Savior.

Today’s Challenge: What an image! As you move through today, ask yourself if you are faithfully representing your Savior — and don’t be discouraged when some turn up their noses at you!

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Posted by on May 31, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2


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Bruce’s Response (Former Preacher Turned Atheist)

Some of you might have read my post back on February 28 entitled “Answering a Personal Attack: My Response to a Former Preacher Turned Atheist.” Bruce responded to my comment on his blog (see below) and I just responded to his response. Feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post if you wish. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for me during this conversation. Larry

Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

Larry: I’m trying to make the point that real Jesus-followers should deeply love others whether they come to faith or not.

Bruce: You say “whether they come to faith or not.” There’s the condition, whether you can see it or not. I’m going to befriend my neighbor without any such motivation. Last year, I had an across the fence interaction with my neighbor’s father. I had no thoughts of evangelizing him or converting him to atheism/humanism/liberalism/Bengalism. We talked like two people getting to know each other.

Larry:The thing is both of us have a worldview.

Bruce: I’ve never said otherwise. The difference being, of course, I don’t write books, hold seminars, or cajole atheists, agnostics, humanists, or Bengalites to “reach” unbelievers. I don’t make fake friendships with people so I can evangelize them or add them to my “church.”

Larry: You have a worldview, Bruce.

Bruce: Again, I never said otherwise.

Larry: And you spend hours immersing yourself in your former Evangelical world to find reasons to criticize Jesus-followers. You’re on a mission, right?

Bruce: I’m a critic of Evangelicalism, right-wing politics, and the designated hitter. I have countless Christian readers whom I never criticize. It is your religion’s beliefs, practices, and cultural/social influence I have a problem with.

My mission? To be a good father, husband, and grandfather; to love my neighbor; to work for a better tomorrow; to take outstanding photographs; to take road trips with my wife; to endure chronic pain in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day; to photograph 50+ high school sporting events a year; to cheer the Reds on to a World Series championship. You see, I have lots of interests now that I don’t have to concern myself with God/Jesus/Bible/afterlife/judgment/hell. All that matters is now, today, the moment.

Larry: I’m just saddened that you feel you must judge my motives without knowing me.

Bruce: Yet, you do the same. Snap. I write about what I read on public blogs, websites, news sites. Don’t want my critique, don’t write. Besides, do you really think I can’t “know” you to some degree through your writing?

Larry: Is any friendship with one’s concern about another’s eternal destiny automatically fake? Or do other factors make that friendship fake?

Bruce: By all means pray, be concerned, etc. Just don’t bother others with these things unless they ask. Just befriend people for the sake of who they are, and not based on their “need” to be won over to your peculiar flavor of Christianity. You wrongly think your “duty” and “right” to evangelize others trumps respecting them or accepting societal boundaries; that your fear of hell, love for Jesus, and commitment to the Bible supersedes the rights of others — especially the right to be left alone or not be bugged by Jesus salesmen.

Larry:You don’t believe in a God who is holy and that we’re in a lot of trouble. But I do. Shouldn’t I want to share that message with others?

Bruce: Religion is a personal matter. By all means share it, if asked. However, you are advocating befriending people so you can evangelize them; of using subversive means to gain a religious objective. That’s different, little more than a bait an switch.

Larry: Lost people often don’t want to be told they are lost. But I answer to a higher authority. And I need to do my “job” with love and care. If a bridge is out and yours is the car behind mine, isn’t warning you an act of love?

Bruce: Really? You are going to go with the lame “bridge” analogy? Just because you feel “led” doesn’t mean you should bug others. Instead of using fake friendships to evangelize people, how about letting your “little light shine?” You know, like publicly repudiating Donald Trump and his abhorrent anti-human policies and working to make the world a better place. So much good you could be doing Larry, but you waste your time trying to get people to join your club.

Larry: Why do you work so hard, Bruce, to prove Christians and Christianity wrong? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your rejection of Jesus? Just a question. Blessings.

Bruce: No, you are making a f___ing judgment. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about why I deconverted and why I’m a critic of Evangelicalism —a sect I think is a cult that psychologically (and times physically)harms people. Besides, “Why do you work so hard, Larry, to prove Christians and Christianity right? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your delusional need and worship of a dead man named Jesus?” Your words, right back at ya, dude.

Of course, you think there are “other” reasons I’m an atheist, right? Cuz, the Bible says . . .

Only thing worse than fake friendships is refusing to let people tell their stories on their own terms. Everyone has a story to tell, and we should accept them at face value. I accept that you are a Christian. I would never question how you became one, why, or any other aspect of your “testimony.” Simply put, I believe you Larry when you say, “I’m a Christian.”

I’ve said all I can say on this matter.Maybe others will weigh in with their comments.

ReplyDr. Larry Dixon

    1. Bruce:
      You’re probably done with my responses, but allow me one more brief comment.

      1. It seems that no matter what I say, you’ve convinced I’m into conditional friendships. I’ve seen the damage done by misinformed Christians, and I’m trying to fight against that.

      2. I understand your point about simply being a friend of others. With no expectations. No message. No conditions. But Bruce, you were in Christianity for a long time. You know what the message is. You have rejected it. Forgive me, but you have no message that transcends this earthly (but important) life, right?

      3. Regarding your worldview, you challenge me for writing books, holding seminars, and trying to reach unbelievers with my worldview. Is that fair? Knowing what you know, wouldn’t you criticize me if I didn’t care to share the gospel with others? Can you give me the benefit of the doubt that I am trying to do what Jesus told me to do?

      4. I commend you for your mission of being a good father and grandfather, etc. At least we have that in common! But I’m also convinced there’s an eternity awaiting everyone.

      5. When I said I’m saddened that you felt you needed to judge my motives, I was not criticizing the research you do to combat Christianity. You accused me of fake friendships — based, I guess, on your past experiences with professed Christians. I’m fighting that same practice. Of course, you can “know” something about me by reading what I write, that’s true. But you can’t see my heart, nor I yours.

      6. I’m intrigued by your suggestion that Christians shouldn’t “bother others” with the gospel “unless they ask.” I’m so glad someone “bothered” me years ago with the gospel. I wasn’t smart enough to ask how I could be forgiven. I think if you were to ask some of my friends who are not yet Jesus-followers if I respect them or supersede their rights, you might be surprised.

      7. I certainly don’t want to be guilty of “bait and switch.” I’ve never appreciated that approach by used car salesmen. And I don’t want to be guilty of it either. But, Bruce, if the gospel is true (work with me here a minute?), then I am under obligation to love people into the kingdom if I can. Doesn’t that make sense?

      8. I thought my bridge-being-out analogy makes a good point. If you were in the car ahead of me, wouldn’t basic compassion for another human demand your warning me?

      Looks like you want to move on “to other targets.” Thanks for posting my responses, Bruce.

      Blessings. Larry


Posted by on March 4, 2020 in unbelief


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Review of Article: “Why Do People Believe in Hell?” Part 1

Friends: The following article challenges the very idea of hell. David Bentley Hart is an American theologian who recently published the book That ALL Shall Be Saved. I will be reviewing that book in several subsequent posts. But to hold to universal salvation one must get rid of the traditional view of hell. May I suggest you read over the following article and leave a comment or two? We will critique this article over the next few weeks.

Why Do People Believe in Hell?

The idea of eternal damnation is neither biblically, philosophically nor morally justified. But for many it retains a psychological allure.


Dr. Hart is a philosopher, scholar of religion and cultural critic.

Once the faith of his youth had faded into the serene agnosticism of his mature years, Charles Darwin found himself amazed that anyone could even wish Christianity to be true. Not, that is, the kindlier bits — “Love thy neighbor” and whatnot — but rather the notion that unbelievers (including relatives and friends) might be tormented in hell forever.

It’s a reasonable perplexity, really. And it raises a troubling question of social psychology. It’s comforting to imagine that Christians generally accept the notion of a hell of eternal misery not because they’re emotionally attached to it, but because they see it as a small, inevitable zone of darkness peripheral to a larger spiritual landscape that — viewed in its totality — they find ravishingly lovely. And this is true of many.

But not of all. For a good number of Christians, hell isn’t just a tragic shadow cast across one of an otherwise ravishing vista’s remoter corners; rather, it’s one of the landscape’s most conspicuous and delectable details.

I know whereof I speak. I’ve published many books, often willfully provocative, and have vexed my share of critics. But only recently, in releasing a book challenging the historical validity, biblical origins, philosophical cogency and moral sanity of the standard Christian teaching on the matter of eternal damnation, have I ever inspired reactions so truculent, uninhibited and (frankly) demented.

I expect, of course, that people will defend the faith they’ve been taught. What I find odd is that, in my experience, raising questions about this particular detail of their faith evinces a more indignant and hysterical reaction from many believers than would almost any other challenge to their convictions. Something unutterably precious is at stake for them. Why?

After all, the idea comes to us in such a ghastly gallery of images: late Augustinianism’s unbaptized babes descending in their thrashing billions to a perpetual and condign combustion; Dante’s exquisitely psychotic dreamscapes of twisted, mutilated, broiling souls; St. Francis Xavier morosely informing his weeping Japanese converts that their deceased parents must suffer an eternity of agony; your poor old palpitant Aunt Maude on her knees each night in a frenzy of worry over her reprobate boys; and so on.

Surely it would be welcome news if it turned out that, on the matter of hell, something got garbled in transmission. And there really is room for doubt.

No truly accomplished New Testament scholar, for instance, believes that later Christianity’s opulent mythology of God’s eternal torture chamber is clearly present in the scriptural texts. It’s entirely absent from St. Paul’s writings; the only eschatological fire he ever mentions brings salvation to those whom it tries (1 Corinthians 3:15). Neither is it found in the other New Testament epistles, or in any extant documents (like the Didache) from the earliest post-apostolic period. There are a few terrible, surreal, allegorical images of judgment in the Book of Revelation, but nothing that, properly read, yields a clear doctrine of eternal torment. Even the frightening language used by Jesus in the Gospels, when read in the original Greek, fails to deliver the infernal dogmas we casually assume to be there.

On the other hand, many New Testament passages seem — and not metaphorically — to promise the eventual salvation of everyone. For example: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18) Or: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Or: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) (Or: John 13:32; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; and others.)

Admittedly, much theological ink has been spilled over the years explaining away the plain meaning of those verses. But it’s instructive that during the first half millennium of Christianity — especially in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic and Semitic East — believers in universal salvation apparently enjoyed their largest presence as a relative ratio of the faithful. Late in the fourth century, in fact, the theologian Basil the Great reported that the dominant view of hell among the believers he knew was of a limited, “purgatorial” suffering. Those were also the centuries that gave us many of the greatest Christian “universalists”: Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Didymus the Blind, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Diodore of Tarsus and others.

Of course, once the Christian Church became part of the Roman Empire’s political apparatus, the grimmest view naturally triumphed. As the company of the baptized became more or less the whole imperial population, rather than only those people personally drawn to the faith, spiritual terror became an ever more indispensable instrument of social stability. And, even today, institutional power remains one potent inducement to conformity on this issue.

Still, none of that accounts for the deep emotional need many modern Christians seem to have for an eternal hell. And I don’t mean those who ruefully accept the idea out of religious allegiance, or whose sense of justice demands that Hitler and Pol Pot get their proper comeuppance, or who think they need the prospect of hell to keep themselves on the straight and narrow. Those aren’t the ones who scream and foam in rage at the thought that hell might be only a stage along the way to a final universal reconciliation. In those who do, something else is at work.

Theological history can boast few ideas more chilling than the claim (of, among others, Thomas Aquinas) that the beatitude of the saved in heaven will be increased by their direct vision of the torments of the damned (as this will allow them to savor their own immunity from sin’s consequences). But as awful as that sounds, it may be more honest in its sheer cold impersonality than is the secret pleasure that many of us, at one time or another, hope to derive not from seeing but from being seen by those we leave behind.

How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? Where’s the joy in getting into the gated community and the private academy if it turns out that the gates are merely decorative and the academy has an inexhaustible scholarship program for the underprivileged? What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?

Not to sound too cynical. But it’s hard not to suspect that what many of us find intolerable is a concept of God that gives inadequate license to the cruelty of which our own imaginations are capable.

An old monk on Mount Athos in Greece once told me that people rejoice in the thought of hell to the precise degree that they harbor hell within themselves. By which he meant, I believe, that heaven and hell alike are both within us all, in varying degrees, and that, for some, the idea of hell is the treasury of their most secret, most cherished hopes — the hope of being proved right when so many were wrong, of being admired when so many are despised, of being envied when so many have been scorned.

And as Jesus said (Matthew 6:21), “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

David Bentley Hart is the author, most recently, of That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation.


Posted by on January 21, 2020 in hell


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Babylon Bee: A New Unitarian Universalist Hymnal!

U.S.—A new printing of the Unitarian Universalist hymnal just contains one song: John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

The official UUA hymnal, titled Songs of Doubt, includes the popular song in a few dozen different arrangements and nothing else.

Now UUA church members can sing along with deeply spiritual lyrics such as “Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky.” While UUA churchgoers aren’t required to participate in hymn singing, the preaching of the Word, church attendance, or anything else, church leaders hope this move will encourage more parishioners to sing along.

“The old hymns were problematic because they mentioned Jesus, the cross, and God sometimes,” said a UUA pastor of doubt formation. “Now we can sing that there aren’t any countries, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, just like the Great Feminine Spirit in the sky would have us do.”

“One day all the world will live as one, as Lennon’s classic hymn says,” she added. “Preferably under communism.”


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