Fear and Evangelism: Uses of Fear in the Bible.

Traditional Evangelism of the 1900’s taught us of fear and fire. The people responded the only way they knew how, to run from fire quickly. Much like the monster in Shelley’s Frankenstein, we would run over anyone to get away from the perceived danger. Even today, there are many older evangelists who would have us resort to scare tactics in order to save. But what does the bible say.

The Bible uses of the word fear well over 300 times. OT Hebrew usage is around 320 times under the word yira. Though some of these uses address being afraid, the majority is an exalting fear or reverence towards God. Even a good portion of the afraid references are from angels saying do not fear. Some even contrast reverent fear with terror, chat, in the Hebrew. In the New Testament Greek usage: . Bernhard Anderson in Contours of Old Testament Theology tells us on page 263 that the use of the word fear in the contemporary English is not a good translation, but that awe and reverence is a proper translation the majority of the time when it comes to God. This fits with an unused dictionary meaning of fear, which is awe and reverence. Fear in the Old Testament did not state that you were in reverence to God primarily because of his ability to kill you, though that is to be noted. You revere God on account of Exodus, deliverance, salvation, the wisdom in His kind and benevolent sovereignty.

This raises the following question: Is fear a viable tool for evangelism? People think this needs a solid standing answer in truth. In order to get a more Biblical answer, we must turn to what the Biblical witnesses actually say. Many people turn to Jesus in the Gospels and His threats of judgment. However, when one looks closely at who is being threatened, it ends up being those within the realm of God followers. Acts, Paul and the rest of the New Testament give us a different view as well. They view the problem of Hell not so much as a threat. They view it as a state that already exists for humanity, an inescapable reality. Hell is definitely a destination, but it is also a state of being. The God of heaven need not condemn with a punishment of a destination we were already heading towards. And even though hell is sometimes termed God’s wrath, if you read Revelation 14 you find that God’s wrath is viewed as torment in God’s presence and not just separation from God. This shows us that hell is not primarily the place, it is the relationship with God, albeit a miserable one. The offer that the New Testament makes, in faithfulness to the Old Testament, is a peace with God, not only in relation to declaring your condemnation (which  you already have) but in relation to interaction itself (a peace which is new). This leads people to practice the fear of awe and reverence once saved. Fear is not the tool of one seeking to convict the non-believer. Reading about Paul and the Early Church in the book of Acts, we can quickly see that Paul uses reason and kindness to bring the pagan to Christ. Though judgment is mentioned, it is in the sense that it is an understood outcome of our natural being as a result of the Fall. The curse was already set in Genesis 3. We are not waiting for condemnation as we are trying to postpone the fires of punishment (I use fire metaphorically). We are seeking the one who can and does save us (Romans 8:1-4).

The Gospel passage in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us the full gospel needed to perform evangelism. Christ is the King who came to us yet was put to death. However, he was resurrected in His humanity, pointing to our inheritance of the same fate if we accept His Lordship and lifestyle. What’s so amazing about this event is that we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of the God who did this great work for humanity. Does this makes us live in dread? Or does this not give us conviction that God has been reeling in humanity ever since the fall and now has thrown in a net so that we could rush toward it? For me, it says how great the King is and how His mercy has brought me into the resurrection community. He promised me a future of resurrection and a life of shalom with Him, both now and at His return. Who would not want to follow this King?

What kind of God do we believe in? Is our God the God of mindless punishment and perpetual anger? Or is He the God that is slow to anger and quick to release any anger in order to redeem? Is our God the God of death and the grave or of the empty cross and the resurrection?


On Job Challenging God

One recent comment I heard from a doctor at a seminar was that to express anger at God was tantamount to heresy. There is a point that on the surface seems legitimate. How could you challenge a God? Is it not insane to do so?

Where this falls apart is in the book of Job. Here death in Job’s life lead to questioning God’s character. After Job experience the tragedy and then is advised poorly by friends and leftover family, he puts God on trial.

In the doctor’s defense, God’s response was “You’re in no place to make claims on my character.” The separation that the Bible makes with this person is that God blesses Job after this incident. Does God bless heresy? The answer is that God does not. Aside from the issue that this is a misapplication of the word heresy and that this doctor is a medical doctor playing theologian, the Bible itself takes issue with this attack on expressing exactly how you feel to God.

Another defense for the doctor is that people usually make judgment on God because God does not do what they want or what they think is good. God is the one who is the source of all things and is the one we must trust even in the hardest of times. This might be where this man is heading, though is verbal expressions over the matter are a bit mistaken. Anger and frustration is no stranger in the Scriptures nor is it in Church history. We must remember that God calls on us to bring our problems to Him. If God did not, he would only be asking us to internalize pain and not process it in healthy spirituality.

The bigger issue is finding the Bible’s expression of who God is and what he requires. God  is not a distant father holding us at arm’s length as we cry out to Him in pain. He is one who listens and sends rescue. We cannot make God conform to human patterns. Instead, we must ask if we are conforming to God’s patterns. Are we becoming more kind, patient, comforting, listening, seeking holy and life-giving work.

Are we as Christians seeking a holy, intimate God or a distant deity? Do we seek the Bible’s expression of God? And are we seeking what that understanding of God means for our daily lives?

The Word and Wisdom Incarnate: Part Two

This post is a follow up on previous post. In the post last week, we studied how the Old Testament and the New Testament presents a gracious loving God. This post, however, pursues a side note that most would not see in this post.

One of the interesting parts of those passages is that Jesus is compared to a female metaphor. This would raise questions about the value of Jesus’ biological maleness. Jesus came as a biological male, but His divinity is sexless. Though his humanity must have a sex, it carries no weight in relation to His divine non-gender. This is a profound concept. In this thought, Jesus transcends the cultural values and God’s attributes are what define the “male.” One of the major problems in the Church today is the assumption of the maleness of Christ and his Church. The problem these verses create is the reality that Jesus was put into a feminine reality. This also contends with the idea that men represent the god head in authority.

Here is the major question: If male was to be the channel of primary authority in creation, why did Christ in his male biology take a position of a feminine metaphor?

If Christ and the Early Church was so concerned about this issue, they would have attempted to cover up this issue and keep with only masculine forms of wisdom. One way would be to only have King references in connection with wisdom. But the New Testament does not take the approach of hiding feminine influence. In many ways, including this one, the New Testament is very feminine. We must consider the ramifications of a single savior whose existence puts no real weight on His human gender in relation to the practices of His day.

What is your view of Jesus? Is he all male? Or does He transcend gender? What does your assumption mean for your life?