Hell Under Fire

In their 2004 book, Hell Under Fire, general editors, Christopher Moran and Robert Peterson write,

A business was opening a new store, and a friend of the owner sent flowers for the occasion. The flowers arrived at the new business site, and the owner read the card, inscribed “Rest in Peace.” The angry owner called the florist to complain. After he told the florist of the obvious mistake and how angry he was, the florist said, “Sir, I’m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry, you should imagine this: Somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note that reads, “Congratulations on your new location.”

They then add,

Hell is under fire. In one sense that is nothing new. It has been the case ever since the Enlightenment, but the past fifty years have seen a noteworthy turn of affairs. Attacks on the historic doctrine of hell that used to come from without the church are now coming from within.

If we believe the message sent by the contemporary media, the “new location” of everyone who dies is heaven. At first glance, popular polls seem to disagree with that conclusion, for they reveal that a large majority of Americans believe in the existence of hell. However, the same polls show that almost no one thinks that he or she is going there. Everyone hopes for heaven.

Most remember how celebrity preacher, Joel Osteen, side-stepped Larry King’s straight-forward question:  “What if you’re Jew or Muslim and you don’t accept Christ at all?”  (Begin watching at 1:16)

Like Osteen, I do not enjoy talking about what the Bible calls hell.  I wish it wasn’t in there.

But it is.

Further, it’s not my call to address a clear teaching of the Bible based on how I feel about it.  To quote Luther – “I am bound by the Scriptures…and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the testimony and example of Jesus, himself, who not only talked about hell,  he talked about it a lot.  (cf. Matthew  23:33; 25:41; Mark 9:48; Luke 12:5)  Search the gospels and you’ll discover Christ talked about hell more often than heavenno doubt as a dire warning to those who would reject him.

If Jesus fails to get our attention in the gospels, the last book of the Bible, Revelation, clearly describes the final destination of those who choose to reject Christ as the lake of fire.

Based on the clear testimony of scripture itself, even a cursory reading of the New Testament presents the existence of hell as fact in crystal clear fashion.

There is simply no getting around it.

Certainly, one may try to explain it away or ignore it.  But choosing to twist a clear, biblical doctrine into something that better suits our mere human logic, reason and intellect doesn’t remove  or lessen what Jesus says about it.

Recently, I ran across an article written as a warning to church leaders titled, Question the doctrine of hell at your peril. It could tear your church apart.

The author, Sam Hailes, cites the demise of celebrity pastors, Carlton Pearson, Steve Chalke and Rob Bell, as well as alleged recent statements by the Pope.  He rightly asserts,

For many Christians, questioning the existence (or nature) of hell is tantamount to denying the gospel. “If everyone goes to heaven, then what was the point of Jesus dying on the cross?”

I will confess to you: there are things in the Bible I do not understand and, as such, I wish were not in there.  But, I’m not God.  My logic is fallen and corrupt while he is perfect, holy and righteous.

Hailes also does a wonderful job of helping the reader to have compassion on, and pray for, those who would attempt to rewrite scripture – including church leaders.  No one in their right mind loves the biblical doctrine of hell.  Nonetheless, as Hailes bluntly writes,

Some things are true whether we like them or not.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Pause – And Think About That…

The Hebrew word, “selah,” found repeatedly in the Psalms is thought by scholars to be an ancient musical term used in the Hebrew psalter meaning, in essence, “pause and think about that.”

The following is worth  pausing and thinking about.

In the first century, the church had no spot-lights, smoke machines, electric instruments or sound systems. Not once is it remotely suggested the leaders were concerned with fashion or creating an “atmosphere of worship” by dimming the lights. I could go on.

But, somehow – void of all modern-day trappings of Christian worship – and under horrifically intense persecution – the church exploded in growth and influence.

No soapbox here. Just an observation. nw

Christianity & Philosophy

Philosophy can quickly become a black hole of circular reasoning. To most, it can sound like needless gibberish about the ethereal and existential.

However,…

Mature philosophical dialogue  teaches us to think deeply

Those moments spent in careful, disciplined thought and debate prepare us not only to speak intelligently about various topics, but to be able to be articulate, in crystal clear fashion, our convictions – without once sounding defensive.

Philosopher/professor, Paul Copan, is sometimes asked who his favorite philosopher in history is. He replies, “Jesus of Nazareth.” This usually prompts surprised reactions from people who counter, “Wow – I never thought of Jesus as a philosopher.”

But he was.

Certainly, he was so much more. But Christ was the greatest philosopher to ever walk the planet.

In his book, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?, Copan cites another brilliant philosopher, Douglas Groothuis, who presents Jesus of Nazareth as a rigorous philosopher. Groothuis defines a “philosopher” as

one having a “strong inclination to pursue truth about philosophical matters.” These philosophical matters include “life’s meaning, purpose, and value as they relate to all the major divisions of philosophy”—especially the areas of knowledge (epistemology), ultimate reality (metaphysics), and ethics. A philosopher’s task is accomplished “through the rigorous use of human reasoning and . . . with some intellectual facility.”

Can you even begin to imagine sitting around a campfire with Jesus Christ listening to him talk about the meaning of life, the existence of God, the cosmos, objective morality, absolute truth, etc?

The Hebrew imagery behind the repeated biblical command to “meditate” upon the Word of God carries the idea of: wrestling with, analyzing, testing and sorting out intellectually.  In short – to think deeply.

Like Copan and Groothuis, William Lane Craig is a brilliant philosopher (all three men are Christians). I saw the post below by Craig and thought it well worth passing along.

Learn to think deeply. nw

God or the Multiverse?

God or the Multiverse?  Which one requires more faith?

To all students having the multiverse presented to you as truth (or as the best option for the origination of life) I encourage you to watch this brief, 5 minute presentation by Brian Keating, Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego.

He poignantly quotes the sharp-witted, British apologist, G.K. Chesterton, who once quipped,

“When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

Mankind will go to extraordinary leaps of faith to embrace philosophical and/or scientific alternatives just to avoid the possibility of the Bible being true.

Former atheist, Lee Strobel, stated in a tweet:

Watch Dr. Keating’s presentation below.  Think deeply, Nick

 

The Exorcists – A Word about Demonic Possession

I remember the first time I saw young Linda Blair’s head spin around in the 1973 monster-hit (pun intended), The Exorcist. It scared the you-know-what out of me.

I’ve professed my faith in Christ since then. And that, according to the Bible, changes everything. Powerfully.

The Daily Beast recently published a story on the Vatican’s Exorcist Convention.  You can read the story here.  The article  interests me since the conference has “grown ten fold” since the annual event began in 2004.

Whenever demonic possession is a topic of discussion, almost always what people believe is based not on scripture, but on Hollywood films and/or someone’s creepy story.

Sadly, this applies to many professing Christians as well.

In short, the “father of lies”, as Jesus called him, perpetuates “fake news” wherever demonology is concerned.

Years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers, Chuck Smith.  He wisely said,

We cannot allow experience to become the criteria for truthTruth comes from the Word of God.  Allowing the Word of God to be our final authority frees us from being forced to judge which conflicting human experience is true and which one is false.  So we rest our case on the Word of God.

So, to the Word of God we go….

According to the Bible:

1. Satan is real, making his biblical debut in Genesis, chapter 3, in the form of a serpent. By the way, he makes his exit in Revelation 20:10.

2. Demonic possession is real.  Demons are not the invention of Dante – they are real, sometimes called “wicked…unclean spirits,”   There are a seven passages in the gospels recording specific scenes of Jesus casting out demons.  Most of these scenes are commonly recorded by Matthew, Mark & Luke.  (Interestingly, only the first three gospels mention Jesus exorcising demons.)  Then, there are numerous passages describing, indirectly, Jesus’ authority over demons – as in having “cast seven demons out of Mary Magdelene,” “he also drove out many demons,” etc.  “Professional exorcists” describe dramatic events during exorcising. Are these events possible? Sure – almost anything’s possible. (And Satan, a consummate narcissist, loves the attention.) But, we must always be careful to make scripture – not contemporary stories or Hollywood – our primary authority on this topic.  Although the Bible clearly records the demon-possessed, at times, convulsing,  possessing supernatural strength and even speaking from the possessed individual, not once does it record anyone’s head spinning around. 🙂 Although the origination of demons is ambiguous scripturally, their destiny, according to Jesus, is clear.

3. The Bible never once gives us permission – or even encourage us – to seek Satan out. The old saying, “If you go looking for trouble, chances are you’ll find it,” applies. It is a fool who seeks to pick a fight with our ancient foe, who is a brilliant strategist, master manipulator, and is keenly aware of our many flaws and weaknesses.  Believers tend to forget that Adam and Eve enjoyed a level of intimacy with God that is beyond our comprehension and, yet, were still fooled by the deceptive expertise of the serpent.  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, records that even the archangel, Michael, chose not to pick a fight with Satan (apart from the Lord’s authority to do so) but rather rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ.

4. Lastly, no church or denomination need “authorize you” to cast out a demon should that moment ever present itself.  With humble respect to my Catholic friends, attending a conference is not necessary to be equipped to face Satan.  Further, should that encounter ever arise, it will not be necessary to call a Catholic priest – since the Bible clearly states all believers are priests. Believers were “authorized” the very nano-second Christ took up residence inside of you. We’re told not only that Jesus cast out demons, but that he gave authority to his followers to do the same. Just as his followers were given authority over Satan, so are we today. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that “demons tremble” at the mere thought of Jesus. And it’s on Christ’s authority – and his authority alone – we are able to command evil spirits. (Luke records an unsettling, if not comical, story in Acts 19:13-16 of those foolish enough to face Satan without Christ’s authority.) Additionally, contrary to how it’s portrayed in movies, note that every single time Jesus cast out a demon there was no lengthy “street fight between good and evil” – not even with the “legion” of demons.  Jesus commanded. And the terrified demons immediately obeyed (sometimes pleading for their lives). As I mentioned above, never go looking for a fight with the devil. But, bought with Christ’s blood and filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to run away from one either.

I’ve been asked, “Can a Christian be possessed?” I usually smile and reply, “Oh, but Christians are possessed.”  I continue, “The Bible tells us we’re possessed – by the Holy Spirit, which is God, himself. We’ve been purchased – ‘bought with a price’, Paul wrote. And that price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We can’t be ‘re-possessed.’ We’re ‘off the market.’ Besides, no demon would ever even attempt to possess us – they’re terrified of Who lives and reigns in us.”

Jesus said, “Satan has no hold on me.” Neither does he have a hold on us – God’s children.

I once visited with a former satanic high priest who had finally professed his faith in Christ. He told me,

“Nick, I saw evil on a very powerful scale while I served Satan in the priesthood. But I must confess: never – I mean, never – did I behold real power – terrifying power – until I met the almighty Christ.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

A Legacy of Biblical Defense & Faith

Josh McDowell (left) is a former atheist and has been teaching the Biblical faith to teens and adults for decades.  His son, Sean, has followed in his father’s footsteps and is, himself, a gifted theologian and defender of the Christian faith. Sean presently serves on the faculty of Biola University in southern California.

Below are linked two recent, brief articles by both men on why Christianity is an intelligent, reasonable faith.

Josh, as usual, writes in an extremely intelligent, reasonable and articulate fashion – as he does here in this FOX News article. Read the article here.

Sean, equally intelligent and eloquent, offers evidence of the overwhelming reliability of the New Testament here.

May the words of these men encourage and strengthen you in your Christian faith.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Bible: Gospel, Guide or Garbage?

Linked for you here is a dialogue between New Testament scholar and theologian, NT Wright, and Harvard philosopher, Sean Kelly, as they discuss one of history’s most influential books – the Bible.

It’s an audio link only (no video) and is over an hour in length.  Whether you listen in “small bites” or “swallow the entire dialogue whole”, please consider listening and thinking deeply about what is said.

I have in my library Wright’s 700 page classic, The Resurrection of the Son of God. It is heady, but a rewarding read.

The audio clip is just below the photo at the top of the linked page.

You can access the link here.

Enjoy, nick