When friends are delivered from sin into fundamentalism

I’m hoping to write this in a vague enough way so as not to call out anyone specifically, but several people I care about have been delivered from sin into fundamentalism. It seems like certain types of sin, addictions like pornography and alcoholism, lend themselves to fundamentalist recoveries. Sometimes I wonder if the God whom I have experienced and gotten to know would be enough of a hardass to rescue me from a serious addiction if I ever fell into one. Can God be a hardass to some people and not to others according to what we need in our discipleship journey?

When I was a teenager, my grandpa paid for me to have flying lessons with an instructor named Melton Dean. He did a whole lot of yelling which was kind of what I expected from a flight instructor. The problem with it was that it made me scared of situations where I needed to have confidence instead. So when I went out to Victoria, Texas for my pilot’s exam, I failed because I panicked when the examiner put us into a tail spin instead of methodically doing the things that you do to get out of one.

When Dean found out that I had failed, he was flabbergasted. So he talked to my grandpa. And my grandpa said that Morgan is just different from other young men; he doesn’t respond well to getting yelled at because he’s more of a sensitive type; but if you explain to him why he needs to do something so he can understand the logic behind it, then he’ll do it. So Dean took me out again and we practiced tail spins and emergency cornfield landing approaches with calm explanations instead of yelling so that when I did a redo on the pilot’s exam after 30 days, I aced it.

It’s generally been my experience that God treats me more like Melton Dean did after I failed my flight exam than the way he was before it. I tend to be pretty ruthless with myself when I find myself caught in the same sins over and over, but it doesn’t seem to help for me to try to meditate on God’s hatred for my sin. I don’t think it’s because I’m projecting a Santa Claus God in my mind. Honestly, the scripture that He’s used to shape me over the years has just made me fall in love with His mercy and understand my own holiness in terms of how well I emulate that mercy.

When I’m convicted of sin, it’s not because I’m trembling in terror of His wrath against me, but because I feel like a disgusting farce when I try to talk to Him. 1 John 1:10 says that when we are in denial about our sin, “we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” The thought of making a fool of a merciful God is what makes me not want to sin. I don’t want to be the ugly wart on the beautiful body of Christ. I want to be perfectly loving the way He is, and when His grace empowers me to act that way, the gift of those moments floods my heart with joy, though much of my time is spent panting like a famished deer for the joy of my salvation to be restored.

So when I see friends fill their Facebook walls with stern, sober proclamations from Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, and the like about God’s anger at the utter wickedness of humanity, it troubles me and I often suspect that those proclamations are performances that are supposed to prove something. And it makes me mad because I’m as zealous about telling the world how beautiful God is as others seem to be about telling the world how angry God is. And then I look at the New Testament and it’s hard not to see an analogy between the Pharisees whom Jesus accused of being performers and those today who like to talk about wrath and sin all the time.

But many of these Spurgeonites have in fact been delivered from very serious sins. And they do really love God. Do they just need an angry God to persist in their sobriety and deliverance? Is it a phase that they will eventually mature out of or a phase that I have not yet matured into? Would I be more disciplined if I could somehow hypnotize myself into conjuring up an angrier God than the One who has revealed Himself to me thus far? Or is God a tough-as-nails flight instructor for pilots who need that and a gentle, patient one with sensitive guys like me?

So I’m torn because on the one hand it feels obedient to the truth I have received to proselytize other Christians who cling to angry Gods. I do believe I am called to be an evangelist to the evangelicals. But what if what appears like an unnecessarily angry God to me is part of a theological system that another type of person needs to stay clean and healthy? That is my quandary.

47 thoughts on “When friends are delivered from sin into fundamentalism

  1. Pingback: Two very different approaches to internet debate | Mercy not Sacrifice

  2. When Jesus called the disciples he did not yell or treat them with kindness. He just said, “Come and follow me.” When they asked questions, he said, “Come and see.” It was only later as they journeyed with him that he started talking about cutting off limbs and gouging out eyes and hating mother and father and carrying crosses. None of that was yelling. None was at the beginning. But it was all there. I don’t think Jesus was yelling at the disciples or the crowds when he warned them about wailing and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness, but he did warn them.

    My point: I don’t think the choice is between a screaming aviation teacher and a gentle and wooing God. At the right moments and times, God can be both and many other things that we require.

  3. The other thing that strikes me about this post, along with many of the comments, is how much is made of one’s *feelings.* Rather than calling for one’s feelings to conform and submit to faith and God’s revelation of God’s self, it is posited that God conforms to our feelings, and His Word changes based on what motivates you.

    It is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, and no matter how you wish to parse that, we are left to contend with the fact that heaven is God’s throne, and the one to whom this God looks upon are those who are “humble and contrite in spirit and *tremble at my word*” (Isa. 66:1-2). Yet you would seemingly mock those who tremble, and tell them there is nothing to fear. God is just blowing bubbles at you from your bobble-head Jesus on your dashboard.

    I (and I pray those whom you seek to “convert”) will choose to submit to the whole counsel of God – including the parts that don’t make for great blog bits – rather than to my feelings, as difficult as that sometimes is and regardless of my missteps. For far too long I did the latter, and tried to convince others to follow. Morgan, be careful you don’t make the same mistakes.

    • The whole “feeling” thing is a tired out and recycled accusation. I am not going on “personal feelings” even though I am too timid sometimes to say “God has called me to say X” so I say “I feel that God has called me to say X.” I have no problem talking about the fear of the Lord. I have no problem talking about God’s wrath. I have talked about both often. What I have a problem with is when people use their wrath and sin-talk as a performance gesture for justifying themselves because that ultimately mocks God. The point of being made humble and contrite in spirit is to become a merciful person who knows that you are nothing apart from the mercy of God so you become a vessel of that mercy for others. Mercy is not a bobble-head Jesus. It is God’s mercy for those who live under His refuge that is the reason for His wrath against those who think they can justify themselves over against others. What God told me five years ago is what I tell you today: “Go and find out what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.'” And by the way, I am not who you were, so stop making that conflation.

      • So what makes your talk about wrath and the fear of God an different than these “friends” you judge as “fundamentalists”? (and what does that word even mean?) You say: “What I have a problem with is when people use their wrath and sin-talk as a performance gesture for justifying themselves” How do you know they are “performing” something to justify themselves? You know their hearts based on some Facebook statuses??

        Isn’t what you are doing here every bit as much a “performance” for your readers? If you say it is not, why do you not extend the same grace to those whom you disagree with? Why are THEY performing but you are not?

        • Chad, again the whole point of what I wrote, which you apparently just skimmed over, was to concede the fact that I don’t know other people’s hearts and to express my sense of confusion about that. I didn’t know what word to use other than “fundamentalist.” Perhaps it was ill-advised to use a loaded term like that; I could have been more neutral in my terminology. I grew up moderate Southern Baptist; that was the word that we used for the people who took over our denomination who talked a lot like the people who seem to be taking over Methodism today. It’s a word I use for people who say things publicly that seem completely alien to the God I have come to know like ridiculing people for trying to find heroism in the response to the Boston bombings. I don’t know what kind of heart would cause people to write the things I’ve read, but a tree is known by its fruit.

          • So you are a fruit inspector, and the fruit you inspect are the Facebook statuses or tweets of others whom it’s safe to say you probably don’t have much intimate knowledge of. My advice, not that you’ll take it, is stop reading so much, or when you do, try not to think so highly of yourself that you think it’s up to you to save Methodism through a blog post condemning what others are writing.

          • The Lord be with you, Chad. Instead of giving me advice that you don’t think I’ll take, please pray for me that I will be open to whatever God shows me and I will do the same for you.

          • Chad what I wrote in this post was not an attempt to engage you in direct conversation nor to save the world from fundamentalism. It was honest wrestling describing what things look like from my vantage point recognizing that I am needing to confront my blind spots and hypocrisies. Presumably because you felt attacked, you attacked me, and I didn’t respond as charitably as I could have. If you look at the other comments on here, you are the only one who responded the way you did which is why I presumed that you took it personally. I really don’t need to win any arguments with you or be vindicated in any kind of way. I’m just trying to be faithful to my call which has included naming things that are ugly about the evangelical world that I live in. You seem to be on a vendetta against what you consider to be the false gospel you used to preach which you seem to attribute to others as well. Some of what you say is legit but some of it really comes across like you’re trying to out-Driscoll Pastor Mark himself.

            You don’t get to silence me because of the imperfections in my communication. I simply want for the truth to prevail as I know you do also. It would be a lot easier just to sit back and go with the flow. I ask God every day whether He wants me to shut everything down on the blog and just be a pastor to my local congregation. So far his answer has been no.

            Some of your attacks are valid and convicting; other things are caricatures and misrepresentations that just don’t land. But I’m happy that you shared your perspective so that it’s part of what I weigh when I talk to God today. I’m serious when I ask for your prayers. You can even pray that God would show me why I’m completely wrong and you’re completely right as long as it’s in good faith and not just part of scoring points in an Internet debate. I hope that one day we’ll see each other as being on the same side. I don’t know who needs to change more for that to happen but I know that God is faithful if we seek him with all of our hearts.

    • Morgan,
      As I said before, I wasn’t taking this personally, nor did I assume it was all about me (though given our history and your comments I wouldn’t be surprised if it partly is). That doesn’t matter to me. And contrary to what you might think, I have no vendetta against anything. My blog, if you read it, is nothing like this one which reads like a “look at all the things other Christians do wrong” tabloid. Mine is merely a devotional of sorts to help others who struggle with what God has delivered me from, and my Facebook page you would find boring – nothing controversial there, either. A moment ago I posted pictures of fried apple fritters a church member brought over.

      You can hardly call my blog theological, for the purpose of stirring the pot – something I used to love to do, and how I loved the AMEN crowd! They made me feel like God was on my side. I rarely read your blog, nor the blogs of others, and couldn’t even tell you what Mark Driscoll is doing, nor do I care. I have a wonderful family and church and a vibrant ministry and life here in Dayton, TN. I’m very blessed, and fortunate to have all that I have by the grace of God.

      If all this makes me (or your “friends”) into “fundamentalists,” then so be it. I’d rather be a fundamentalist freed from the bondage of sin then a progressive blogger angry over his past evangelicalism.

      I’ll do us both the favor of bowing out. Feel free to use any or all of this in your next post.

      • I’m glad things are going well for you and I’ll check out your blog not to troll you but because I imagine God will have something to teach me there.

      • Bram, in a big way, yes, it is. I am not saying feelings are bad, only that they need to be informed by God’s word. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked (if you believe Jeremiah) and our feelings are not to be trusted. This is why we are called to walk by faith (what God has said and done) and not by sight (which would include our feelings, which rise and fall and change).

        And yet the fear of God is not *just* a feeling, it is much more than that – it’s a lifestyle (a walk) which we do so out of submission and obedience to God. Jesus, for instance, did not *feel* like going to the cross (Father, if you will, take this cup from me) but did it anyways (not my will, but yours). That, I would say, is a perfect demonstration of walking in the fear of God.

        • So if Jesus’ walk to the cross is a good demonstration of walking in the fear of God then what you’re saying is that “fear” for you does not involve *being afraid of* God. Jesus’ obedience wasn’t a result of being afraid of the Father. As Hebrews says, He did what He did “for the sake of the joy set before Him.” Earlier you seemed to be making the argument that if we’re not afraid of God, then there’s something wrong with our discipleship. Being *afraid* of God is the posture of the third servant in the parable of the talents who tries to find the safest possible response to His master’s command. Being in loving awe of God and truly desiring His will is Biblical fear.

          • Fear is not about being “afraid.” Nor is it as simple as just being in “awe of God” in the same way I might be in awe of a rainbow. That does not properly describe biblical fear. Steve Gallagher, the founder of Pure Life, says it best, I think, in his book, “Living in Victory.” I am choosing to share this only because you have shown a huge bias towards “that place” (as you have often called it) and towards me for, it would seem, submitting to something I have since come to believe is true. And Morgan, as someone who spent 7 months in “that place” and had all the same biases as you before going there, I’m telling you, you couldn’t be more mistaken today. Steve writes,

            “I can respect God, not just because He has the power to hurt me, but because, in spite of that power and the fact that I have endlessly provoked Him, He has been kind to me. Jesus said of God, “…He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35) As this kindness, in the face of my rebellion and ingratitude, becomes more real to me, a deep reverence begins to form in my heart.

            Fear is the sense of being overwhelmed. One aspect of our fear of God comes from being overwhelmed by His kindness, mercy, and love. The deeper the revelation of God, the deeper the sense of being overwhelmed by His goodness. It is in the light of this understanding that we see the words reverence and awe as accurate synonyms for fear.

            Another thing that creates fear of God is the realization that it is only His grace that keeps us from falling back into the pit He pulled us out of…fearing the Lord means fearing the loss of His grace that keeps us from our sin. It means fearing a separation form Him and being left to oneself.

            The man who really knows God fears being separated from Him. He might struggle with tempting thoughts about things he has done in the past, but the thought of returning to that old way of life strikes dread in his heart. That man knows only too well what life without God is like. Despite all the alluring temptations, the thought of life outside God’s presence is frightening… Those who have never been broken by God usually have little fear of Him.”

          • You’re projecting a lot onto me, Chad, and I know I’ve done the same to you. Why do you say things like “you couldn’t be more mistaken today”? I don’t see anything disagreeable in this passage that you shared. Absolutely, being overwhelmed and fearing the loss of God’s presence is a better way of describing Biblical fear than “wonder” in the sense of wow, what a cool rainbow. My fear of God is the desperate longing for his presence described in Psalm 42; I hate whenever I do things that cause me to lose sight of His face. Are you willing to consider that I might actually not be the pre-Pure Life Chad? I am trying to recognize that you haven’t somehow become the fundamentalist bogeyman from my Southern Baptist youth.

          • Morgan, I’m not the one writing blog posts projecting some form of “fundamentalism” upon so-called “friends.” You are. I say you couldn’t be more mistaken because as the quote I shared, which you agree with (and I’m glad you do), essentially makes this entire post a straw-man, would you not agree? It is why when I read it I just shook my head thinking, “He doesn’t even know me, nor does he seem to understand the thing he has so much anger towards.”

            Your bias causes you to make statements like, ” I am glad you haven’t been straight jacked into putting on a performance of correctness.” Who is “putting on performances”? And how on earth would you know that? Why isn’t your post a performance of your own “enlightenment”?

            If you agree with Gallagher’s “fear of God,” than you essentially agree with the “fundamentals” of Pure Life – and yet your posts seem to rant against some contrived boogie-man that YOU are running from, not me. Are there people out there who have a crazy view of God and cling to their fears of him over His love for them? Sure! But so what? In the end all of us are probably more wrong than we are right. Fear God, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. That’s all I am striving to do.

            and that’s all I gotta say.

          • Well if you’re feeling vindicated is beneficial to your sanctification, then God be with you. I’m not going to argue any more.

  4. As a former teacher, I have to say most people respond a lot better to kindness and logic than fear. And for those who don’t? I always felt my job as a teacher was to get them to the point where they could see that what I was doing was in their best interest and to respond to kindness. I didn’t want to be stuck in that place with them where everything was based on threats and rewards. I feel the same way with my children. There are times when they are small when logic doesn’t mean a lot. You may have to use your will to overpower theirs. But no one wants a child to remain in that position. Ultimately, we all want our children to respond to our love and kindness. We want them to see that we want the best for them and it hurts to get them to do things that are for their own good solely out of fear.

    • Right. The God we follow is a teacher who wants to help us understand him to the best of our abilities. When you’re a teacher, the time when you discipline kids is when they’re creating a distraction for themselves or others but you don’t put them down and call them dummies and yell at them.

  5. Morgan, I stumbled on this from someone sharing it on my FB page and I couldn’t resist to see what you were attempting to say here. Against my better judgment I’m leaving a comment.

    You open by saying these are “friends” whom you “care about.” I can only assume that we use the words “friends” and “care” very differently. Because if these truly were friends you cared about then I’m sure you have had one-on-one, heart-to-heart discussions about this concern of yours, would you not? And having had those discussions, and given how much you love to share what you write, there is no way you could be “vague enough” so as to not tip off the fact that you are talking about them. Sorry to disappoint you, but if these are really friends you care about, they know you are talking about them. But you aren’t stupid, and you know this, so it leaves me to conclude that you are being disingenuous about these really being “friends” whom you “care about” and have not really engaged them at all, apart from using what little you know of their lives as a subject for your blog.

    And even if these were friends, how do you know their hearts to such a degree to know they faith is wrapped up in an “angry God,” one which your post pits against the God you seem to know and understand? Based on your post, all it takes is for someone to quote Spurgeon a few times on their Facebook page and you have slapped a label on them, already sized up what sort of person they are (fundamentalist) and judged them. And why? Because they might dare to take seriously the plethora of scripture referencing not ONLY God’s love, but also His wrath? You are aware that the founder of our church, John Wesley, required only that a person show a “desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from all their sins” to become a member of the Methodist societies, right? If in your mind John Wesley was a fundamentalist based on this criteria, then should I (or anyone) be bothered by the fact that they are, too? Or care that *you* think they are?

    Your “calling” to “proselytize” evangelicals comes across sounding arrogant and prideful, in the same way, I imagine, it would sound if an “evangelical” said it was there calling to proselytize gay Christians. The difference here is, you seem to care less about the fact that people have been delivered from the bondage of sin and death and more that they would come around to think like *you* do about God. Which begs the question: Who, really, is the fundamentalist here?

    In the end, this sounds like a long re-enactment of Luke 18:11 – “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

    • The reason I can’t engage this is because you started with the presumption that this whole thing was just a personal dig on you. Just as I don’t know a whole lot about your personal life, you don’t know a whole lot about mine. You don’t know who my friends are. What if instead of reading this as a passive-aggressive personal dig on you, you tried to see genuine wrestling with how I should live in a body of Christ with people whose experiences of God’s deliverance and journeys through scripture have given them drastically different emphases in how they talk about God? I didn’t say that I wanted people to come around to how I think about God. I’m trying to reconcile what I have been called to share with how I should engage people whose God I cannot hypnotize myself into believing in. If it’s making them joyful, holy people who don’t depend on tearing down others for their sense of spiritual security, then it seems like I shouldn’t be kicking over their sand castles. So the point is the opposite of what you’re depicting me to say.

      • What in anything I wrote makes you think I’m presuming this is a personal dig on me? If this were about me, I would presume you would have talked to me about it before writing a blog about it, as a friend who really cares would. Furthermore, I don’t fit the mold you are putting these “friends” of yours in. I’m not even a friend of yours on Facebook, so you aren’t seeing my statuses (unless your stalking me), nor have I ever quoted Spurgeon (that I can recall – but I do like him).
        And if you are not wishing to bring people around to how you think about God, what are you trying to do here? What does it mean to you to “proselytize evangelicals”? Do you think they are unsaved?

        • Yes, I do think people remain unsaved who have not been crucified with Christ because they think that justifying faith consists in a tough enough feeling set of opinions about God. And I see Satan’s poison everywhere in the Christianity that I grew up in which now it seems like a furious group of zealots are trying to turn Methodism into.

          • wow. we’ve gone from some “friends you care about” who were freed from sin but now quote Spurgeon on Facebook to calling them minions of Satan, spreading his poison. So at least be real: Theirs is not a faith which could potentially be “a phase that I have not yet matured into,” as you say in your post, but a faith you detest, and seem to have no problem judging as beneath you.

  6. I know quite a lot of folk who have come to faith via very fundamentalist churches, having been addicts of one sort or another, after a sudden dramatic experience of God. They tend to join that church, and do exactly as they are told by the pastor and go along exactly with the image of God which the particular church has. These ex-addicts dont do any work on the reasons for their addiction, they are often discouraged from going to 12 step groups, and most of the people I know in this category just cross addict to something more acceptable to the church they are at. May be food, exercise, excessive Bible study, other study, or simply addictive service to the church in question. It is very very sad. These people really dont understand the love and grace of God, and the churches they attend arent helping.

  7. I think, for me, that I would be perfectly happy with people who see God as they need to in order to understand him where they are at as dictated by their past, personality and current situation in life. I think that’s the Holy Spirit’s doing…if we’re going to have God reside within us it make sense it would mold itself to each individual. God didn’t give us learning styles and personality types so he could torture us with our depravity.

    Where I draw the line is when people take what they need, their perception and perspective and create doctrine out of it. When men who are sensitive, or who are quiet thinkers who do not make rash, quick decisions, men who do not argue their point in conflict well or who are not into sports, hunting, black coffee and other ‘manly’ things are told they are not enough because they don’t look like everyone else.

    When we fail to see the value in others who are not like ourselves, we fail to be Christians. And by value I do not mean ‘what someone brings to the table to get stuff done for the church’.

    So when people post angry messages written by theologians they respect because their style resonates with them but put them forth as if they should be and ARE truth for everyone it is generally nothing more than an attempt to devalue those who disagree and promote more value to self by getting pats on the back from those who agree.

    The same thing goes for pastors who post tweets about how they believe Jesus is going to come and destroy the earth and that’s why they drive an SUV. Or for pastors who make fun of others in order to get laughs from the pulpit.

    Those are tactics used by children who feel vulnerable and unworthy to numb the fear and shame and stoke their egos. Some kids just don’t grow out of it.

    So I guess I don’t know what exactly to do about your quandary except to say that perhaps it isn’t the method of fundamentalism that is the problem, but that living it often goes hand in hand with treating others as less than.

    • I don’t think I saw this earlier. I really appreciate this thoughtful reflection. It does indeed come down to how we live out our different convictions about who God is.

  8. People are motivated by different things some people move best moving away from things and others towards things. I know myself that I don’t respond well to negative stuff but I do move towards things…the God of fear doesn’t move me much but I move towards love. But I think too when people feel terribly out of control structure and security and rules can feel helpful…the concern is when the rules become bars and imprisonment. But in the end life is a journey and a lot of love and tolerance are in order.

    • I think that’s the way I am with regard to my own sin. It’s more that I move toward something attractive than that I get scared into moving away from things that are harmful.

  9. Oh man, I can really relate to this one, even though I am not a fundamentalist. Like other people who come from a family history of alcoholism, I was delivered from depression by finding a fairly strict structure of rules for myself. This is not something you should envy or want to mature towards, I think what it means is that I’m still vulnerable and feel that things might fall apart again without that structure.

    That being said, I do not spend any time judging or condemning. Other people have different needs, and they might not need the same kind of guidance that I do.

  10. I’ve noticed this phenomenon too, and tend to agree with Dr. Tony. I will also say that many of the people I know who became Christians later in life and turned to fundamentalism had very chaotic childhoods, marked by instability, neglect, and unreliable parents with addiction issues. Order, law, and clear consequences are calming to them and perhaps necessary to their developing faith, just like structure is to developing humans. Where I have come with it is that I don’t have to argue with them about it–just love them where they are and live out our lives and relationships in full view of them. Hard to preach about grace and mercy when we’re laying the smack-down on people we consider to be strident legalists.

    • That’s exactly the hypocrisy I struggle with. Am I really seeking to be an evangelist whose purpose is to help others fall in love with God or do I say what I say in order to fall in love with how much more enlightened I am. Self-justification is the demon that I’m always having to root out of myself.

  11. Liberty … referred to a “half full” perspective of God amongst fundamentalist (presumably because they place such a focus on an angry judging God. But to only see the mercy “1/2” is also lacking in the full picture. Mercy without including justice/judgment or the reverse are in fact both ½ truths. A long time good friend and mentor Dr. Charles Farah (God rest his soul) who was in the theology dept. at Oral Roberts University and wrote the book “From the Pinnacle of the Temple” decrying the imbalance of the prosperity gospel always said that when you emphasize one truth or a part of a truth at the exclusion of the other you are in heresy country. God is a merciful God who has and will also bring severe judgment – He does this because He loves us and knows that to continue in sin only destroys us. He does this out of love – not anger.

    • Yeah I definitely believe in God’s judgment and experience it quite frequently. The way I experience His judgment though is simply to see my sin clearly. It doesn’t feel like He’s angry with me so much as perfectly truthful. It’s like light showing up and exposing something I wanted to stay in the dark. The anger happens inside of me. I get angry with myself when I’m repentant and with Him for being truthful when I’m in rebellion but I never can persist in the latter state for very long because he won’t let me rest.

      • Just have to say that when my dad told me the truth about my “sins” I listened and that is about all. But when he busted my bum (in love not anger) along with informing me of the truth – that was when a change in my behavior came forth. Truth is great, but if there are no consequences for failing to employ truth, often than we care to admit, it leads nowhere. No great philosophy here just basic human nature. PS I did note in my 1st comment that He judges us out of love – not anger.

        • I hear what you’re saying. And I’ve had my bum smacked by God too. It’s usually when I’m flying really high and mighty and I make a complete fool out of myself and have to go crawling back to the altar to say okay you got my attention, I forgot that I’m nobody without you holding up. Will you pick me up yet again?

  12. Such a great question, Morgan. I don’t see how a God who describes himself primarily as a God of mercy in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:6-7) and a God of love in the New Testament (John 3:16; 1 John) can ever primarily be referred to as a God of judgment. Yes, he does judge, but judgment and anger are his strange work. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    I think our fundamentalist friends (and I was a fundamentalist for 25 years) have a less-than view of God rather than a more-than view of God. In my experience, fundamentalists can more clearly state what they think God is against rather than what God is for. This is a half-full perspective that can easily make us prone to judging others and ourselves more harshly than does God.

    Perhaps part of the problem is that the fundamentalist, angry God makes sense to us as people. That’s the sort of God we would likely be, and he mirrors the type of people we encounter in the world. But if our image of God makes sense to us–and if it taps into our deepest fears–it is likely because that God walks and talks just like us. The mind-blowing truth of the gospel (in my understanding) is that God became a man like us, yes, but he fried the circuits of the religious leaders of his day who had boxed God in with legal hedges and merit-based systems. They thought he was less than their systems of legalistic righteousness and condemnation, but in fact he was so much more than what they could conceive in their religious models of salvation.

    Grace softens people, it doesn’t make them tough as nails. Grace softens us because we no longer have to be afraid, hiding behind a shell of synthetic perfection, but instead we can live lives of open gratitude and generous love.

    For these reasons, I will continue to evangelize fundamentalists with the gospel of grace. No one needs to tell me anything more about judgment which I haven’t already discovered on my own.

    • I really believe that grace softens people. It just seems like my spiritual growth has been a process of becoming less and less sure of myself as I become more and more confident in Christ. Some convictions do become stronger, but I feel less inclined to need for God to be perfectly consistent and submit to my logic.

  13. Could it be that those who come to Christ after living in sin are apt to be wanting to know what to do. Fundamentalism offers a very black and white/right or wrong approach that we all need. I don’t think that there is anyone who hasn’t gone through that level. But the question arises, are they willing to grow in the faith? That takes them beyond the fundamental level and into a more mature and understanding level.
    To borrow from your story, you were taught on a fundamental level how to get out of the tail spin. But because it was taught at a basic level, you weren’t able to deal with the actual test. Only after further study were you able to succeed.
    I think we all start at the fundamental level but we need to push beyond that level if we are to grow in Christ.

  14. I would venture to guess that there are people who would respond to a gentle, patient God (like me) but who have only heard about an angry, wrathful God all of their life and therefore feel oppressed and chained would respond positively to evangelism that focuses on how much God loves them and could actually feel freedom in Christ. So be true to your calling. I know it wasn’t being yelled at (or even gently talked to about) regarding sin, wrath, Hell, etc. that caused me to become Christian. It was just being told that God is there, He loves you, you don’t have to perform for others your “righteousness”, etc., that finally moved me to accept Christ into my life.

  15. I’m like you. I respond a lot better to kindness and logic than fear. Fear makes me want to hide, and my fear-based religion I had for years drove me into more and more prescription medications which, thankfully, I’m finding I can come off of.

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