posted by Carl Medearis
Categories: All Articles, Carl's Thoughts, Videos
Israeli – For The Sake of The Gospel
Jesus Wasn’t A Christian
Is Allah God?
The Word “Christian”
Sometimes Jesus Stood Alone. (And, Sometimes You Should Too.)
The Hard Sayings of Jesus
I’m So Sorry
I enjoyed hearing your perspective on this issue. I have not read Rob Bell’s book, and I haven’t read most of Piper’s books either. One of your final questions, “Does it really matter for us whether there’s a hell or not?” Yes, for me I think it’s a crucial matter. I don’t know that I’m motivated by fear either.
It matters because Jesus talked about it quite a bit – warning people not to take the broad road that leads to destruction. Warning the rich in this life. Warning the hypocrites. Warning the people who are unmerciful to the poor and still do things in Jesus’ name. If Jesus hadn’t thought hell was a terrible place that His listeners should avoid, then I would have been relieved. But He seemed to have some knowledge of the place, and He was really concerned that people forsake sinful ways (“Gouge out your eye–save the rest of your body.”).
I’m not saying that I agree with that pastor who says that if there’s no hell, then the church, the cross, et. all are useless. Jesus did so much more than die and rise again, yes. But I think salvation from sin, death, and hell is so much more glorious because He has paid so high a cost to rescue me from eternal damnation – the wages of my sin. I also believe – because the Bible seems to assert it – that God receives glory through His triumph and judgment over the devil, his angels/demons, and the people who have chosen the way of destruction. He is worthy to exercise condemnation of evil persons. He is also worthy to save evil persons like me. Because He’s amazing.
Gotta actually read the book.
Like Jeremy, I also haven’t read Bell’s book. But I think you are too quick to dismiss what he says (when you say, “Gotta actually read the book”). He isn’t responding to Bell or Bell’s book or Bell’s ideas. He is responding to your question, the question you ask in the video, the question he heard when he watched.
So while it may be good for us to read the book, one doesn’t need to read Bell’s book in order to seriously engage with the question you pose.
Therefore, it seems that out of respect you too should seriously engage Jeremy’s response.
Thanks Carl. A couple thoughts.
1. Could it be a straw-man argument to say that people claim the ONLY reason Jesus came was to die? Could you provide one example of someone saying that?
Certainly though, the central reason Jesus came was to die- that is hardly disputable (and we’re not minimizing the importance of the life of Christ). See Christ Crucified as the Very Heart of our Message. 1 Cor. 2:2.
2. I’m sure you didn’t you mean to say that you don’t need to care about someone’s eternity in order to love them? (I’m sorry if I misunderstood you.)
Wouldn’t it be unloving NOT to care about eternal matters? It seems to me that even a superficial reading of the Gospels shows Jesus motivated and motivating others by eternity (e.g. Matt 25:41-46, Mark 9:43, etc.). I agree wiith JEREMYLANDES above. We need to follow the example of Jesus and learn from him.
Notice also how Paul was motivated, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (1 Cor. 5:11). (Obviously, there are different kinds of fear.)
Paul, following Jesus, teaches to live with this eternal perspective in mind (Phil 1:18-26).
John (the “apostle of love”) certainly talks a lot about the final judgement (e.g. Rev. 20:11-15). John understands love (John 3:16) because he understands wrath (John 3:36; 1 John 4:10).
We should be compassionate like Jesus and care about people holistically; for their life now and their life to come. I think Piper is right when he says, “We care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
So, yes, what we believe about eternity is a primary motivator of how AND why we love people.
Hey guys. First of all, no disrespect at all towards Jeremy. He’s a good friend and a wise man!
I was simply trying to keep this on Rob Bell’s book itself. But you’re right to feel free to critique my own ideas….
I think I’ll stick with the thesis of my video – why is this such a huge deal for people? What happens when we strip away the issue of a heaven or a hell – does it change our motivation for sharing the gospel? Are we motivated by fear of something or hope for something (but not here and now and both unknown – since they happen after we’re gone….we can’t “know” them in an empirical way).
I think that’s still a fair question! carl
Hi Carl, Here is a well cited write up on the issue. http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110412 I’ve noticed through watching a few of your videos a theme of making light of theology and “just following Jesus.” I agree that following Jesus comes first but I would add that when we follow Jesus He straightens out our theology. Right understanding (orthodoxy) is essential to right practice (orthopraxy).There is a purpose and need for the heavy exposition of the faith laid out by Paul in his letters to different churches.
All this said, God’s word tells us that there is greater judgement for teachers of the faith (James 3:1). Just my belief, but i would be weary of giving any kind of teaching/commentary/instruction without having really studied more theology. Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology would be a good starting point as you continue to have public influence regarding the faith. Or even better maybe some part time classes at a seminary that is centered around Scripture.
I write all of this out of concern and love, Jason
If one thinks that if people can be saved outside the church then the church is no longer needed, then there is something wrong with the church he goes to, and something wrong with his reasons for going. What is needed in this debate is a rethinking of the concepts of saved, condemned,heaven and hell. There is plenty of hell on earth from which right-thinking and right-acting churches are the salvation for millions. That does not mean that there is no punishment after death, after all, if justice prevails there must be punishment and reward–or forgiveness for the truly repentant. But we can conceive of justice, mercy and love operating in religion (our church and theology) without conceiving of the traditional heaven and hell that unfortunately makes up the backbone of traditional Christianity. Churches can be a heaven, now, for down-and-ourters
Thank you Donald, this is the most thought provoking sentence (or two) I read in a long long time:
“What is needed in this debate is a rethinking of the concepts of saved, condemned,heaven and hell. There is plenty of hell on earth from which right-thinking and right-acting churches are the salvation for millions.”
Thinking about Christ’s mission of salvation from the current-life hell is something which makes my head spin in very very strange (and encouraging) ways. Thank you!
Admitedly – the ramblings of a lost soul (but found at the same time – that’s the dicotomy).
Christ died to save us. From what? Social injustice? The Mundane? Insignificance in the vast context of eternity and the universe? Eternal seperation from the presence of God? or…
E. – all of the above?
If these 70+ years are all we have in this conscious space, then what truly lies beyond?
We have light – we’ve been given that already and it seems most expedeient to simply trust in the word we have, rather than to question and re-invent.
1 Cor. 2:1… When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
So…should we not then rest in what we have been given and share the same as we have both opportunity and guidance?
I believe it is, in your words: “Such a huge deal,” because hell is a real place– as is heaven. Jesus spoke of hell and warned people of the dangers of ending up there. God thought it was worth mentioning time and time again throughout His word? Why would you want to strip away an issue of which God chose to make men aware?
I’m also concerned by the title of your website:
Making Jesus Accessible.
Is this your job? Or does He need your help to be ‘made accessible?’
It concerns me that you seem to think it is. I may be misunderstanding your motivation, but without further explanation it smacks of arrogance.
Just a first pass here, but eager to hear your response and be corrected if I’ve misunderstood…
not sure why you think that I think there is no heaven or hell?
What I’m getting at here is the motivation behind the issue. Jesus did that so well, which is why I feebly try to do the same.
And…why would we not want to help people have access to Jesus? I’m probably as confused by your comments as you were by mine. I think if you spend time on this site you’ll find my views fairly clear. Everyone needs Jesus. And when they clearly see Him, they often want to follow him….just like in the gospels.
I recently led a group of college students to Turkey for a few weeks. The first training I gave was this: In your next conversation, try to tell this person why following Jesus is the best option for your life, without citing the afterlife as one of your reasons. We practiced on each other, and one of the men said (significantly), “I just can’t do it without eternity.”
He may be right – perhaps it is just not possible to share Jesus without mentioning eternal destiny. But the reason I gave that training was to address the major issue among students in that country. I believe the biggest lie they believe about God is this: He was at work in the past (through the stories from the Qur’an), he will be at work in the future (on Judgment Day), but he is not at work in the present. He may exist, but he doesn’t really do anything right now, and there’s not a lot of benefit to following him now. That may be why we don’t see many especially religious youth there. If the entire value for knowing God is based in the future, then why seek him now?
The good news is that the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, under which we experience him and his blessings, is at hand. It is available to be experienced right now. It will ultimately be experienced at the resurrection, the marriage of the new heaven and new earth, in Revelation 21-22. But in this Kingdom, under the rule of the Messiah, is where we can experience freedom from the fear, guilt, and shame that enslave all of mankind and receive the free gifts of power, blamelessness, and honor before God. In his death Jesus experienced the first three; in his resurrection he experienced the last three, and offers them to us freely. I believe those rights are given not automatically to all people but by faith to those who believe.
It is enough that Jesus’ death rescues us from hell, whatever exactly that is. But I don’t think that truth alone addresses this major lie being believed about the work of God in the present. Jesus gave us not only doctrines and teachings but the Spirit, by whom we can demonstrate God’s powerful work in the present. We can’t demonstrate a person going to heaven instead of hell – we can’t see it happening. But we can demonstrate a person being rescued from guilt, or shame, or fear, or the flesh, or pride, or whatever, by the power of the Spirit. That’s something we can observe and share with hurting people. I believe this is why Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 10 not only to preach the good news but to heal. In their healings, they demonstrated the truth of what they were preaching – the Kingdom of God is at hand. I don’t think the disciples would have had a hard time preaching the gospel without the afterlife, because they were giving people a reason to believe that knowing God is valuable in the present.
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