Fellow Evangelicals: Do we no longer tremble before God and his Word?

What exactly do we mean by this question?  Do we need to adhere to a traditional understanding of hell for this “tremble before God and his Word” to make biblical sense?

The reason I’m asking these questions is because this matter about Evangelical Christians no longer trembling before God and his Word was made during a discussion about the traditional understanding of hell—being “eternal, conscious torment”—here.

Personally, I think the real problem is that we so-called “Evangelical” Christians just no longer (as a whole) believe and tremble before God, nor His Word!

This comment was made by Fr. Robert here.  It comes to us as an either/or: We need to tremble before God and his Word.  To do so, we need to either adhere to a traditional understanding of hell, which says that unbelievers, unregenerate sinners, will suffer eternal, conscious torment in hell.  Or if we don’t, then we’re not “trembling before God and his Word.”

So I’m led to ask, Has the cross of Christ been emptied of its power?

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24 Responses to Fellow Evangelicals: Do we no longer tremble before God and his Word?

  1. Brian LePort says:

    @T.C.: This rhetoric often covers for a unwillingness to acknowledge that my own understanding of Scripture doesn’t necessitate the meaning of Scripture. I am not denying the traditional view (nor am I supporting it), but it seems like this is a go-to line that functions better than explaining one’s own views. Rather than saying, “I believe in the tradition view of hell because of A, B, C, and D” we pull the “you’re on thin ice” card. It is as if a threat of heresy should shut up dissenters.

  2. John says:

    Apparently, once the prodigal son realized he was quite lovingly accepted back into his father’s arms there was no need for “trembling.”

  3. John says:

    I’ll even go a step further by stating that the idea of a need for “trembling” is obviously a fear based tactic that has been used quite successfully to control and manipulate. This has nothing to do with the gospel, the love of God, or how to minister in the church.

  4. Craig Benno says:

    I have recently posted about the cross being a sign of God’s love and mercy and not the means through which he forgave us. …

    Jesus forgave the paralytic and said your sins are forgiven… but so that you know the son of man has this authority… be healed. He also spoke about the religious leader and the tax man praying at the temple – how one went away still self righteous and unclean…the other went away forgiven.

    Therefore the cross wasn’t necessary for God to forgive us… rather perhaps its the worst kind of thing humanity could do to God’s son and despite that he forgave us….

    For me – love wins every time.

  5. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    The same Apostle Paul who told believers that they had received the Spirit of adoption by which they cried out “Abba, Father” also told believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling!

    We live with the tension, and trust that the Holy Spirit who indwells us will give us the right emphasis in our worship of God.

  6. revdrron says:

    “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1.17, NIV).

  7. T.C. R says:

    Craig,

    I see your point. But what about the many Pauline texts that connect forgiveness to the blood of Christ? Consider Eph. 1:7.

    Also, Christ could have done what he in an anticipatory manner, which I believe is the way to approach the matter – which the shedding of blood there’s no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22).

    Jon,

    A couples things must be kept in mind here: 1. Paul uses the plural, referring to a community experience. 2. We’re talking “awe and reverence” not “terror and “dread.” Besides, verse 13 is instructive in all this.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      TC,

      1) A community is made up of individuals.

      2) “Fear and trembling” is in your new NIV 2011! (Philippians 2:12)

      3) Passages like Hebrews 12:25-29, whether the words used are fear and trembling, or awe and reverence, should keep us as believers from getting too cosy and flippant in our walk with the Lord.

      • T.C. R says:

        Jon,

        Regarding Phil. 2:12, we’re talking a community experience of being in “awe and reverence,” that’s what “fear and trembling” mean here. We’re not talking “terror and dread.”

        Yes, we should take our walk with God serious, nothing flippant about it.

  8. revdrron says:

    Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!

  9. Bobby Grow says:

    I think when long standing and Traditional beliefs of the Christian Church (from all sides East/West Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox etc.) are challenged in a flip way — as they are being by the emergent church and many evangelicals — then certainly those who are still entrenched in the Tradition, and believe that it correlates with what in fact Scripture teaches; then a somewhat natural response (and thus surprise at it seems somewhat strange) would be that the very Word of God itself is being questioned (not just a debatable interpretation of it).

    It seems to me that Evangelicals, in general, are way to trite about the history of ideas in the Christian tradition; as if with a few simple rhetorical questions, and caricature of the past, all of the past can be contextualized and thus marginalized in a way that it has no meaning, or very little functional meaning for us today. Thus evangelicals feel the freedom to not “reform,” but start all over. That’s the way I read a lot of this.

    So if someone thinks that questioning the reality of hell is happening (as taught by the Church, in the main, for millennia now), and that reality is self-same with Scripture itself; then if that reality is denied or mitigated, it seems perfectly understandable to me why someone would assert that those doing that kind of questioning aren’t “trembling” (attitudinally) before God’s revealed Words in Scripture.

    I think Evangelicals need to do a reality check (in general), and realize that Church history didn’t start the day they were “saved;” since in many instances this seems to be how Evangelicals function and think about the significance of Church history and Historical Theology (w/o really ever interacting with it).

    • Bobby Grow says:

      And thus far, I haven’t really seen any concrete or material and “positive” proposals put forward for rejecting the reality and eternality of hell that satisfies both exegetical and theological components. It’s not enough to do a theology of negation, of course this is the usual MO for “Evangelical” systematic theology (like the via negativa); yet thus far, at least in the context of the whole Bell thing, this is all that has happened. There’s no robust exegetical argument, and no robust appeal to any kind of theological framework (like a Barthian one might provide) that would actually provide something of rigor in this whole discussion.

    • Tyson says:

      I think Bobby’s on to something here. We evangelicals need to appreciate that we received the gospel message largely through a line of transmission. Very few of us could claim to have been saved and learned everything about Christianity without receiving anything from anyone else.

      Even Paul, an early first century Christian and inspired author of canonical books, emphasized transmission. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance …” (1 Cor 15:3) and “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching … And, the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim 1:13,2) If you take these two verses together, Paul imagined a line of transmission that included five generations of disciples! (Peter and James, Paul, Timothy, reliable men, and those taught by reliable men.)

      So, my point and what I think Bobby is also arguing, is that we evangelicals tend to treat tradition perhaps too lightly. I’m not saying that we should never change–God forbid! Thank God that things change and that the Holy Spirit guides His church through the ages. But perhaps it is healthy to be biased toward traditional beliefs unless the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, which it sometimes is.

      Sorry for the oblique answer to your question, T.C. 🙂

  10. T.C. R says:

    Bobby,

    Scripture says that perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). But I’ll stand in awe of God.

    No one is denying the reality of hell. We simply need to re-imaging it. That’s the contention.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      Well when you stand before God someday TCR, for the first time, you let me know if that is a scary thing or just an awe inspiring thing; I actually think it will be both. I think it’s okay to be afraid of God, though; just like I think it’s okay for a child to have a healthy fear of their dad (the kind that produces right action) — so maybe I need to nuance what I mean by fear though. Not an idea of dread, but a realization that He’s God and we’re not! That He holds the world together by His word, and we don’t! It’s one thing to talk about Him on blogs, and such; I think it will be altogether different when we actually stand before Him with sight (for the first time). Like the Living Creatures who bow down to Him saying Holy, Holy, Holy! We’re probably saying much of the same thing, though, TCR.

      No, I think denying the eternality of hell (or suggesting it) is more than “re-imaging” it. To suggest that hell could be something like a purgatory or toll-house is not at least a Protestant understanding, historically.

  11. T.C. R says:

    |I’m not saying that we should never change–God forbid! Thank God that things change and that the Holy Spirit guides His church through the ages. But perhaps it is healthy to be biased toward traditional beliefs unless the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, which it sometimes is.|

    Tyson,

    I do appreciate church tradition. But outside of the holy writ, we’re talking centuries of theologizing by men with feet of clay. Take for example Luther and Calvin, to echo Wright, they’d be glad that we’re seeking to read Scripture afresh. If in the end, we come full-circle to some of their conclusions, including hell, then so be it.

    Be read afresh we must.

    Bobby,

    If the Son came to show us what the Father looked like, then “awe” for sure, but much more – Rev 22:1-5.

  12. Pingback: Elsewhere (04.08.11) | Near Emmaus

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