Hell, Heresy and the Holy Bible

12 12 2008

 

I can feel the tension already...

I can feel the tension already...

First off, to those of you who tuned in to hear the discussion about video games that are violent, that swear often, or that generally you wouldn’t want to play with your pastor?  That’s coming.  Don’t worry.  I still have a lot to say about it, and I’m excited to write it.  But something has come up and I feel it is of more importance and interest for right now…Perhaps tomorrow I will write the other post.  Stay tuned for that.  However, even if you typically only read my blog for the gaming news, it’s still a worthwhile topic, and I would love for you to chime in on it.  

Now, back to what I came to write.

I finished listening to This American Life‘s most recent podcast, entitled “Heretics,” but minutes ago.  The story is about an influential evangelical preacher, named Carlton Pearson, who as of a couple years ago, started to doubt the existence of hell as presented in the Bible.  Now this is a man who has committed his entire life to preaching and spreading the gospel.  All of his life he was taught that there is a heaven where those who accept Christ go, and a hell for those who do not.  Hell is a fiery, terrible place with weeping and gnashing of teeth, and it is eternal torment.  

Now, before I continue, allow me to preface what I will continue writing:

1) When I write this, it is not to convince anyone.  I don’t expect (nor do I want) you to believe what I say because I say it.  I have no authority to do that, nor should I.

2) What I write, you may agree with or you may not.  I don’t hate on you on this blog, so don’t be hating on me in the comments.  I’m all for vigorous discussion about the topic, but by posting a comment, you agree to discuss the issue, not the people writing the comments.  I mean, if you need to, feel free to flame me up and down.  I can take it.  I mean, I’m writing about it. 🙂  But don’t stifle someone just because they disagree with what you say.  Let’s discuss it like adults and pray that the truth is made clear.  (Because after all, it will set you free.)

3) Before you read this, you really should do yourself a favor and (if you want to comment, even though I’d love it regardless, you really NEED to) hear the This American Life piece first.  You can download it (or just click to listen to it) HERE.  I’m going to present some of the information, but really, this discussion really only works if you know what I’m talking about.  And This American Life is really a wonderful show in general.  I recommend it anyway, regardless of their topic, as it’s presented well, and always entertains.  Seriously, did you click the link yet?  Do it.  Now.

Okay, that said, let’s dig in.

So, as I said before Reverend Pearson was a very influential preacher in the Pentecostal sect of Christianity.  He believes fervently in the liberal and modern version of that sect, (in the Oral Roberts tradition,) that you need not be poor or self-flagellating to be a true Christian.  You just need to love Christ and accept him as your personal savior.  

At least that was what he believed.  Until recently.  Now, Reverend Pearson had a huge megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called “Higher Dimensions”, which regularly drew in crowds of over 5,000 a week.  His preaching is of the soulful, powerful, southern-evangelical style with  a bellowing voice and charismatic, emotional conviction in his delivery that can really move a congregation.  

Until recently.  You see, one evening, after eating with his kids, while watching television (a news program on the Rwanda/Uganda genocidic wars, the aftermath, and the ongoing crisis) Carlton Pearson felt disgusted.  He could not reconcile his belief in a loving, caring God, and the same God that would allow atrocities like those he was hearing about in Africa to continue, all the time, all over the world.  What he saw as the greatest contradiction, was that most of these people who died in this crisis, would end up going to hell, because they had denied, or in Pearson’s opinion, worse: had never heard about Christ and therefore had no chance at salvation.  He felt that a God like that “was worse than Hitler” because “Hitler burned 6 million, but God would burn more like at least 6 billion, and forever.” 

After talking with God about his inner conflict, he felt that God was telling him something different than he had ever believed through the church.  That God had already saved everyone.  He had done so through Christ, yes, but that his sacrifice was final, and fully and entirely inclusive.  That everyone, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist-straight, gay, bisexual-EVERYONE goes to heaven, because the price has been paid.  It didn’t matter if you accepted Christ, Pearson reasoned, because it was done.  Whether you knew it or not, you were saved.

Of course, the program goes on to detail how Pearson was instantly labeled as a heretic; made a pariah by those who previously lauded his efforts and faith.  We learn about how most of his staff left his church, and how his congregation, that used to top 5,000 a week, became less than 200 people.

So, the question you and I are faced with, is this:  Does hell exist?  In fact, we can disregard a portion of this theological quandry by saying this:  It doesn’t matter if before Christ, hell existed, because if what Pearson says is true, then practically speaking, for you and me, hell doesn’t matter anymore.

Now, I’m quite certain that I would get a large readership by not saying any more–by leaving the question open (and I do leave it open for discussion, but…)  But I’ve never been the kind of person to do that.  Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I would still like to tell you what I think about it.  Because honestly?  Why would you come here and read what I write if you cared nothing for what I thought?  Mind you, I’m not saying I hold all truth within my head or something.  I may or may not be wrong.  We’ll find out in the end, of course.  But, for whatever it is worth, I humbly present my take on this story:

First, it is important to note that Pearson does not wholesale disagree with the Christian church, as known by most practicing Christians.  He believes in the personage of Jesus Christ.  He believes that Jesus is our only hope.  That without him, we are eternally separated from a perfect, loving, and caring God.  However, his main distinction is that you don’t need to accept Jesus for that salvation.  It’s like someone paying the bill at a restaurant.  That regardless of whether you want me to or not, if I pay the bill, it’s paid.  You don’t have to believe that I did it, nor do you have to want me to have done it.  You can reject that I paid the bill, and go on living your life as if I did NOT pay the bill.  The fact remains that the bill was paid and duty was satisfied.  I disagree with this.  However, before I get into specifics, let’s draw some more distinctions, to make things more clear.

Rev. Pearson also believes that the bible has errors, due to the structure of how the bible was put together and written.  He believes that because fallible men wrote it, and fallible men decided upon what was and what was not canon, that this makes the bible, by definition, fallible.  However, I also disagree with this.  My personal belief is that the bible is, in its entirety, inerrant.  It contains no errors, and no mistakes.  It is God’s very word, spoken to humans, yes, through humans, but the distinction is that this word was divinely inspired.  “How can we know this?” you may ask.  And of course, I don’t have definitive proof of this.  There is some faith involved.  But it is not blind faith.  There have been many good arguments put forth on the veracity of the Bible, and strictly speaking from a scholarly standpoint, there is practically NO text that has more historical support, more internal and external evidence of its veracity, and with more extant copies of original texts, or statistically-significant-ly closely dated texts to support itself.  And please, do not take my word on this aone.  (On the flipside, don’t take your own doubt as proof either, if you disagree.  Research it.  Find the truth for yourself, and then make your decisions.)

Most of his claims about hell not being relevant or even existing are outright contradicted by the biblical texts.  Rev. Pearson himself agrees with that.  His belief is founded upon the idea that the bible itself has errors and that many of the things that seem to be literal, are actually, not so.  He gives no other support to his claims other than his own intuition and personal study, and his own conversations with God  (again, at least not in his sections on the This American Life program).  I find this suspect.  While certainly, his position is understandable, and while I can see where he is coming from…his logic is flawed in the manner that he has no substantiation to his belief.  His is a very blind faith.  I do not say this in jest, or to mock the man.  On the contrary, I respect very much his desire for truth.  However, I feel that his own emotion and desires have clouded his judgement.

He doesn’t see how God can be loving and care for his people, yet just and fierce and fearsome at the same time.  It doesn’t make sense to him why people who are “good” can go to hell.  But just because we don’t like something, or because it doesn’t feel good, doesn’t justify rearranging the facts to suit our desires and beliefs.

And while it is certainly a charged word, heresy definitely fits the bill here.  But before we say “oh, that’s a mean term!” let’s examine the definition.  Dictionary.com says heresy is: 

1.    

       a. An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established        religious beliefs, especially dissension from or denial of Roman        Catholic dogma by a professed believer or baptized church         member.
       b. Adherence to such dissenting opinion or doctrine.
2.    

       a. A controversial or unorthodox opinion or doctrine, as in             politics, philosophy, or science.
       b. Adherence to such controversial or unorthodox opinion.
So, it’s pretty cut-and-dried.  
Whether one likes it or not, heresy is the correct term.  Now, some who agree with him may take it as a badge of pride.  Some may liken Pearson to Luther, who rebelled against the conventions of the established Catholic church of his time.  And most certainly, at the time, Luther preached heresy.  And his heresy became mainstream and accepted orthodoxy by many sects of the Christian faith later on.  But the term remains correct.
So again, the question remains: is there a hell?  Of course, no one has been there and come back to tell us (regardless of what Bill Wiese says), so there’s no way to be certain until we’ve arrived at heaven, hell or something else.  So the only place to look for hints as far as what is true, are the documents that talk about hell.  
In The Old Testament, we have verses talking about “Sheol” or the darkest pit, referring to “the grave” or the place one goes after death.  In the New Testament, Jesus often speaks of Hell.  One of his most clearest illustrations is found in Matthew 25:31-46.  He says quite plainly that when “the Son of Man comes in his glory” (the title “Son of Man” was a term Jesus used often in reference to himself) that “all the nations” (which can also be translated as “all the people”) will come into judgement.  And that they will be separated into two groups:  Those at God’s right hand; meaning those who accepted him and receive God’s blessing and protection.  And those on his left; meaning those who rejected him, who did not heed his words (and in the context of the passage, did not care for the needy).  

About the latter group, Jesus himself  quite plainly states: “they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” 

That sounds pretty plainly like heaven and hell to me.  

Here’s my point:  Whether or not Reverend Pearson is correct, we won’t know for certain, until we face the afterlife.  We can only act upon what we do know, and the best research and soul-searching we can do.   However, the true contradiction is that Pearson claims his beliefs fit into Christianity, and that he himself, is a Christian.

However, his beliefs, by his own words, are contradicted by the words of Jesus Christ himself.  You cannot be in opposition to Christ, and be with Christ at the same time.  “If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand.” Yes, this is a verse from the Bible, but more importantly in this instance, this is a simple logic statement:

You can’t have it both ways.  

What Pearson proposes certainly could be true.  But if it is, it’s not Christianity.  And I’m not simply talking about bickering about semantics and a religious system.  I’m simply saying that what Pearson preaches is antithetic to what Jesus himself taught.  Therefore, by definition, it is NOT Christianity.  This is where the heresy is greatest and where, I feel, Pearson needs to make a hard decision.  He likes the “religion” of Christianity, and founds his faith on the idea that salvation is necessary.  However, if Christ was false (and if he ever was false, even once, then he cannot be a perfect being, and therefore most certainly could not be God in the flesh!), then he is saying that he himself rejects Christ as God.  And from what I can tell, this is exactly what he does claim.  That God is God, and that Jesus was simply a sacrificial lamb, used by God as a tool to save mankind.    But if that’s the case, then it only works if Jesus was perfect.  Which again, brings us to the contradiction of how can Jesus be perfect, if what he himself taught was untrue? (And let’s not even get into the logical fallacy that is even bothering trying to believe in the God of the Bible, if you don’t believe that the Bible is trustworthy…)

Look.  I know this is an insanely long post.  But if they exist, Heaven and Hell are pretty much at the very top of the “important” list, and deserve a little thought and time to digest and discuss, right?  I mean, if Hell possibly exists.  Even just possibly.  Then it’s worth taking some time (and over 2500 words) to write about.

So, what do you think?  

Discuss (again, in an adult-like and conscientious manner, people!) in the comments.

And as always, my deepest thanks for reading.
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24 responses

12 12 2008
Dan

While the theological considerations you discuss in your post are certainly the heart of this matter, I feel the need to ask a more practical question: If it’s true that the death and resurrection of Jesus paid for *all* sins and every single person is truly saved now and forevermore, what exactly is the point of the church? To encourage those who believe (even though they don’t need to) to strengthen their walk with Christ (which seems rather pointless) and to show the love of God to others (who are saved anyway)?
For that matter, what is the point of living life? If we are all guaranteed eternity in a blissful paradise why should we muddle through this corrupted world full of pain, sorrow, and doubt? Yes, we could try to show other people the truth, even though it doesn’t really matter in the end. Maybe we could change someone’s life drastically for the better, but that rather pales in comparison to eternal heaven (guaranteed for all). Perhaps the only truly useful thing a person could do with their life would be to have as many children as physically possible so that more souls could reach heaven, though at the cost of requiring them to suffer through this world for no reason other than to procreate.
I may be reading too far into his teachings, but as I see it, Pearson’s doctrine results in certain unavoidable conclusions: this life is, in final consideration, meaningless; his teachings, while accurate, have no purpose; heaven will be substantially populated with those who used their lives to spit in the face of God; and the true purpose of human life is to reproduce and die as evolutionists have been telling us for a century. In short, Pearson’s version of Christianity is one that I cannot imagine a loving God subjecting us to.

12 12 2008
Shadow

Speaking as an official heretic myself, I’ve always been fond of the following quote, although I no longer remember who said it originally:

Because I believe in the Bible, I am sure that there is a Hell; because I believe in G-d’s mercy, I am just as sure that it is empty.

To get back on topic: I’ve heard some interpretations of the Bible that explain that “Hell” isn’t the traditional place of fiery pits; it’s just anyplace outside the presence of G-d, because compared to those within His love being excluded is Hell. But I digress, because your question isn’t what Hell is like, but whether it exists in the first place. So: Clearly anyone who believes that the Bible is the “inerrant” word of G-d — not filtered through mankind’s translators or prophets or interpretations or other foibles but, word-for-word and cover-to-cover, the actual Word of the Almighty as He intended it — must also believe that there is a Hell. So I think what you’re asking reduces to whether I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of G-d. Which, as you and I have discussed elsewhere, I do not. So whether I personally may or may not happen to believe that Hell exists is, I think, essentially irrelevant to the issues that you wish to discuss.

I will say that I don’t personally share Rev. Pearson’s beliefs, nor can I imagine any devout Christian (which I certainly am not) doing so. I have never found it appealing to believe that horrible evil wicked people can get into Heaven (assuming Heaven and Hell exist), any more than I find appealing the thought of otherwise “good” people being condemned to Hell for holding mistaken beliefs (which is, I think, a central tenet of most major religions). Rev. Pearson evidently believes that everyone is going to Heaven, and “everyone” certainly includes mass murderers and rapists and other horrible evil wicked people. All I can say is that I sure hope he’s wrong.

12 12 2008
otakudad

I entirely agree, Dan. That’s kind of my point (and where my “And let’s not even get into the logical fallacy that is even bothering trying to believe in the God of the Bible, if you don’t believe that the Bible is trustworthy…” comes into play). Although I hadn’t gotten all the way to the conclusions that you’ve come to, I entirely agree with what you’ve said. And beyond that, if his logic behind his beliefs is: “What kind of God could allow such brutality and terrible things, and then on top of that, send people to hell?” Then what kind of God gives people hell on earth before giving everyone the same good ending? That seems like torture at best, and at worst, simply a God who is entirely indifferent to his creation, seeing them only as playthings.

12 12 2008
otakudad

Shadow, first off, thanks for bringing your thoughts to the table. I appreciate it. I wonder, however, if the problem, then is with the church itself and its doctrines. Because, the way I know it, is that heaven and hell is not a matter of “good” or “bad”. Because the bible states “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And if that’s the case, then we’re all destined to hell, save for salvation.

I entirely allow for the possibility that Christianity has it wrong. I mean, I believe it, but I also recognize that I’m operating (and we all are) on incomplete information. And given that situation, anyone’s belief is going to have an element of faith. It’s simply a matter of how justified that faith can be. But again, my point is that I think the church has described hell as “where bad people go” and heaven as “where good people go” instead of hell being “what everyone deserves” and heaven being a positive alternative, that only requires asking for entry. The Bible is actually quite clear on the point that everyone deserves hell because no one is perfect. And the only reason that heaven cannot allow imperfection is that God is himself perfect, and therefore any association with sin makes him not perfect, which is contradictory and therefore God would not be God. So, propitiation is required to pay the debt for sin, hence a messiah situation, heaven is possible, etc.

Now, whether one believes that or not, of course, is a different story. And if one does not believe in the bible being truth, then of course, there’s no reason to believe in the salvation promised in that book either. So I completely understand that aspect.

12 12 2008
Laurie Hollister

This is my FAVORIYE type of blog post… one that actually gets me thinking without people completely ripping each other apart in the comments.

This has been a question I have struggled with for as long as I can recall.. does God punish those who were brought up to believe anything else than Christianity. I personally believe is more than one path to God. I think as long as you follow what he asks, to love one another, to be a “good person”, he loves you and accepts you into Heaven.

As a parent, can you imagine shunning your child? God is our father, he would not shun us.

Just my 2 cents.. I could talk about this all day!

12 12 2008
Edgar

I’m with Shadow on this one. The real question would be whether or not the Bible is true. If it is, John tells us that JC died for our sins. Matthew tells us to go and teach all nations. These two become the manual to walk the earth and tell everybody about Sin, Jesus’ redemption, and eternal life in Heaven.

People and religions that teach we’re all going to heaven are a waste of time. Even if I don’t believe in what they do, I’m still going to the same place as they are. Why bother?

Check out our: Afterlife 101 post.

12 12 2008
Shadow

Caveat: although I have read large chunks of the Bible — both Old and New Testaments — I have never read it in its entirety, so I apologize in advance for any erroneous statements I make in that regard. (Nice of me to judge something without having read all of it, eh?)

> Because the bible states “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And if that’s the case, then we’re all destined to hell, save for salvation.
> The Bible is actually quite clear on the point that everyone deserves hell because no one is perfect. And the only reason that heaven cannot allow imperfection is that God is himself perfect, and therefore any association with sin makes him not perfect, which is contradictory and therefore God would not be God. So, propitiation is required to pay the debt for sin, hence a messiah situation, heaven is possible, etc.

I have no difficulty agreeing that everyone sins at some point and to some extent, because no one other than G-d is perfect. I was not aware that the Bible taught that everyone was doomed to Hell for that particular reason — I thought it had more to do with the Original Sin in the Garden of Eden, rather than G-d’s presence not admitting the slightest imperfection. Question, then: If the real issue is not Original Sin but our own individual sins (which certainly makes more sense to me anyway), then why, theologically speaking, cannot individuals make their own penance for their own sins? The Bible teaches that G-d loves and G-d forgives, yes? I do not understand why a loving, forgiving G-d would be “imperfect” and therefore cease to be G-d if He were ever to love and forgive (and subsequently “associate with”) anyone who had sinned (i.e. everybody).

Please let me know if I’m misunderstanding this. If an otherwise “good” person commits a sin and personally atones for it (via penance, restitution, whatever), that is not good enough to erase the imperfection: he/she is still a sinner, G-d cannot associate with him/her, and he/she is doomed to Hell. But if an otherwise “bad” person who commits a billion sins accepts and believes that Jesus died to save him/her, it is good enough to erase all of the sins and he/she will be admitted into the presence of G-d. That just troubles me.

Getting back to the “good v. bad” idea, I prefer to think of the afterlife (if there is one) as being fair and just rather than arbitrary, one in which G-d rewards the “good” with Heaven even if their religious beliefs are errant. I will freely admit that what I prefer to believe is based on (1) the belief system with which I was raised, and (2) what I find personally comforting. And I wholeheartedly agree that we all have incomplete information, and that no one can actually know the truth until after death. (I’ll also admit that, logically speaking, I really ought to hedge my bets by converting — after all, if I’m right, a “good” person will go to Heaven regardless of beliefs. but if you’re right, then I’m in big trouble.)

One final clarification: I have said that I do not believe the Bible to be the “inerrant” word of G-d. This does not mean that I think the Bible is necessarily false. I waffle quite a bit on whether I accept the Bible as generally true, but I was raised to believe it and more often than not I conclude that yes, these things may have happened… but the Bible itself was interpreted and reported (and in some cases even distorted, whether intentionally or unintentionally) by mankind.

Here’s a remarkably silly example. (Not one that I happen to believe is accurate; I submit it purely for illustrative purposes.) You know the verses in Genesis that speak of “firmaments” and such? Suppose that G-d was using some incredibly goofy advanced technology like a force field. (Hey, G-d can use whatever He wants!) When the prophets receive their visions from G-d, they’re not going to know what the hell a force field is. So they say “firmament.” It’s still an absolutely true vision, but the words are the words of mankind, not of G-d. Thus, the Bible can be generally true and accurate without being the actual words of the Lord Himself. In other words, I allow for a “fudge factor.”

12 12 2008
Karl

OK here’s something I’m just thinking about.

God is this hugely powerful being, and he, you know, has this amazing plan to save humanity. How did he not save everyone? It seems like a salvation plan that doesn’t save everyone is incomplete, and, well, God isn’t supposed to do things that are not perfect. Further, if God made this salvation plan incomplete, I don’t see his love for the people that don’t find the right religion in time. It seems sort of random.

13 12 2008
Donna Eisner

Haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, Lare – nor am I a theologian, but let me simply state – with apologies to Ray K – a “Donna E” understanding of the topic – to say,
Yes, Virginia . . . there IS a “hell.’ ”

Since the creation of man, we have never known a moment without the presence of God. Inhumane, gut-wrenching and disgusting consequences in life – to the “innocent” AND to the deserving – are generally due to the imprudent or selfishly defiant use of man’s free will or to the basic struggle of living things engaging with this planet. Even in the choices (or happenstance) of where we live on earth – whose weather and geological functions are affected by the uneven heating and cooling of the Sun – some have it better, much better, than others. Curiously, by the eyewitness account of many people, there IS someone who can choose to control these circumstances for His own purposes, circumstances neither you nor I in our most benevolent and self-sacrificing intention can even influence, much less “control.” (I can’t even control my own thought processes most of the time, for goodness sake.)

I guess it would go without saying that this “being” could do all things exactly as he wished them to be done and that He wouldn’t owe anyone an explanation because, I mean – who could relate? For that matter, who’d dare argue?!! And, there’s the inherent understanding that with that power would come a kind of wisdom as to how things really work in this world, some things man will never fully comprehend on his own . . . because we’re human, not “super-human” like this being. (How arrogant to assume we’re the end-all, be-all of power and wisdom, no? Or can you control a windstorm or use your spit to heal blindness? When’s the last time witnesses saw one of US speak someone back to life?) Humans aren’t perfect. Even when we want to be in control, we blow it. And even when we think our motives are pure and unselfish, there’s that little corner of our heart that’s self-protecting and still filtering the consequences. But this all-powerful guy, He is the definition of Life and Love? So . . . maybe when I see starvation and murder and deceit and devastation . . . there must be a bigger picture that is in the hands of this beyond-human being.

As hellish-looking as life on planet earth can be – I, for one, do not wish to experience even one moment when there IS no presence of that entity, of God. This is what I understand Hell to be: Eternity that is “existence,” but not Life . . . or even light. Utter darkness. Fear. Endless regret. Confinement. Powerlessness. Forever hopelessness. Torturous misery that causes me to WISH I could end it, to “die” – but being unable to bring that about. Utter torture without refuge. . . Sissyfus to the bajillionth power.

Do I NEED to understand how this perfect being operates? No. I don’t even need to know WHY He does things His way, WHY He allows inexplicable things to take place . . . but I sure want to be in His camp when the lights go out. And they will – for all of us. I find it amazing – that this God would even deign it an option to stop and tell US why . . . to even stoop to explain Himself . . . to purposely immerse himself in our misery to prove what He already understands about the depravity of earthlings. If He is light and life and love and sustenance and protection and truth . . . where He IS NOT, then, would truly be “Hell. ” And so, to paraphrase my original statement: Mankind has never known what it would be like to be in a place devoid of God . . . but the One who proved His power over everything that SEEMS like hell on earth has spoken of a real, much WORSE situation – an existence devoid of Himself. He’s given up everything to keep us from experiencing it. We’d be wise to listen.

I mean, really. Thank GOD He cares.

13 12 2008
Donna Eisner

Shadow –

Hi. I really didn’t intend to get more into this blog than I already had (got company coming in a few hours and we’re in a mess!), but I couldn’t NOT respond to your post. I used to struggle with that same thing – “What if I’m sorry and I correct my error, then I’m aces, right? I mean, I’m TRYING!!!” But if, indeed, it’s really a totally different criterion that matters – that “Sin” is not the causative agent, it’s the symptom – then I’m screwed. I’m human and humans are fallible; well-intentioned or not, we sin. I can try to stop being a bad person, but there’s nothing I can do to stop being human!

If I’m not of the substance (purity) that would be my “ticket” in, nothing *I* do will make it so. If someone’s willing to pay the price – someone who DOES have the right stuff to get me in . . . which I can’t (pun-intended) humanly pay – it makes sense to hear him out.

And, if this same someone has proven by his deeds – not only of beyond-human accomplishments, but by his self-sacrifice to the point of death – he’s either (as Josh McDowell would say) a liar, a lunatic . . . or the Lord God in the flesh. Historical accounts leave no doubt that Christ existed. Witnesses attested to his miracles. Even specific “predictions” hundreds of years before they were fulfilled confirm this dude’s position. So, if he’s brought the goods, maybe we should be listening to what he has to say . . . and HE said there was no other way to The Father but through himself. Not only did he put his life where his mouth was (he willingly walked to his death for our past, present and even regretfully FUTURE sins (intentioned and UNintentioned; that’s how danged HUMAN we are!!!) – but WITNESSES SAW HIM ALIVE for days AFTER he was buried. (Not visions of him – HIM: walking, talking – he invited these folks to stick their fingers in his nail-pierced body, he visited with them – and he even ate dinner with them.) Even what we would pass off as insignificant detail in the bible supports scientifically that he WAS dead. Witnesses spent time with him after that and he was ALIVE. (Kind of lends credence to everything he said about himself . . . and about us as humans.) We CAN’T fix the wrong that is humanness. “No one’s perfect.” Unfortunately, unless we have someone perfect to stand in our stead, we’re not going to be with Truth and Light and Love and Bread and Rest for eternity. Impurity’s not allowed in that place. But the One who PROVED who He is wants us to trust Him to get us there . . . for no other reason that he loves us enough to die for us. And he needs to know our belief is not just a “yeah, I believe that” kind of way. (Even the demons believe that Jesus was God in the flesh . . . but because they refused to live like that mattered, to submit to His ways and to stand up for Him, He rejects them. ) Christ even said that even being lukewarm about it was evidence that we weren’t “all in” – to use a poker term. (For me – the supreme skeptic about all this “religious mind candy” – the only way I could be “all in” was to really start digging, to really look for answers. And I – who used to get angry and repulsed by any God-talk – came to realize that I DO need a Savior . . . and He was waiting all along for me to find Him.

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