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Fear versus Trust
In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
I've noticed sometimes reading your updates that you seem to be truly puzzled about why people use "inflammatory language" so much in response to your articles. I have to admit this always used to catch me off-guard too. After stirring up the Roman Catholic hornets' nest with a couple of my own articles earlier this year, I came to give this some prayerful consideration. Some people wrote things suggesting it was hate literature, while others considered them to be really quite mild articles and a "breath of fresh air" so to speak.
Then I realized what the problem is. There are two possible bases that underlie every decision, either trust or fear. In most matters, the trust decisions are the good ones. I suppose one could say that fear of walking in the street leads to a good decision, but the other side of that coin is trust that the cars won't come up on the sidewalk.
When you challenge a fear-based "faith", you get an angry reaction. Let me give you a few quick examples:
FEAR that if you use a version other than the KJV you'll be in trouble, versus TRUST that any good literal version accurately depicts the Word of God.
FEAR that if you don't associate with the right denomination, you'll be damned, versus TRUST that Christ deals with people as individuals.
FEAR that if you do not speak in tongues, you will not go to heaven or suffer other loss, versus TRUST that believers exhibit different gifts from one another.
FEAR that we need an infallible old man in a costume to interpret our Scriptures, versus TRUST that even if we are incorrect on a non-essential, Christ will save us given that we have come into relationship with Him.
FEAR that we must associate with the oldest, longest lasting denomination and accept all of their unscriptural traditions, versus TRUST that the Bible really does tell us all we need to know.<
I'd like to add one:
FEAR that one will lose their salvation, verse TRUST that one is eternal secure in the grace of God. I'll explain why I'm adding this one below.
>So, what I'm saying is, if you disagree with someone who is secretly afraid they are wrong, or is living in a system that is based on fear, you're going to get a pretty nasty reaction. It may not sound fearful at all.<
I agree with you perfectly here. The one point I would add is that I also believe people react harshly when their beliefs are challenged when they only have an emotional basis for them. If one has a strong factual basis to his faith, then challenges are not so upsetting.
> Last week you will recall we received a letter of disagreement with the article we wrote together on pre-marital sex. This elicited a calm reaction from the two of us and we gave the person's points some thought.... It is not a fearful thing for us to be challenged, because we work out our faith in the knowledge that we are God's, and even if we go to the grave with an error in the non-essentials, Christ will still keep His promises to us.
Romans 8:15,16 says, "For you* did not receive a spirit of slavery again for fear; on the contrary, you* received a spirit [or, [the] Spirit] of adoption [i.e., the formal and legal declaration that we are His children] in which we cry out, "Dad [Gr. "Abba"], Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit, that we are children of God" (ALT).
I have to wonder about the faith of people who are still enslaved to fear to the point that they spew anger and vitriol at people who present a different view, calling them "pagans" and so forth.<
So do I.
>I have found in my own teaching that I have moved very much into the "trust-centered" approach. I still of course preach the reality of hell, but for discipling in particular I try to teach people to lean more and more on God, and entrust Him with their all.<
That sounds like a very good approach. Fear is not a good basis for faith.
> I gave a sermon a couple of weeks ago about repentance, faith, security and sanctification, which did have the "or else" element in it. At the end of the service, as people were filing out, a stranger leaned in close and said, "Listen, young fella, if you're going to give an altar call, you tell them what'll happen if they don't respond."
I thought that suggestion over, and I thought of every false profession I've come in contact with, and found that they had all been based on fear. FEAR that if they don't make some kind of lip service to God, they'll go to hell, versus TRUST that Jesus really is the Savior and it is worth living our lives in the manner He commands not only for our relationship with Him but for our own well-being. I guess what I'm saying there is, "fear" might start a person seeking but only "trust" will enable them to stop seeking. Trust that they have found what they need in Jesus Christ.
Anyway, Gary, just some odd thoughts on it that have helped me to better understand why people react the way they do. I was going to publish an article on this, and I may even get to yet....
The above is pretty good as is. If you don't mind, I might post it on my site. It fits rather well with what I have been going through lately.
Several weeks ago "Carl" e-mailed me, disagreeing with about eternal security. His first two e-mails (which I received at the same time) were written in all caps. So I politely responded to him asking him to please stop SHOUTING at me. I also referred him to my pages on eternal security where I dealt with some of the verses he had referred to.
Then he e-mailed me back, still shouting some, with a long list of verses which he claimed disproved eternal security. It would have been nice to have responded to each verse and to have posted the exchange on my site, but I simply didn't have the time. So I e-mailed Carl to that effect. But that wasn't good enough for him. So ever since then, Carl has been e-mailing me, and stills shouting at me some, at least a couple of time every week for several weeks now.
In one of his e-mails, he said he was e-mailing the Webmasters of other Web sites, telling them how I *couldn't* respond to his objections, as if this was supposed to somehow upset me. I responded that it wasn't that I couldn't respond, but that I simply did not have the time. But, again, that wasn't good enough. So the flood of e-mails continued. So I just sent him the following e-mail:
In the past several weeks, I have had to tell several people that I didn't have the time to respond to their questions. In every case, that was the end of it. You're the only person who has been so rude as not to accept the simple fact that I was too busy to respond.
I had thought of responding to your earlier e-mails if I ever got the time--but not now with the way you've been shouting at me and pestering me. I made it a "rule" a long time ago not to waste my time responding to belligerent people. So if I do decide to write on the subject of eternal security further in the future, I will use the verses off of an Arminian Web site rather than respond to your e-mails. And don't waste your time e-mailing me further as you e-mails will go straight into the trash un-read. As I said, I don't have the time for belligerent people.
Unfortunately, Carl is still harassing me with e-mails, using two different last names and two different e-mail accounts. But I have long since stopped reading the messages. Such rudeness is unbefitting for someone who claims to be a Christian.
In any case, as I told you previously, I decided to finally buckle down and get back to work on the Analytical-Literal Translation. Other than the updates I made recently to the "stage two" books, I haven't really worked on it since I got my new PC over four months ago, so I'm way behind on it! But since "buckling down" I've gotten stage two done for several more books.
So I think it would be best for now to concentrate on the ALT and forgo writing new articles for my site, along with forgoing getting into length debates with people. It is simply too time consuming. And I really do want to get at least the NT finished as I've had quite a few people requesting it in hardcopy format.
In any case, I don't know if Carl would fit into your "fear" category or not. Or maybe he is just an insecure person who has a strong need to puff himself up by "proving" other people are wrong.
But whatever the reason, it still sad that people who claim to be Christians can't deal with disagreements in a godly manner, or to accept simple things like someone telling them they don't have time for a lengthy debate.
I will be publishing an article about some of this "fear vs. trust" stuff as you said, so it might be nice for people's appetites to be whetted through an e-mail exchange.<
Sounds good. If you do get the article written and posted, let me know and I'll provide a direct link to it from the end of the e-mail exchange.
>I do have an answer on why people like Carl get so hot over eternal security, and it is a fear reaction. I faced this with "extreme prejudice" a couple of months ago.
1) Your faith is such that you can know that you are going to heaven.
2) Carl's faith is not such that he can know for sure that he is going to heaven.
3) To Carl, that means someone's faith has to be invalid.
4) Fear prevents him from considering that it might be his.
I got into a discussion on all this with my singles class, and on the fly I had a few changes in my thought process.
It would be incorrect to state that fear never makes for a good decision. Fear can lead to an excellent short-term decision, but only trust can lead to a good long-term decision.
For instance, fear of getting squashed by an oncoming vehicle leads to a good decision not to pass on a blind hill. But the fear has to pass and a trust decision has to take over. When you can see there is no one in the oncoming lane, the fear decision has outlived its usefulness and now we need to trust that we can make the pass.
Similarly, fear of a meaningless existence on earth or a tortured existence in the afterlife can make one seek God, but once He is found, that fear needs to be replaced with trust in God. (You know, I can't say that anyone who does not believe in eternal security ever really replaces their fear with trust. They are so afraid of what they might do to themselves, sort of like a neurotic. They fear that if they aren't afraid of falling away, they will fall away.) ...
Yours in Christ,
All very good points. I think the following quote by Spurgeon says it all:
"I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I would lack any ground of comfort" (C.H. Spurgeon).
(From a sermon by Spurgeon titled "A Defense of Calvinism" as found in the book Charles H. Spurgeon: The Best from All His Works. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988, p.265.)
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