Monday, February 17, 2020

The Error Of Turn Or Burn Evangelism

"It's not enough to run from something. Salvation is about running toward something-indeed someone. It is not enough to build your life on hating or being afraid of an idea, a place, or a consequence (hell) and loving its opposite (heaven). Fear doesn't create true obedience, only outward compliance, and only for a season. Fear was what motivated the rich man in Jesus' parable who wanted to save his family. "I beg you, father [Abraham]," he said, "send [Lazarus] to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). "Send someone from the dead," he is saying, "to scare my brothers into not coming here. Go, and tell them about hell and my anguish." His logic seems sound. "If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent" (v. 30). This has been the strategy of many who have claimed to represent Jesus over the centuries. Just give them the flames. "Turn or burn," "fire and brimstone," and they will convert. But what is Abraham's response? No, they won't, he says.

"They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them hear them...If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (vv. 29, 31, emphasis added). Why? Because you can't just tell people what they should run from. You have to explain what they're running to. At the end of Luke's Gospel, Jesus makes it clear what Moses and the Prophets were really all about: himself (24:44). The end of the law is not about following the rules—it's about God becoming human, dying for sin, and rising again to redeem sinners from death and punishment, including the punishment of hell itself. Jesus saves us by dislodging our addiction to the things we love that land us in hell. But he doesn't use fear to do this. His love for us leads us to love something or rather, Someone more than those things. It's a positive affection that changes us, not a negative one."

Mark Clark, The Problem of God, p. 148-149

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