John Piper Responds to Dad’s Question Regarding His Child’s Extreme Anxiety about Hell

John Piper, Christian Parenting, Glorious, Hell, Anxiety


john piper, fear, hell, children, spiritual abuse

Photo from Twitter

At John Piper’s Desiring God website, they feature Ask John series in which listeners send their questions to John Piper for response. The following question came from a dad named Michael who asked John Piper the following:

A question from Michael:

“Pastor John, how can I talk to my 6-year-old son about hell? When any loved one has died who has also been a Christian, I have told him they have gone to heaven. But if somebody dies who is not a Christian I do not want to lie and say they have gone to heaven, but I do not know how to teach him about hell. He has extreme anxiety about death and I am afraid talking about hell may make him more anxious. He also gets very upset when he makes any kind of mistake or when I have to correct him. I do not want him to worry that if he disobeys that he will be sent to hell. How in the world can I teach him this?”

Ok, first of all, if you go to the web page with this article, there is a picture of a group of people standing around a scorching hot fire. Why would this image be used? This image alone clues you into the direction Piper is going: he wants you to focus on hell, that it is real, it’s a place of burning and eternal torment.

From Michael’s question above, please take note that he shares that his child has extreme anxiety about death. He’s very clear about that. This is not normal anxiety. Michael says his child gets upset when he makes a mistake. Parents, do your kids get very upset when they make a mistake? My kids have never been “extreme” over mistakes they have made, or been so concerned about hell. What about your children? Is this normal? It doesn’t seem normal to me. I, too, would be concerned like Michael. This child needs special care and compassion.

Now we move on to Piper’s response:

Let me start by turning the tables and saying, we should be one hundred times more concerned about a 6-year-old who has no fear of death and hell than we are about a child who fears death and hell.

Piper minimizes the father’s concern here. He seems to be saying, “thankfully your child doesn’t have the other, more serious problem.”  That is just not helpful.

One of the reasons we may not feel that is because when a child has no fear, we tend to go along as though all is well. He’s such a happy little fellow, and she’s such a cheerful little girl. When a child has anxieties, nightmares, fears, then all of our parental instincts and mind go into gear, and action, because we want to help them, not realizing perhaps that the child with no fear needs even more help from parental vigilance and concern than the child with much fear.

Again, Piper misses the dad, and addresses another issue the dad did not even address. Do you get the idea that Michael’s concern went over Piper’s head? The series should be called, John Piper Answers His Own Questions.

Then Piper tries to convince Michael that his “problem” is really a good one to have in the big scheme of things.

God does not intend for his children to experience hell as an end, but to experience the warning of hell as a means of clarifying and establishing these five great realities. This is true for a 6-year-old and it’s true for a 60-year-old. Look at this moment, Michael, in the child’s life as a golden opportunity for teaching him many wonderful things. Hell is simply the backdrop against which those things will now become gloriously real.

Piper then lists the 5 realities. As I read through the five realities, I tried to see how Piper directly addressed Michael’s concerns. He didn’t. Instead, he used Michael’s concerns as a jumping off point to promote his own doctrinal beliefs about hell and how glorious hell is when you are a Christian. The word glorious annoys me now. It was used 5 times in the short article. Blech. I hate it when good words are ruined.

So, essentially Piper is saying we should not be concerned about a 6-yr old who is expressing extreme anxiety about death. Michael’s child is better off suffering extreme anxiety and getting very upset when he makes mistakes. I guess Michael should be counting his blessings. Clue to Michael: next time don’t ask Piper. Ask a licensed therapist how to deal appropriately with child anxiety.

Basically this is the same suck-it-up-Buttercup response we see from Piper when tragedy strikes – you know, when he’s grateful for tornados and their destruction, etc. Remember, all of this is God-ordained. God is Sovereign and is in charge of every molecule. Who are we to complain about our child suffering from extreme anxiety? I guess I might as well ignore all of my children who cry or who fail at something. God’s got it under control. So much for parenting.

I fail to see how Piper gave this worried dad practical guidelines to help his child with his current challenges. It would be very confusing to be a parent under Piper’s teachings. It would make me think that meeting my child’s needs or addressing their fears and anxiety might be wrong. My head hurts. My heart hurts thinking about children whose emotional needs are abandoned because of doctrine/teaching like this.

Jesus cared about suffering children, and so should we. Good grief, this is so simple.

83 comments on “John Piper Responds to Dad’s Question Regarding His Child’s Extreme Anxiety about Hell

  1. Yes I agree, JA. But my answer would be much simpler.

    “There’s no such thing as hell – that’s a made-up story”.
    What rot.

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  2. Carmen,

    I’m with you on how much rot there is in John Piper always talking in circles and never making any sense.

    Most of us here at this blog also take comfort in believing that the horrific evil that goes unpunished in this life will face justice in the next. People like Arial Castro who destroyed the lives of three beautiful women and then dodged justice by taking his own life will still reap the consequences of their evil deeds in eternity. There’s a special place in hell for those who hurt the littlest ones including those who hurt one of our blog commentators “Christianity Hurts.”

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  3. As much as my heart goes out to Christianity Hurts or any other person who’s been dealt that much pain, I cannot support the idea that the concept of Hell should be taught to children — that, to me, is emotional abuse. Adults who willingly impart this toxic doctrine really need to give their heads a shake.
    It’s wrong and hurtful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Parents, do your kids get very upset when they make a mistake?”

    I think this is a really important point. The son has extreme anxiety because the father has a completely judgmental view of God and has probably used Hell to justify physical and emotional abuse.

    Why do I know? I grew up terrified of Hell. I grew up terrified of making mistakes. I grew up with a judgmental god who sent trials in peoples’ lives so they could fail and he could at a minimum send all sorts of evil into their lives and even send them to Hell. My father emotionally and physically abused me because he thought he could somehow beat the mistakes out of me and make me obedient to that god. My journey out of emotional and spiritual abuse was primarily about hearing who God really is, and that those who used fear, power and judgment to motivate behavior were the people Jesus vigorously opposed. Jesus hung out with the people who by societal standards should have been the most afraid of God, and he rejected the people who by societal standards were the closest!

    Would Jesus be hanging out with Piper, or with that kid?

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  5. Clue to Michael: next time don’t ask Piper. Ask a licensed therapist how to deal appropriately with child anxiety.

    Agreed. And Yes. Christians sometimes make a mistake of asking the wrong people for advice.

    I have a post at my blog with the title:
    Women: Stop Asking Pat Robertson For Romantic Relationship Advice

    Because 9 out of 10 times, Robertson victim-blames any unmarried woman who asks him for relationship advice. (He sometimes victim-blames married woman for having gotten married to jerks or abusers). But people still keep on writing his TV show to get his advice.

    You know if you go to Piper with a question, he’ll not really get to the heart of the matter, or go into victim-blaming.

    “He didn’t. Instead, he used Michael’s concerns as a jumping off point to promote his own doctrinal beliefs about hell and how glorious hell is when you are a Christian. The word glorious annoys me now. It was used 5 times in the short article. Blech. I hate it when good words are ruined.”

    Some Christians definitely over-use this word, and I’m tired of it.

    It even gets used in the context of singleness, to the point I wrote this post:
    Gender Complementarian Owen Strachan’s “Being Single To Bring God Glory” Essay

    (My overall point in that post to Christians: Stop telling Christians that their singleness can “bring glory to God.” For Christians who want to be married, that is a knife in the heart.

    It would be a little like telling someone with inoperable brain cancer that their cancer can “bring glory to God.” I don’t think many people find this “for the glory of God” rhetoric comforting, other than John Piper, maybe.)

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  6. Piper’s response would be laughable if it wasn’t so dark and uncaring. This is the problem with evangelicalism and its conservative cousins. Love is not paramount, doctrines are. He gives a convoluted theological treatise as an answer to a child’s fear. Good grief. Making hell and fear of it glorious. Hey, Piper, who would give a child a snake when he asks for a fish? Pompous Christians who don’t bother to really learn the heart of God. I didn’t respect that man to begin with, now he’s gone down two more notches. Why not tell the father this:

    “Give the boy a big hug, tell him you and God love him so much, and God would never send him to hell because “mercy always wins over judgment.” Everyone makes mistakes, even us parents, and God understands our weaknesses. You do so many other things that please us and God just by being yourself! Mistakes are easily dealt with through forgiveness. Don’t be hard on yourself. Every day for a week give him a hug and tell him that and see the results. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t ever ask John Piper for parental advice.”

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  7. In Piper’s world, it’s always about putting doctrine over people. There’s not one word of comforting that little boy. And no, no and again no – hell is not something that can be understood by a 6 year old child. Further…I’m gonna say it Loud and Clear: Jesus doesn’t send little children to hell! Of course, the Calvinist doctrine that Piper holds to teaches differently. I hope this father recognizes the harmful effects of Piper’s teachings and seeks advice elsewhere, from someone who actually understands children, and is gifted in counseling parents who have these kind of problems.

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  8. I wish John Piper would have told this father to not let his child be concerned about heaven and hell. Especially a young child with extreme anxiety about death. This all suggests to me that the child does not feel secure in his own environment to be so concerned about the afterlife. Why does this father feel the need to push the “truth” about what happens to those who don’t believe in God to an anxious 6-year-old? I don’t agree with all that John Piper tells this father, yet I’m concerned about what the parents are already teaching this young one to cause him so much anxiety.

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  9. “yet I’m concerned about what the parents are already teaching this young one to cause him so much anxiety.”

    Spot on, Kathi.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Piper the liar pimps a false gospel, another Jesus, another God, etc, so should we really be surprised at the drivel that this anti-biblical deceiver speaks? No. his “god” is the evil monster of the Reformation; the one who wants as many in hell as possible and who is going to delight in it together with those elitist few who made the “elected” cut before the world began. Oh. Puh-leeze.
    This Piper intimidator liar (and all his friends from that same anti-biblical camp) is seriously deranged, IMO, as always.
    He is a clown. And not the funny kind. The kid-scaring and scarring type. A devil.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t see what the issue is here. Just on reading the first sentences of the 5 points, I understood it as like “educating points” to educate your child by reiterating what sin is and the result of it, and pointing to what God is capable of in our weakness.

    Keep in mind, it’s not just the child who’s anxious, IT’S ALSO THE DAD because he doesn’t know how he should approach the subject of hell without scaring him EVEN MORE. OK then…let’s point the subject to the Gospel, to Christ and the cross and how it is a bridge out of hell and onto our heavenly Father and friend! Those things are expressed in the points Piper gave (not the bridge part…that was mine). I can understand if Piper didnt explicitly say “you should first sympathize with your child.” But even then Piper pointed out its good to have this fear…there’s nothing wrong with it (I think about how if a child is masturbating, it’s important for the parent to tell the child it’s a normal behavior).

    Sometimes, I have a hard time understanding some of the things Piper says, but if I’m reading the article right, I think the article is fine and answers the Father’s concern on how to approach the subject of hell – by explaining it’s healthy for a child to be scared (and that it’s OKAY), and that the cross and the work of Jesus helps bring us back to our relationship with our Father.

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  12. Two things struck me from this. First, surely the gospel is the good news that we don’t have to fear hell and judgment because Jesus has paid the price to reconcile us to our Father? So my response to the kid would be, “you don’t need to worry because Jesus has rescued us from hell.” (in whatever language and developmentally appropriate way you would communicate that). As for family members who weren’t overtly Christian, all I’ve done with my kids is to say, we never know what was someone’s heart at the end of their lives, but we do know that God is merciful.

    The second thing is what others have pointed out already – why is this child so anxious in the first place???? That really troubles me. My own kids are like that, scared of getting things wrong, scared of making a mistake, and it’s in large part because my husband is emotionally abusive, sarcastic and belittling, and has for most of their lives disciplined them with threats and physical punishment. So that immediately sets of red flags for me, because in my experience it means that the child is having troubles that need to be addressed swiftly. All kids have little worries and fears that they go through, but it’s not normal or healthy to be at that level of anxiety.

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  13. Liz makes a good point. Rather than putting Piper down, we should be addressing the issue at hand. If the child’s anxiety IS severe, we should be talking about the upbringing on the child. Piper is NOT an expert on psychology and human behavior, he’s field of expertise is doctrine. So all of his response will be doctrine related. All of the negative vibes on Piper should be geared toward the parents.

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  14. Exactly. Neither Piper or that child’s father should be scaring children with the toxic concept of Hell. It’s SICK.

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  15. This might have some trigger warnings a situation I had as a kid concerning a fire.

    Strikes a bit too close as to the age. I think I have shared this before maybe two times on two other blogs. First a caveat I do not write this for sympathy, understanding, wanting attention … because that list goes on for about three pages. When I shared this in the real world faith groups those were some of the responses I would get as to why I shared it so I always try to get that out of the way in the first place.

    I am well aware of hell dreams, the black can’t breathe through the darkness hearing the laughing dreams, the searing burning melting yelling but not being able to scream dreams and in all that an utter white hot terror of God. He will do worse to you than your nightmares let on. Mine started at six after I survived being burned over 40% of my body with third degree burns three days before Christmas. My faith community really had one answer, it was pious, it was said with a smile and laced with lots of scripture like strychnine. I had it coming, and far worse to follow.

    Now it was made clear to me I should have had all this stuff sorted out by six when I was in the faith community. Of course, that’s crap, six-year-olds are not adults, even adults a lot smarter than Piper struggle with hell, the church has struggled with hell. My accident was 50 years ago and I still live it out though the dreams are far less but the theological/religious feelings concerning hell are not. My doctor told me that most kids sort of go into a numb state and forget most aspects of the burn. I could not even get that right, I remember every single aspect of it.

    My brother telling me “you’re on fire you dork”, to my mother knocking me down and throwing my burning clothes all over the place, my brother telling me the story of the three bears while I was sitting in the bathtub watching the skin float up. The ride to the hospital, hitting almost every single red light. the laying face down on the gurney the medical staff Debridement of a Wound and the sheer terror of death. Now I understand a six-year-old should have their mortality all sorted out by say well two, but I did not.

    The nightmares in the burn unit with evil trying to get through the window on the wall. There was no window on the wall. I add this story because of kids in religion, I was raised catholic my parents were not crazy about faith and never pumped any nonsense into me but I picked it up early from TV because I would watch a lot of it as a kid. It took me years to get through it, I will admit for the most part I worked it out on my own and by myself. My parents tried so hard to help but other things were going on a long story. I was so lucky to be burned where I was and having the great doctors I did, and a great insurance lady at my father’s work etc. Even a 32-degree mason/Shriner offered to help.

    So Piper does not understand what that type of rhetoric can do to a kid or even an adult.

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  16. J.W. The problem is the neo-Calvinist idea that parents have a unique responsibility to deliver their children from Hell by essentially demonstrating to them what Hell is like and becoming a proxy of God’s wrath upon evildoers. This is somehow the approved way(TM) to turn children towards their need for a savior and salvation.

    Perhaps the doctrine of Hell itself is not wrong, per-se, but the lesson gleaned from an undue focus on God as the one who is holy, cannot stand sin and sits on the throne as the one who judge between the sheep and goats, is one of fear-driven, Machiavellian obedience.

    My parents took that lesson to mean that all visible sin in the family must be punished, and that punishment must be severe to really reflect on what they were saving us from. In essence, better they belt us than we suffer eternally in Hell. That led to horrible dynamics. When there was no clear perpetrator, we were spanked until someone confessed, who was usually NOT the one who did it. The older children (I was the youngest) learned how to convince my parents that it was the younger one who did it, since the younger ones were not so capable of logically defending themselves. My next older brother lacked self control, but he was a master salesman. I was compliant, but lacked the ability to make my case. That meant my brother broke stuff and I got belted for it to save my soul from Hell.

    My emotional theology was that Jesus died for me not out of love for me, but somehow generally for humankind, and somehow I could slip under the radar. Like somehow God would begrudgingly allow me into Heaven because somehow my name ended up on the list. It’s taken years after theologically knowing God is my “daddy” for me to begin that emotional journey, and I’m by no means anywhere near the destination.

    Part of that journey was realizing that God simply doesn’t parent me that way. God shows grace and patience and doesn’t beat me for every infraction. Remember Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and prostitutes. Do you think Piper’s Jesus would, or do you think Piper’s Jesus is a Pharisee like Piper himself?

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  17. Wonder what advice JP would give the two parents of their 5 year old that is dying from a very rare cancer. Would he encourage them to talk with the son about heaven and or hell.

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  18. Dear JW,

    Piper is NOT an expert on psychology and human behavior, he’s field of expertise is doctrine. So all of his response will be doctrine related.

    This statement raises two problems for me:

    1) If Piper isn’t an expert on psychology or behaviour, then why does he so often pontificate on topics relating to them, as though he were an expert? Like when he said that wives should endure abuse “for a season”, or his frequent opining on which jobs or behaviours are “suitable” for womanly womanhood. Does he not realize that he’s speaking as a rank amateur?

    2) If Piper’s field of expertise is indeed doctrine, then why does he often so glaringly, egregiously wrong about matters of ethics and doctrine? Such as stating that God ordains the sexual abuse of children, or bemoaning Mark Driscoll’s downfall as a defeat for complementarianism and Reformed theology, without a word of compassion for all those hurt by Driscoll. For such a doctrinal “expert”, Piper sure seems clueless.

    Whatever expertise he has, his apparent lack of sympathy for Michael’s son leads me to think it’s not doing Piper (or anyone else) much good.

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  19. Wonder what advice JP would give the two parents of their 5 year old that is dying from a very rare cancer. Would he encourage them to talk with the son about heaven and or hell.

    He’d probably just try to sell them a copy of his book, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”. I’m sure there’s a chapter on the afterlife in there somewhere.

    Never mind that his book would probably offer little to no comfort or compassion, and leave the boy worse off than before. (“Wondering Eagle” reports that he gave a copy to his ill mother, and it horrified her.) But what does that matter, as long as the all-important ManaGAWD gets his book royalties?

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  20. SKJ, good points. Piper is clueless on compassion for a child, the damage done to people by Mark Driscoll, etc., because he is a product of modern conservative religion and churchianity. Leaders in this movement think they are experts on everything because they believe the Bible is all we need for life challenges and their interpretation of the Bible is always correct. And they think God has ordained them to school everyone else. Moreover, anyone who disagrees is at best “not biblical” and at worst a heretic or apostate.

    I too am appalled that people like him show no empathy for church members harmed by Driscoll or children harmed by the insidious doctrine of hell. “Reformed” or evangelical doctrinal purity is more important than compassion and love. This is also my theory why some evangelicals supported Trump. Similar to doctrine, evangelical political positions are more important than common decency and honesty.

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  21. @Mark. I’ve read many comments of Piper making up his own gospel from SSB. I haven’t read many of Piper’s articles, so I have yet to “Amen” the idea that Piper’s Jesus is a Pharisees/Sadducees. Having said that (and I think I explained this in my first comment. If I haven’t I’ll explain it here), upon reading the first couple of paragraphs, I felt Piper did answer the father’s issue. In my opinion, Piper didn’t minimize the father’s concern like what Julie Ann thought. He addressed the father’s concern by pointing out that fear of hell is a healthy growth (and I compared it to realizing that masturbation is a normal behavior, not a shameful act). Now…I’m interpreting “fear” simply as being scared in a normal degree (as opposed to clinical anxiety). The points that he listed afterwards point to the cross and the affects of it (I used the example of the cross bridging us to God our Father as opposed to a bridge to hell). Those are gospel-centered truths – foundational truths! I don’t see any points/advice Piper gives to the father that are Pharisee-esk. Now…I did a quick read of the ORIGINAL ARTICLE (not in fond of reading), so there may be some ideas that I missed. If that’s the case, I ask for forgiveness for my ignorance or aloofness.

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  22. “My heart hurts thinking about children whose emotional needs are abandoned because of doctrine/teaching like this.”

    Mine too. God is portrayed as more concerned with the child’s learning of doctrine than knowing how much they are valued and loved by Him just as they are.

    But I had to chuckle at the article’s picture of a group of people standing around the hot fire. What a silly picture to use. Actually, it looked like our fire pit in our backyard where we’ve had some fun times ☺

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  23. @Serving Kids in Japan. Thanks for your questions. Because we all have sin in us….and we’re all imperfect beings in need to be restored by Gospel. Piper probably got the idea to write those topics you mentioned because people have been asking help like the father in this article.

    I don’t read a lot of John Piper’s articles. In fact, some of the things he write are confusing for me to understand. But when they are confusing, I don’t try to make sense out of it because I’m not too great in understanding English composition…or fancy SAT words. In other words, I take some things with a grain of salt and pray for understanding in that topic with the opportunity to properly apply it in the future (should the opportunity come up).

    For all we know, people from the receiving end of Piper’s response may find his advice helpful and that some of us here in SSB are not understanding or misinterpreting what Piper is saying …or not! My only concern is how I am being influenced and affected by Piper’s article and the comments here in SSB, and whether my responses – here and out there – are loving; valid; respectful; accepting; and unoffending.

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  24. J.W.– I think people here are saying that he didn’t give the father any specific advice. How about just telling the kid that hell is separation from God? Remind the kid that those who don’t wish to be with God now don’t hang out with him later! Be sensitive to different personalities that result in some kids being worriers– and remind him that if you choose to be with God now, you have nothing to worry about.

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  25. @J.W.
    We’re talking about a 6 year old child here, with “extreme anxiety”. I read the entire article. Piper shows absolutely no concern for the child.

    Piper’s response is akin to telling a child who has an extreme phobia of snakes about how beautiful, powerful, and “glorious” God made snakes. Oh, by the way kid, don’t worry if a rattlesnake bites you. It’ll only happen once …. then you’ll die and won’t have to worry about it anymore. It will all be for God’s glory. Can’t swim? Deathly afraid of water? go ahead and get on the bass boat. It’s okay. You can only drown once. It will all be for God’s glory!
    The way Piper advises the parent to handle this child’s extreme anxiety is not comfort or counseling ….. it’s torture. It will only serve to increase the anxiety.

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  26. @BostonLady:

    He is a clown. And not the funny kind.

    Remember Pennywise?
    “YOU’LL FLOAT TOO!”
    (Come to think of it, can anyone do a photoshop mashup of “Pennywise Piper”?)

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  27. @Nancy2:

    @J.W.
    We’re talking about a 6 year old child here, with “extreme anxiety”. I read the entire article. Piper shows absolutely no concern for the child.

    Only for Purity of Ideology.

    Piper’s response is akin to telling a child who has an extreme phobia of snakes about how beautiful, powerful, and “glorious” God made snakes. Oh, by the way kid, don’t worry if a rattlesnake bites you. It’ll only happen once …. then you’ll die and won’t have to worry about it anymore. It will all be for God’s glory. Can’t swim? Deathly afraid of water? go ahead and get on the bass boat. It’s okay. You can only drown once. It will all be for God’s glory!

    Spoken from a position of perfect personal safety, of course.
    (Like a third-floor study with a bell to ring Widdle Wifey to bring him his tea on demand.)

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  28. JW,

    He addressed the father’s concern by pointing out that fear of hell is a healthy growth…

    Except he’s wrong. Please read the father’s description of his son’s emotional state: “He has extreme anxiety about death… He also gets very upset when he makes any kind of mistake or when I have to correct him.” That’s not healthy. In fact, that’s at the complete opposite pole from healthy. I’m not an expert in psychology, and even I can recognize that. If Piper had any sense or compassion, he would have seen that this boy has serious problems, and that “fear of Hell” will not improve them.

    Piper probably got the idea to write those topics you mentioned because people have been asking help like the father in this article.

    In which case, he should have realized that he was out of his depth, and suggested that those questioning him speak to a certified counsellor, or a psychologist, or a lawyer, or someone else who has actually studied the subject at hand. Either that, or Piper should have done actual research on these topics, instead of assuming that he’s a World Famous Authority on Everything just because he’s read the Bible.

    In other words, I take some things with a grain of salt and pray for understanding in that topic…

    You may think the best of Piper if you like, JW. I can’t. I’ve seen too many cases of him either spewing garbage and calling it “sound doctrine”, or defending and promoting obviously evil people.

    For all we know, people from the receiving end of Piper’s response may find his advice helpful…

    And if they don’t?

    …and that some of us here in SSB are not understanding or misinterpreting what Piper is saying …

    I’m sure that’s exactly what Piper would say — that all of his critics are just too “unspiritual” to comprehend his vast and gospelly intellect. I’m reminded of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, in which two hucksters manage to con a king into buying a suit made of thin air, by convincing him and all his advisers that only the “truly wise” can see it.

    Psst…. The emperor’s got no clothes on. Pass it on.

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  29. Slightly off topic here but…

    At the start of the video that mwcamp linked to, is that really Driscoll speaking of people who question the traditional doctrine of hell, and accusing them of being “cowards”?

    The level of blindness here is simply staggering. Driscoll is one of the biggest cowards that the evangelical set has ever seen.

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  30. mwcamp wrote:
    “Leaders in this movement think they are experts on everything because they believe the Bible is all we need for life challenges and their interpretation of the Bible is always correct. And they think God has ordained them to school everyone else. Moreover, anyone who disagrees is at best “not biblical” and at worst a heretic or apostate.”

    Heretic and apostate here. I’ve said it here and elsewhere, and I’ll say it again. Theirs is a sick and twisted religion. Their ‘god’ (small ‘g’ intentional) has way more in common with the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Canaanites.
    The God of Abraham isn’t anything like their god.

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  31. @AvidReader:

    I’m with you on how much rot there is in John Piper always talking in circles and never making any sense.

    That’s usually a sign of someone deeply in love with the sound of his own voice (if not the smell of his own farts).

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  32. @ServingKidsInJapan:

    I’m sure that’s exactly what Piper would say — that all of his critics are just too “unspiritual” to comprehend his vast and gospelly intellect.

    “Wile. E. Coyote. Super. Genius.”

    P.S. SKIJ: Pass or Kancho?

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  33. @Mark:

    J.W. The problem is the neo-Calvinist idea that parents have a unique responsibility to deliver their children from Hell by essentially demonstrating to them what Hell is like and becoming a proxy of God’s wrath upon evildoers. This is somehow the approved way(TM) to turn children towards their need for a savior and salvation.

    Isn’t that a carte blanche for ABUSE by Divine Right?

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  34. @AAmosLove:

    Welcome to Hell

    That village in Norway!
    I remember reading about it in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as a kid!
    How “Hell” means “gentle slope” in Norwegian and how even back then the place attracted a LOT of pre-Selfie photos.

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  35. He didn’t. Instead, he used Michael’s concerns as a jumping off point to promote his own doctrinal beliefs about hell and how glorious hell is when you are a Christian.

    Don’t you know that when you’re the Predestined Elect, Hell is a spectator sport? But wait! There’s more! As one of the Elect, you’ve got a Season Ticket with a Catered Box Seat!

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  36. Piper shows absolutely no concern for the child.

    Piper comes off to me as rather bloodless.

    No one should be asking him how to deal with adults in crisis, let alone children. I can’t think of any examples of advice he gave that wasn’t awful, useless or actively harmful.

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  37. @AvidReader: I’m with you on how much rot there is in John Piper always talking in circles and never making any sense.
    HUG- That’s usually a sign of someone deeply in love with the sound of his own voice (if not the smell of his own farts).

    Or alternately someone who talks in circles because they want to be misunderstood. We should be deeply suspicious of people who won’t give a straight answer.

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  38. SKJ, Yes, that is Driscoll and that was his critique of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. Pretty lame, huh? He got off on this thing that Bell didn’t come right out and say he was a Universalist. He couldn’t rebuff Bell’s logic so he attacked the messenger. Again, that’s the pattern… Can’t refute the logic? Say they aren’t scriptural or or claim your interpretation is THE only one through the ages so you are a heretic, without actually addressing the core issues (in this case hell) that are being challenged.

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  39. @Serving kids in Japan
    “…instead of assuming that he’s a World Famous Authority on Everything just because he’s read the Bible.”
    I think that’s exactly what he does think. Certainly I’ve known people like him and that’s basically how they see the world. “The fear of the Lord is the start of wisdom” becomes “the Bible is the only textbook/manual/ handbook/ diagnostic tool you’ll ever need”. They are deeply suspicious of “worldly” knowledge, especially psychiatry and psychology, as they believe “sin” is the diagnosis for whatever mental and emotional problems you have. They see their world view as superior even when it’s provably not healthy or good for you, and anyone who points this out is backslidden or has a spirit of complaining and needs to just shut up and put up with their bad feelings because that’s holy.

    Oh but we should totally support Christian charities that provide aid and help to people in developing countries, because we don’t want our Christian brothers and sisters to suffer, now do we?

    cognitive dissonance attack

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  40. @J.W. “He addressed the father’s concern by pointing out that fear of hell is a healthy growth”

    Except that’s wrong. We have no need to fear Hell, unless we’ve been indoctrinated into the neo-Calvinist works-based fear mongering.

    Maybe you don’t understand the point of Jesus bringing children (after his neo-Calvinist wannabe disciples tried to shoo them away) to himself, blessing them, and then setting them as an example of simple faith. It’s the guys like Piper who then try to contort Jesus’s words back into fear mongering. We have to be careful of the audience. Jesus went to the lowly – the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the children, the foreigners, with words of grace and invitation. It was primarily the Pharisees that received the message about Hell.

    So, Jesus flipped the message, just like the rich man and Lazarus. The Pharisees were taught that their seeking of the honor of men would lead to rejection by God “they have their reward in full”. The lowly who suffered rejection were shown the acceptance of God. But, what the neo-Calvinists do is flip this over again. Piper and his TGC ilk spend their time and effort impressing and honoring each other and controlling the narrative, yet, what we see in this instance is their rejection of the lowly. Piper should be pointing the father and son towards the need to understand God’s grace and acceptance instead of dwelling on judgment and wrath, yet he sends the same message the Pharisees sent. It was the Pharisees that rejected the children. It was the Pharisees who threw sinners out of the synagogues. It was the sinners who rejected Jesus’s message of grace to the societal rejects. So, it should be no surprise that Piper uses the message for the prideful to beat down the lowly.

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  41. My experience is that Calvinists love to make the complex out to be simple and the simple out to be complex. Things like the paradoxes of a God Who knows everything and made the universe surely knowing how it would all turn out, yet at the same time grants us perfect free will, utter paradoxes like that they reduce to a trite little mnemonic “TULIP”, while things so simple as love and compassion for a child, things an alley cat with a litter of kittens seem to get, get lost in a haze of unbiblical complexity.

    One has to wonder what about that attitude is Christlike.

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  42. On TMZ’s site:
    SUE COPS FOR RELEASING JOSH MOLESTATION DOCS

    Four of Josh Duggar’s sisters are suing city and police officials, as well as In Touch magazine, for releasing investigative reports which detailed Josh’s now admitted molestation of his siblings.

    Jill, Jessa, Jinger and Joy filed the suit against the city of Springdale, Arkansas over the 2015 police documents. According to the lawsuit, they say they had spoken to investigators in 2006 about the molestations — when they were all minors — and they were assured their statements would only be shared with police and child service officials.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Mark, good reminder. Children were not respected by society in Jesus’ day in general, especially not the legalists. Jesus said children were like the kingdom of god, period. He didn’t say only if they believe certain doctrines, let alone substitutional atonement, or else they go to hell.

    Calvinists and most “biblical” evangelicals have idolized the Bible to such a degree that they have to side with doctrine/judgment/wrath over compassion and love. They can’t make a moral judgment on when love is superior because they are trapped by verses, words, passages, and traditional reformational teaching.

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  44. @HUG, of course I remember Pennywise! And lemme tell you that Piper and his fearmongering deceivers’ lies are ten times more frightening than any Stephen Stephen King character ever. Hands down. Do you have a verse for that?

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  45. Irene – How about just telling the kid that hell is separation from God? Remind the kid that those who don’t wish to be with God now don’t hang out with him later!

    I think there is a lot of wisdom in this. You wouldn’t fail to warn anyone of the danger of walking near a cliff edge, and likewise the danger of hell should never be minimised. But no NT writer ever used this solemn truth to scare anyone, let alone children. In fact it is found almost exclusively on the lips of Jesus himself, who directed his warnings about it to his disciples, rather than the world around.

    To my mind, this concept proves both God is a God of justice and righteousenss, and a God of love.

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  46. KAS, do a littlle research. Jesus did NOT talk about hell. Gehenna & hades (the Greek words used) are metaphors for judgment, and are not the eternal variety. “Eternal punishment” in our English Bibles is mistranslated and should be something like “punishment of the age to come.” The word punishment, kolasis in Greek, means a rehabilitation type of correction. It is no retributive but restorative. If you think Jesus taught eternal conscious torment in hell, you are teaching that God will one day close the door on forgiveness, just the opposite of his teachings on that subject, and the opposite of love. This book is a good introduction, in case you or others are interested > https://www.amazon.com/Inescapable-Love-God-Second/dp/1625646909/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1495225933&sr=8-1

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  47. Carmen – that’s a caricature. It’s more like ‘love God and your neighbour or suffer the just consequences of your actions’. Surely no-one complains about the guilty being sentenced? Justice demands this. And that in the end is what hell is, a sentence of separation from God and all the goodness he would otherwise have planned for us all.

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  48. Hmmm. … let’s see. God makes a flawed being so that it can say, “You’re full of sin! You need help. . . ME! And if you refuse to acknowledge my generous offer, you’ll go to Hell!”
    In other words, “Love me or burn, suckers!”
    I’m calling bullshit, KAS.

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  49. KAS, sentencing in order to restore and correct someone, or sentencing to condemn someone forever because they deserve eternal punishment?

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  50. Carmen – people will end up in hell, being sentenced for actual wickedness and wrongdoing to eternal separation from God, on the basis of what they have done. That is fully in line with an earthly court passing due sentence on the guilty. We are not talking about innocent people here. The guilt is real. Mankind in rebellion against his creator.

    Those who avoid hell and end up in the ‘new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells’ do so entirely on the basis of God’s forgiveness and grace, the very definition of which is it is something not deserved. Yet God provided this at the greatest possible cost for all who wish to avail themselves of it by faith. Jesus himself bore the penalty, that’s what he had to die for. He demonstrates a God who wants to show mercy to untold multitudes but who will by no means clear the guilty.

    The bible explicitly states God delights in the death of his saints, as they can enjoy eternal rest in his presence, and explicitly states God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked.

    The whole gospel/church thing is about this forgiveness and turning from wickedness to doing what is right. It’s good news, the only exception being the bad news that are are things all of us need to be forgiven for. God does not want to condemn us at the end of the age. You will find that all too often, such things needing forgiveness are prized by the average unbeliever as being the most precious things in life, in particular their personal autonomy and a claimed right to decide what is right and wrong based on their own opinion. The abuse of money, sex and power.

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  51. MWCamp – the red warning light went on for me reading the reveiw of the book you linked with the expression ‘God’s unconditional love’. Whilst it is true that’s God’s love for mankind is not conditioned on anything in us, the usual meaning given to this phrase these days is that regardless of what you do, God loves you. I don’t think this is true; in fact no verse explicitly states God ‘loves’ unbelievers, and the expression ‘unconditional love’ is a dangerous heresy. It is never mentioned in Acts (neither is hell!), with all its ‘gospel presentations’. The experience of the love of God in forgiveness is essentially for believers only. It is conditional on faith, and on keeping the faith.

    I do see hell has eternal punishment, namely separation from God. It mirrors the eternal life given to believers. I don’t see how it could ever be redemptive, as though in this life you are justified by faith, but if you reject this you are given another chance through the sufferings of hell. The unforgivable sin, blaspheming the Spirit which boils down in the end to unbelief, cannot be forgiven ‘in this age nor in the ages to come’, but is an eternal sin.

    The weakness of any kind of universalism is that it is impossible to justify it from the NT writers, and that it ignores that fact that some men love unrighteousness and do not wish to forsake it, that being in the presence of a holy God is the very last thing they would ever want. If you ever have frequented atheist blogs, for example, you cannot fail to see sooner or later a very real hatred of God, and everything he stands for despite the claim of his non-existence.

    When it comes to this particular very sombre aspect of Christian truth, sentementality and wishful thinking can become deadly enemies. It’s not a doctrine anybody likes, but as it comes to us almost entirely directly from Jesus himself I don’t see how we can claim Jesus is Lord and yet deny what he said about this.

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  52. Of course, your interpretation of scripture is not to be questioned. Problem is, KAS, there are many interpretations of scripture. They can be reflected on this blog on an ‘entry’ basis – indeed, on this thread even. Sort of takes the wind out of your comment.
    That last paragraph of yours is indicative of your inflated sense of moral superiority. It needs no rebuttal. 🙂

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  53. Oh, and KAS – do you hate mermaids? Leprechauns? Sasquatch? I mean, you MUST!! Disbelief – according to your statement to MWCamp – is a prerequisite!

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  54. What I really enjoy about KAS is the way he assumes that we all just instinctively accept his doctrinal authority. “Oh right right, gosh what were we thinking, KAS’ opinions on scripture truly are unquestionable! Praise be!” How comically arrogant.

    Can you hear that sound, KAS? That’s the sound of hundreds of people rolling their eyes and scrolling right past your comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. For KAS
    1. For God so loved the ‘World’. Not ‘the believers only’.
    2. If you are going to say the guilty deserve punishment, it is a problem to also say we are guilty at birth through no fault of our own. What is there deserved about that? But that is what Piper would say.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. KAS, take some time to engage with what people are saying. You have such knee jerk reactions, you are not listening. The term in the book is “inescapable love”, not “unconditional.” In my last post, I explained how studies show the terms for “eternal punishment” (separation for eternity or otherwise) and hell are mistranslated. Original Greek does not support the doctrine or hell or eternal separation (and the OT never had the concept. Psalms says if we go to Sheol or Hades, God is still there).

    You are misreading the Bible. Don’t you want to get at the original meaning? History confirms this too. I encourage you to open your mind and engage/read with the evidence, then make your case > https://www.amazon.com/Universalism-Prevailing-Doctrine-Christian-Hundred-ebook/dp/B00OOFTKKI/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

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  57. Also, KAS – children are born unbelievers. In order to become believers, they must be indoctrinated into certain faiths. Depending on where they are born in the world, the ‘faith’ varies. If your own children had been born in many other countries, they would be Muslim, etc.
    My initial point was that if you are indoctrinating children with the threat of hell, you ought to be ashamed of yourself – as Piper and that father in the story JA shared should be. You – and they – are participating in the emotional abuse of children; a very simple concept and no amount of scripture dancing will absolve you of your ‘crime’. All you are doing is trying to justify your position with unique interpretation.

    It doesn’t work.

    Please also keep in mind that, until a few years ago, I was a lifelong church member – a Sunday School teacher, a member of Session (I was an Elder for years), and I served on several Committees (over 36 years) within the organization. My character has not changed one iota just because I stopped believing in (holy) ghosts.

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  58. MWcamp – you had me worried there. You are right about the title of the book, but the review says he argues, God’s love is both unconditional in its nature and unlimited in its scope; – so I wasn’t seeing something that wasn’t actually there!

    I have spent some time on the subject of hell, but not masses. It seems reasonably straightforward to me providing we look at what the text itself says and not the speculative and often grotesque imagination that has been added to the subject over the centuries. One thinks of Augustine and Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God as examples, such treatments being plain embarrassing.

    I am wary (in general, not just in this case) of hidden meanings in the Greek when the vast majority of translations made by competent scholars over the centuries do not support them. Since I have never learnt it, it would not be possible to comment on this anyway. Online interlinear is no substitute for the hard graft of learning the language!

    Universalism may be nice thought, but it suffers the same problem as strict Calvinism, in this case that God will somehow keep working on everyone until they repent and are saved to use the jargon. A kind of irresistable grace. There are multitudes of people who simply do not want to end their rebellion against God, who will not acknowledge they have broken his law countless times. Doesn’t God allow them their freewill, in this case to reject him?

    I agree this doctrine is not in the OT, it had to wait until the coming of Jesus himself to be revealed.

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  59. Dash and Carmen – I have never claimed doctrinal authority or that I should not be questioned.

    I’m arguing for a particular point of view. It is well within a long tradition of thinking evangelicalism from teachers I respect. None of whom, I might add, are American !!

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  60. KAS, yes God allows people to reject him. Universalism doesn’t negate that. The problem with hell is it is a fate that can never be turned back… so the door to potential repentance and forgiveness is shut forever. That is not the character of God as displayed in Jesus. He always leaves the door open and never gives up on the lost.

    Also, if you believe only people in open rebellion go to hell, does that mean you acknowledge that most people grown up in other religions that don’t accept Jesus the way you do are really not in rebellion but rather stuck in a paradigm given to them since childhood? Wouldn’t God judge them differently because of ignorance no fault of their own? (Billy Graham voiced this view many times).

    Unconditional love is the cornerstone of any true love. Not sure how you can defend that “agape” is not unconditional by God. You have a familiar objection that Universalists are sentimentalists. Us poor souls think God is just too nice. But judgment is still part of a UR theology.

    Finally, you can’t get a pass on not knowing Greek–it is the original language of the NT after all. The point is that if you took the time to really study the Greek phrases in question, you might see that the mystery is that most of our English Bibles have bad translations. For example, “kolasis” for “punishment” means the restorative variety, not retribution. It rehabilitates people. There are many other terms with similar mistranslations.

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  61. KAS, yes God allows people to reject him. Universalism doesn’t negate that. The problem with hell is it is a fate that can never be turned back… so the door to potential repentance and forgiveness is shut forever. That is not the character of God as displayed in Jesus. He always leaves the door open and never gives up on the lost.

    What if it’s not God who’s shutting that door? I remember Lewis once raised the possibility that “the doors of Hell are locked from the inside”, that the lost are those whose rejection of God is so complete as to be eternal.

    Elsewhere, he compared the hellish state of mind to sulking. Maybe that’s one way to picture damnation — the Eternal Sulk. The choice to be miserable forever.

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  62. Note to KAS: Please do not interpret my general agreement with the orthodox understanding of hell as acceptance of your attitude here, or on other threads. mwcamp is right: You’re not engaging with the other commenters here very well. This remark towards Carmen was especially aggravating —

    You will find that all too often, such things needing forgiveness are prized by the average unbeliever as being the most precious things in life, in particular their personal autonomy and a claimed right to decide what is right and wrong based on their own opinion.

    It gave the impression that you consider all non-christians to be morally inferior to all who call themselves Christians. Experience has taught me otherwise, and I hope that I’ll never put on such airs myself.

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  63. SKJ, Yes, C.S. Lewis’ take at least takes the blame off of God for shutting the door. I adopted his view for years. But it still puts each soul in the area of having an “eternal fate.” People reject things in this life all the time and then change their mind. That’s what repentance is. What would it be like if God said, “Sorry, can’t change your mind. Too late. You have sealed your fate for all eternity”? The C.S. Lewis view still leaves that problem that the door to changing is shut forever. That is not free will, as the view claims to be.

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  64. SKJ, I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that non-Christians are NOT inherently morally inferior. We are all made in the image of God and are morally on equal field. I think the view that we are depraved unless Christ changes us is dangerous as it puts us “saved” and “elect” ones on a superior plane to judge others and discount all “nonbelievers” as unable to challenge or question a traditional “Christian” view because they are “rebellious” and only care about “personal autonomy” by default. Christ didn’t treat people like this nor teach this. In fact, he was hardest on and challenged the religious “believers” and leaders the most.

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  65. Serving Kids in Japan –
    You missed the best part of that paragraph. “The abuse of money, sex, and power”. Hmmm. .. I wonder if KAS has ever seen Joel Osteen’s mansion? Would that be considered the abuse of money, I wonder? Suppose KAS’s ever heard of Doug Phillips and the sex abuse associated with him? And how about the power of the Catholic church – you know, when it told the population of central Africa that condoms were a bad thing, so that the spread of AIDS was completely jeopardized — would that be considered an abuse of power, I wonder? (and I can give plenty more examples)
    Yet atheists – with a broad sweep of KAS’s moral superiority brush – are painted as somehow being the dregs of society – not based on what they DO, mind you – solely on their lack of belief in an invisible, completely unproveable entity. Oh, and to add insult to injury, those same people are told, on no uncertain terms, that they are destined for a hell that KAS imagines.

    Give me a break.

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  66. Serving Kids in Japan – the phrase you took exception to actually came from a sermon by R C Lucas, rector of St Helen’s in London on Romans 1, where he was quoting a journalist who was not a believer who liked church from the social aspect of meeting together, but who went on to say ‘What these people confess as sins are to her the most precious things in life’. I’ve seen this inversion of good and bad, light and darkness countless times. The sermon was a powerful reminder of the intellectual confusion that abounds when a society turns its back on God. ‘Futile thinking’ and ‘senseless minds’ in that great passage.

    In no sense was it implying anybody is socially superior or inferior. Carmen has a very vivid imagination to see that in it. If anything, I would claim that biblical ethics are superior to anything outside of it. Atheism provides no basis for universal ethics. (This in turn usually garners the complaint I am saying atheists have no morals; that is not the point, it is where a knowledge of right and wrong come from that is the issue.)

    I might add that prior to the sentence you dislike I had said God’s forgiveness and grace, the very definition of which is it is something not deserved which means being forgiven, ‘saved’ becoming part of the ‘elect’ etc etc does not mean the believer has a special status God is recognising, rather the opposite – everybody without exception needs grace, we are all unrighteous, and the believer has recognised that and gone to God and put their faith in Christ for mercy. Even doing that is not meritorious. They are not morally superior to anyone else, nor does this make them morally superior to anyone else. It does mean a change of standards to live by from then on. The idea that anything we receive from God is nothing to boast about but is a gift and undeserved is so basic to Christianity that I take it as a given.

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  67. ” Atheism provides no basis for universal ethics. ” Who else says this but religious people? Particularly christians who believe they are morally superior. That statement proves that at least one person on this thread believes him/herself to be.
    Ethics pre-date Christianity, KAS. Do some research.

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  68. mwcamp – I think we are going to havew to agree to differ. I find the parallel between eternal life and eternal punishment very striking, and the enduring nature of the punishment, regardless of arguments about the precise meaning of the Greek, is confirmed by other passages quoting Jesus.

    I have read the passages and thought about it for myself, and couple of books I have read that have treated this subject as part of their content come from anglicans well-trained in the original languages, and who are in no sense hellfire and brimstone type preachers.

    You raise some huge issues, the answers to which I don’t believe God has fully revealed, and we have to trust him to do what is right.

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  69. Carmen – I have heard a former East German atheist Communist say atheism has no basis for ethics – loving your neighbour as yourself to be precise. He is still an atheist btw. Capitalism isn’t any better in his opinion.

    You are just repeating the same accusation, namely that I consider myself morally superior. Why not show the basis for universal atheist morals and ethics rather than ad hominum comments?

    Better still, drop the whole thing altogether as I have no desire to get into arguments about all this, still less to repeat the same thing over and over again. It’s not about me, it is supposed to be about John Piper and the wisdom or lack of it in his reply to the hell and death question.

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