I GET LETTERS asking me if I’m a Bible-believing, born-again Christian.
The question usually comes with a sermon.
Take a listen to excerpts from an email I got yesterday from the husband of a lady who, earlier in the day, asked me to unsubscribe her from my blog. (By the way, every blog article comes with an option to unsubscribe yourself. It’s harder for me to do it for you. But I did this for the lady.)
Hi, my wife has read a book of yours and I kinda thumbed through it and have a couple questions if you don’t mind. I’m wondering what your testimony is about your born-again experience with Jesus Christ. You present information in the book that is contrary to the Bible text. For instance, the subject of Hell. Jesus preached on Hell on many occasions and clearly warns us about this horrific place.
I noticed you present “scholars” opinions but never say where you stand. That is a problem for me. As a born-again believer, we must make a stand, or we are no different than the world. The different views you present are exactly what a lot of unbelievers believe, so they could walk away from your book feeling good about it, rather than be introduced to the person of Jesus Christ.
I’ve read your bio and some other things but still do not understand your refusal to stand for what you “portray” you believe….Have you had a true experience with the Lord Jesus, or is this just your job?
Hi to you, too.
I’m a born-again Christian.
I got the hell scared out of me by an evangelist when I was eight years old. He preached a sermon about hell that I’ll bet you would have liked. When I got home, Mom heard me crying in the bathroom. I told her I didn’t want to go to hell. She prayed with me and helped me invite Jesus into my heart…so I wouldn’t have to go to hell. Whew.
I grew up in rule-minded evangelical churches that told me what to believe, whether I believed it or not.
- Bowling was a sin because booze was served there.
- Movies were bad because Hollywood was sinful.
- Dancing…don’t even think about it.
What in the dickens were you supposed to do to take a gal on a date? No wonder gals got pregnant in the back seats of Buicks. What else was there to do?
When I went to seminary and began studying the Bible for myself, I realized that many of the rules I had been told to live by where nothing more than pastoral pet peeves.
Also, I discovered that some theological teachings weren’t as black and white as I had been taught.
One Nazarene pastor told us in a membership class that you had to be entirely sanctified to get to heaven. Nazarenes teach that entire sanctification is a second work of God’s doing, after we get saved. It’s kind of like Salvation-Plus. Get saved. Then get holy. I went to a Nazarene seminary and discovered that none of the scholars I came across believed what my pastor had said.
To be blunt, I got tired of preachers telling me what to think. Just as I get tired of “news broadcasters” telling me what they think.
Just give me the facts and let me think for myself with the brain God gave me. That’s what I do. That’s what I encourage my readers to do.
In my books, I don’t usually take a position on disputed topics. I report what Bible experts have to say on the subject. And I leave it there. The readers get to decide which argument, if any, tracks with
- church tradition
- their personal spiritual experiences
- and the common sense God gave them.
(For the record, I just described what scholars call the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Google it.)
Not all Christians believe there is a hell like the one the evangelist terrorized me with when I was a boy. But other Christians interpret the Bible teachings about hell in a way that tracks with how it has been preached since at least the time of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). He was a Massachusetts pastor who terrified his congregation with a sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” A sampling:
- “There is no want [lack] of power in God to cast wicked men into Hell at any moment.”
- “They deserve to be cast into Hell.”
- “They are already under a sentence of condemnation to Hell.”
- “And you children that are unconverted, don’t you know that you are going down to Hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of God that is now angry with you every day, and every night?”
I’m not a preacher.
I’m a news reporter who covers the Bible beat. I’ll tell you what the Christian Bible scholars say, and I’ll tell you why they say they say it. But I’m not going to tell you who I think got it right.
Often, I have no idea who got it right.
I’m following Jesus as best I can. I study the Bible and help teach a Sunday School class in a United Methodist Church. I think for myself. I recommend that other Christians do the same.
I write for readers who have questions and open minds. I don’t write for people who think they have all the answers and their minds made up.
It’s my niche and my deep desire.
If I were working at a job just to make money, I’d be a lawyer, a politician, or a plumber who works weekends.