pictures. words (sometimes). blog nonsense.

fire and brimstone! …and math?

One thing that I’ve enjoyed (?) talking to about my friends is whether or not “fire and brimstone” sermons still have a place in the church.

I tend to think they do. Read your Bible lately?

Recently, this powerful rhetoric by a missionary named Paul Washer has been attracting a decent amount of internet buzz. I watched the entire thing, and I’m glad I did.

I think he has excellent points to make. Whether we like it or not, Christianity makes some bold claims and is inherently divisive on many points. Washer’s point that Christianity demands a narrow path as well as a narrow gate is completely spot on. I find that in my contemporaries’ reaction to religion and legalism, this can be entirely forgotten. He is entirely and amusingly right that so much of pop Christianity today is based more on song lyrics than the Bible. He is entirely right that the youth of America need a tough message and to embrace a self-discipline they’ve never even dreamed about…

But I think so cautiously. I’ve seen this kind of preaching abused time and time again. It’s as easy for this kind of rhetoric to become just as damaging as any cheap grace doctrine. And as much as he rails against a culture of personality, I am amused to find that an awful lot of the so-called “power” of his message relies on a dynamic presentation (again, which I don’t think is an inherently bad thing–charisma is part of being human. But boy! does it require accountability and humility).

Then why does the Bible contain scriptures that can be taken to support such opposite viewpoints? Does this disprove its message, as so many atheists believe?

It brings up an interesting point, which reminds me of some posts on a recent blog I read. I think the author is really on to something.

This is a bit of a stretch to explain, but I’m reminded of an interview I wrote a very long time ago with a gentleman who was a fairly brilliant mathematician in the NSA. It’s been a long while, but from what I remember, he talked at length about helping to develop a software program that would extrapolate the parabolic curve of a satellite path and refine it based on continually gathering and taking the square roots of the errors/deviations from its flight paths.

In the same way, I feel like we need to take multiple perspectives into very serious consideration when it comes to our faith. Balance and humility are absolutely essential to something that is of so much importance and requires such radical action from our lives!

(analogy switch here).

This is not merely keeping an open mind and turning a blind eye toward those who disagree with us. On one level, post-modernism (and humanism in general) seems to continually cycle and throw out the idea of truth as new discoveries are made and old stand-bys fail on one level or the other…and on the other hand, those who don’t understand what such thoughts are striving for (at their best) decry their weak-kneed worldview (often rightfully so) and are prone to resort to rigid legalism. I’ve seen this expressed in many conflicted ways within the church and society at large.

I find it downright hilarious. And sometimes very, very sad.

It is akin to saying that since calculus and higher math supersedes and plays around with mathematics, simple addition is no longer valid. On the contrary, the “higher” truths’ entire underpinnings rest on the truths of “simple” math…and for many, those simplicities will give them far more life than calculus ever will.

It is a matter of perspective and true, hard-won understanding. It’s why I have sympathy for those that believe in evolution and those that don’t, those that go to church and those that don’t, those that drink and those that don’t, those that believe in war and those that don’t…I’m trying to take the square root of the deviations and find truth, not because the old “simple” math is dead, but because it is very much alive and applicable.

And what is the truest, simplest form of math? Love (in every way that it is expressed and felt) must be what binds us together…a love for enemy and friend alike, ruled by a deep, peaceful love for God and His word. Everything else, including the very vital need for daily repentance that Washer is after, flows out of this.

3 responses

  1. hey josh really appreciate the link. (you might appreciate these two posts on a similar vein – and

    looks like you’ve got an interesting blog going here and i look forward to delving in deeper over the next few days. i appreciate the sentiment behind this particular post. we can’t ignore the harsh stuff in the scriptures, but it seems to me that the worst is always saved for those who claim to know better – the pharisees in the gospels, hebrews 6 and 10 to the jewish christians. i see my task in the world being to evangelise the churched and disciple the unchurhed – to turn the whole thing on its head. i would save the hell-fire and brimstone sermon for the church, the ‘saved’, the ‘born-agains’ the in-crowd, constantly preaching a message of hope, salvation, liberation and rescue to the ‘sinners’ on the outside!

    March 5, 2008 at 6:22 am

  2. completely agreed. and yes, that is what jesus (in so many ways) did.

    however, i’ve been struck in recent days by the number of people who have complained (after leaving the church) about manipulative recruiting practices…aka, preaching love and forgiveness and then browbreating those in the fold–aka, typical cult behavior.

    that is equally dangerous/disturbing. any “fire and brimstone” that is devoid of love, encouragement, and hope is merely judgmental and knocking the lumber in each other’s eyes around.

    i’m curious, though, about how “fire and brimstone” has been used (by God?) throughout history to great avail to evangelize both those inside and outside the church. obviously it often bore bad fruit, eventually. but should we discredit the good? for example, i have little sympathy today for edward’s dramatic “sinners dangling like spiders over the fires of hell,” but heck. it sure inspired a lot of people to seek God.

    good thing? bad thing? both?

    as a sidenote, it’s interesting to me, that for all the harshness that christ extended towards the religious, he still took every opportunity to talk with them. to eat with them. to accept their hospitality, even when he knew they would betray him.

    we would do well to remember that his heart is for nicodemus and mary magdalene alike.

    March 5, 2008 at 6:35 am

  3. reformatienl

    In my personal opinion the case is very straightforward.

    Either my points of protest are false, and I am a liar, or my points of protest are true, and Mr. Washer is a liar and all those who now worship him as their pope are misleading themselves and others.

    Besides Scripture I will give you three tests of common sense.

    1. A bigot is a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own, and bigotry is the corresponding state of mind. Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false or not universally applicable or acceptable.

    2. SLA’NDER, v.t. To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.

    3. condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance – Albert Einstein

    I know what I have written, it is based on months of studying the false teacher Mr. Washer and comparing him to Scripture and the old paths.

    The proof of the points you may find yourself in Scripture, in churchhistory, and in the reality of Gods Providence ! I am not of the sort that likes to discuss. A protestant who knows his Bible (KJV, Geneva), knows churchistory, knows enough when he views the content of the 25 indictments I have laid before you against Mr. Washer.

    Thank you for your response, but as Mr. Washer is not responding, I will not respond further to your reply at this moment ! Please go to Mr. Washer himself, and ask him to answer these 25 points, and send me a copy of his defence !

    Explaining the colours of the rainbow to the blind, is not possible !

    As a reminder here is a copy of the 25 points: 25 indictments against Paul Washer:
    1) willfully limiting the subjectmatter of Scripture
    2) willfully presenting his own fabricated version of true christianity
    3) willfully bringing himself under a cloak of godliness
    4) willfully closing the book of Revelation and the Prophets
    5) willfully painting the graves of the prophets for his own selfish ends
    6) willfully presenting himself since 2002 with remarks that show Billy Grahamto be his brother, although Graham is high in the world and an archdeceiver
    7) comparison with the whole of Scripture and the true old paths of the Reformationshow him to be a cloud without water
    8) connection in the Netherlands to all false christianity has to offer, even with thosewho publicly say calvinism is a complete error
    9) presenting himself in 80.000 newspapers in the Netherlands smiling as though the sins of the churches and the land are no problem to him
    10) proclaiming a message of revival that has never come, thereby telling lies in Gods Name.
    11) accepting in the core of his message two contradictive systems of doctrine
    12) denying the witness of the Holy Spirit in the Reformation against THE antichrist in Rome
    13) denying the blood of hunderthousands christian brothers and sisters against THE antichrist in Rome
    14) going around the USA and the world to gain one proselyte that he makes a clone of himself
    15) being silent about the developements in the outside world, only preaching for his own parish
    16) laying burdens on small people, while leaving big names in bibleschools, synods, and gospelmusicuntouched and unmentioned
    17) connecting himself to Kirk Cameron, known throughout the world for the message of a future antichrist with Left Behind
    18) himself not being able to go to Wallmart for fear of sinning, yet laying on big burdens on everyone else
    19) printing his own material as though it is manna from heaven, yet is only copying a little text everyone knows with some questions
    20) saying he serves the God of heaven, yet he himself is an idolater of the ring on his own finger
    21) his minister is Jeff Nobblit who teaches a future antichrist, that gain is godliness, and remains in the SBC although a complete apostate body with a statue for Billy Graham
    22) closing the Kingdom of God for the people by keeping silent about the true contents of the witness of the old paths
    23) denying the true witness of the Waldenses, the reformers, the english puritans, the scottish covenanters
    24) denying the true witness of Augustine against Pelagius, Luther against Rome, the Westminster and Dordt Synods
    25) being a facilitator and manipulator replacing the true religion of the King Jesus Christ with a false one of the new world order

    December 26, 2008 at 12:15 pm

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