“…but I don’t think that people should become Christians because of a fear of Hell. Rather, they should come to Christ out of a fear of the God that can cast them into Hell..”
I’ve submitted the following response and I don’t care if it gets posted there or not, it’s worth adapting for our blog as well.
Ray, you cited Luke 12:4-5 to justify your position that we should fear God. While I’d normally point out that this is still an absurd doctrine of fear that isn’t something I’d expect Christians to be proud of (and I will), you’ve attempted to avoid that response by claiming that there are two types of fear.
It’s curious that you quoted 1 John 4:17, yet you didn’t bother to note that it’s verse 18 from which you draw the idea of fear as torment.
The text of verse 18 reads:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
So, the question, Ray, is this:
What is your authority for claiming there are two different types of fear referenced in the passage in Luke?
The same word (English and Greek) for fear is used in both references (in Luke and 1 John). The passage you quoted from Luke also appears in Matthew (10:28) and relies on the same Greek word in that instance as well.
The 1 John passage doesn’t say ‘fear (phobos) can also mean torment (kolasis)’ it says ‘fear (phobos) involves torment (kolasis)’.
The author of 1 John isn’t giving an alternate definition of fear, he’s explaining that fear has/contains (a more accurate translation of the Greek ‘echo’) torment, intrinsically.
Or, more accurately, ‘fear (phobos) does (instead of ‘can also’) mean torment (kolasis)’.
This is a subtle but significant point that will be important in a moment.
Now, I’m well aware that this word (fear/phobos) has several meanings, that’s not my point. My point is that you’re claiming that it means one thing in the first sentence and a different thing in the second sentence and you’ve provide no justification for that – nor have you offered a valid alternate definition (you appealed to some sort of ‘common sense’ fear).
Let’s re-write Luke 12:4-5 substituting your definitions (or with the most valid definition to replace your ‘common sense’ pseudo-definition):
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid (tormented) of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear (be in awe of): Fear (be in awe of) Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear (be in awe of) Him!”
It’s worth noting that this passage is attributed to Jesus and one would presume that you consider it to be an accurate Greek representation of what he originally said.
I find it patently absurd for you to claim that this passage, is referencing two different types of fear.
Firstly, there is no indication from 1 John 4:18 that there are two different types of fear, as you claim – that’s simply an explanation that fear includes torment.
Secondly, you’re implying that Jesus was such a poor thinker that he would construct a ‘not this – but this’ comparison with predicates that have entirely different meanings and, as if that wasn’t enough, you’re implying that he was so careless with his words that translators were forced to use the same word to mean two different things (despite other words being available), even though he surely must have realized that this would lead to centuries of confusion over what he meant.
The verse is clear – ‘Don’t fear those who can simply kill you, but fear Him who can kill you and punish you forever.’
This is a clear threat of hell.
It’s clear in the Greek and in the English. Your appeal is a sophomoric apologetic that simply rationalizes your preferred softening with sophistry.
What’s worse is that even with your softened re-rendering, the text is still simply a threat of hell – because that’s the power that determines which personage one should fear.
There are only two reasons that I’ve been able to come up with for why you didn’t simply say “Yes, we’re supposed to fear God because he can send us to hell.” (A position that, while I despise it, would have at least earned you some respect for honesty.)
1. You really don’t have any firm understanding of what you’re talking about.
2. You were afraid of facing the contradiction that arises when one verse tells you to love god, another tells you to fear god and a third says that there is no fear in love.
Now, as a quick end-of-post comment:
The simple truth is that the fire-and-brimstone preachers used to use this precise passage to support their message. After all, we have Jesus directly telling you to fear God because of what he can do to you after you’re dead. Ray, I believe, knows this and he knows the distaste the general public has for fire-and-brimstone preachers, so he’s twisting and turning like a twisty-turny-thing in order to convince someone – anyone – that he’s not like those guys.
He doesn’t think we should fear Hell, just the guy who can send us there – because he can send us there – but not really fear, in the sense of being terrified, but fear in the common-sense, ‘healthy respect for’-fashion.
I therefore request that Fred Phelps of Shirley Phelps-Roper take a few minutes and call Ray to explain why his particular brand of exegesis isn’t Biblical. It may be more pleasant to Ray, but that’s only because he’s desperately trying to soften the message.
Ya hear me, Shirley? I’m tired of beating on Ray, it’s your turn!