WITNESS FOR A FIREMONGER?
by Matt Thomas in 1997
I just couldn't do it. Was it because I was shy, or didn't really believe what I was supposed to say? I was a bit shy around strangers, and also knew that most people thought Christianity was just more religious garbage. Yet I was supposed to believe the salvation message and in sharing it with as many people as possible, but something about the whole process didn't ring true. Thus I just couldn't do it, even though I truly believed God would cast them all into an infinite inferno to be endlessly tortured if I didn't act. Yes, it was drilled into me wherever I turned in my lifelong Christian walk that I was supposed to get out there and grab anyone and everyone I could to "wrestle" them "in" to Jesus. I thought it was the right thing to do--after all, weren't these teeming masses blindly wandering into an open flaming pit and in dire need of rescue?
That was my dilemma. I knew if hell was really what the church world, preachers, and apparently the Bible said it was, then NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. I still believe that statement. Yet people, even most Christians I encountered, seemed to flippantly dismiss the subject of any particular sinner's salvation from this horrible fate as mere casual conversation. They would talk about such things as evil deeds done by people and deaths oh so casually, while I could only wonder of the eternal consequences of such deeds and the dire peril which anyone deceased was likely facing. How could everyone be so unconcerned? If hell is real, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. Not love, sex, friends, money, health, politics, sports, music, movies, TV, computers, hobbies and interests, NOTHING!! It's all just an infinitely short prelude to the most revolting and never-ending story ever told. Or so I thought--and thought for most of my life in the shallower regions of my mind.
Yet, I never REALLY stopped and considered the subject of God creating people with immortal souls and sending them to hell forever. After all, no one was overly concerned, even Christians, and non-Christians either didn't give a "damn" or casually accepted their frying fate with seeming ease, though, of course, not fully comprehending what they were thinking. Still you have to credit these "heathen" with knowing they were hopelessly mired in sin and there was nothing they themselves could do to change that. Oh, that more Christians would come to that realization!
What could I do? Let's analyze the witnessing process, or the "Great Commission" laid on most Christians from childhood. If I approached anyone to try and get them to get his or her soul saved from eternal fire, I would, before I said a word, necessarily have the attitude that "I have something you don't have". That didn't feel right to me, because it would assume an air of superiority on my part when I was supposed to be preaching pure unadulterated love from one sinner to another. Second, I couldn't truly love someone I thought God was sentencing to hell. I dare say no one could. And to pretend to do so would be utmost hypocrisy, which is something most people outside the church world hate (good for them!). Third, what are the first two things generally said to a "lost" soul by a Christian who is trying to witness to someone? First of all, you have to tell them they (like all their fellow humans) were born under a sentence of eternal torture because of ONE SIN of disobedience by a man and woman named Adam and Eve in some garden about 6000 years ago. Now some Christians don’t make you a sinner right from birth. These Christians have concocted this thing called the "age of accountability." Once a kid reaches this age, then they become sinners. This mythical age (not found on the pages of the Bible) varies from one denomination to the next.
Anyway, the idea is to show that everybody in the world is in trouble with God and unless something dramatic happens, you are headed for a place called Hell where you are going to be tortured forever and ever and ever and ever and…….(You get the point?) You are already under judgment and simply because you were born into this world, you are guilty AND deserve to be tortured forever. OK, Christian witnesses, what comes next? Right! BUT…. "God loves you that He gave...". Now how is a normal person supposed to rationalize or reconcile those first two statements? I don't know, but that's the formula we witnesses are supposed to follow. So then you scare the "hell" out of them, then tell them about Jesus' perfect sacrifice to give them a ray of hope. Now Jesus' sacrifice was perfect, but then there's the hardest part. You have to make them recite something known as the "sinner's prayer". This means the self-confessed sinner must "accept" Jesus Christ's work, because if he or she doesn't, the work falls short of its intent and is in reality not valid. Jesus did half the work and holds His loving arms over the flaming pit to receive the poor sinner, but then you have to step out over the flame and meet Him halfway, right? Hmmm. Pretty presumptuous I'd say.
The church world justifies a God of love who sends His children to hell with the weak argument that God must do it to be JUST. He WARNS THEM in advance about what He is going to do to them if they don't repent and "live right". God knew before they were even born that most would not heed the presumed warning anyway, so is that warning really valid? Such a warning to me does nothing but create anxiety that, if believed, never leaves you. Does INFINITE punishment for FINITE wrongdoing equal justice, for you, me, your neighbor, Stalin, Hitler or Satan?
Now let's think about what a person is saying to that poor "lost" soul when they have that person in a "headlock for Jesus". The church world would have us believe they are telling that person a God of great love sent His Son to die IN THEIR PLACE, and to save them from a terrible fate. They can say they are trying to save them from falling into the hands of Satan or from Hell, but what they are really saying to the "recruit" is "I am here to save you from God!" After all, God was the one waiting to mercilessly throw the hapless soul into an eternal torturing fire. So what kind of God are they introducing this poor soul to once we remove the cosmetics?
They are introducing you to a God of EVIL! How can I make such a statement? Because all Christians acknowledge the omniscience and omnipotence of Yahweh (or as the church world likes to call Him, Jehovah) God. I have no reason to doubt that assumption, for it is supported by our marvelous universe and testified to in Holy Scripture. No arguments there. Now if God is omniscient He KNEW when He created Lucifer back before recorded history, that he would rebel and become what we call the Devil--the father of lies and propagator extraordinaire of sin. God also was not surprised when Adam and Eve were tempted by this fallen being and sinned, nor was he surprised when you and I fell into sin. After all, we were born into a sinful world. If one is born in a mud puddle, they are bound to get muddy. Therefore an omniscient God who knows the end from the beginning and every cause and effect in the universe created everything FOR A PURPOSE. He did not bewail Satan's fall because He knew it was coming when he was created. Satan was CREATED to fall and play the role he has come to play. If that is not true God is not omniscient.
The same thing can be said about all God's other created intelligent beings like you and me. Now, if God created us knowing that an estimated 95% of the billions of us who have lived on this earth would not recite the sinner's prayer and be cast into hell forever to burn in unspeakable agony, He created the 95% FOR THAT PURPOSE. So if 95% go to hell and 5% squeak into heaven, then which has triumphed for eternity--GOOD, or EVIL? If He created mankind knowing full well that He would have to torture endlessly 95% of His children, then He is certainly evil! There is no way around it. (Now that I think of it, more than 95% of the world’s population never even heard they needed to invite Jesus into their hearts. So probably much more than 95% of the world is headed to the fiery pit.) God does, in fact, say He creates evil, but not this kind of diabolical wickedness!. Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Bible says, "I make peace, and I create evil."
When iniquity was found in Satan, where did it come from? From God, who knows all and created all, and created all FOR A PURPOSE. But IS GOD EVIL? According to the unfolded logic of the traditional church, yes, because He knew in advance that bringing mankind into existence would result in He having to torture endlessly most of the men, women, and children which would come into this world. Of course there are many Bible Scriptures which would contradict such a conclusion. The Bible says, "God is LOVE". It also says "His mercy endureth forever 27 times". Those who say God is going to torture people endlessly can spout the mythology and mistranslations of the King James translators all they want, but what they are saying is that God is an evil firemonger who takes pleasure in torturing His children forever. C'mon, now, an omnipotent God is not going to create anything that would give Him DISPLEASURE FOREVER, would He? If this awful doctrine is true, if God does not take pleasure in torturing His own children then He will be displeased forever. How would you like to live with a God who is forever displeased? Hmmm.
Now I know why I could not witness. How could I promote such a monstrous God to people I sincerely cared about, and do it with any kind of sincerity? I could not. Moreover, how could I expect any thinking individual to respond in favor of such a monstrous God? Again, I could not. Is it any wonder the world as a whole rejects the God of most of Christianity?
Yet for most of my life, I believed in hell, and thanks to modern Christendom I was continually in fear I would slip up and go there. From the time I was a teenager to just recently, this fear weighed upon my mind and soul. Every time I was in pain I was terrified. All I could think of was "what if it lasted forever?". Not 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 years, or 5 billion years, no, that doesn't even start eternity. The problem is that most people cannot comprehend eternity. If they really tried to do so, they would be much more terrified of hell than they are. When you are in pain and/or anguish of spirit, the fear of duration seizes upon you like nothing else can. Think of how slowly time passes when you suffer. Think about hell not when you are in the lap of luxury, but in the sobering grip of agony.
Whenever I would see a hot burner on a stove I would think "what if I was impaled upon it?". I thought with much grief about people who have died in fires, but recoiled in horror when I tried to imagine them in that condition and NOT dying! Deep down in my heart I just couldn't reconcile the above with a God of love.
I love the truth. I have loved it ever since I can remember, and the more I studied to draw closer to whom I believed to be the source of all truth--Yahweh God, and His Son, Jesus, the more I knew I had to have answers about hell before I could proceed any further in my Christian walk. It had to be confronted head-on with diligent study and logic. I had to alleviate my fear or justify it, with no middle ground.
So in my late 30s, I began to seek answers about hell. Being somewhat familiar with the Internet, I started my search. I typed in "hell" and the listing that came up and caught my attention, was a web page called "Tentmaker" by Gary Amirault. By studying the materials on line I came across something I had never heard of in all my life regarding Christianity--it was called Universalism - a teaching that all mankind would eventually be saved through the Cross of the Messiah, and that no one would have to endure the horrors of hell for eternity. I learned the meaning of some words that are mistranslated in the King James Version of the Bible as meaning eternal, but in reality they actually mean a finite length of time. I found the many resources and works by Gary and other authors to be immensely helpful.
Then Gary gave me the opportunity to type for him a book that would change my life. It was written in 1855 (such a refreshing time!) by Thomas B. Thayer, and is entitled "The History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment". After reading it, I knew I had to share it with as many people as possible.
If the issue of eternal torment concerns you at all please spend some time with Gary's Web page, and PLEASE read Thayer's book. If one has a heart, it will touch them and in some cases, break it. But then it will uplift your spirit by thoroughly demonstrating the absurdity of the idea of endless punishment. The book gives testimonies showing how damaging the doctrine of eternal torment has been down through history. The book reveals that the Doctrine of a Hell of Eternal Torture, came from ancient pagans, not from the Bible in the original languages in which it was written. It demonstrates that contrary to what much of the church world says, the belief in endless punishment does not enforce morality, but actually makes man even more depraved. The book details some sad and bitter testimonies of honest men who believed the doctrine.
The belief in eternal torment may be partially to blame for a severe anxiety disorder I have suffered since age 17. I have seen testimonies of people that have gone nearly or completely insane due to this horrible teaching. Don't let it happen to you. Explore the wonderful truths of the salvation of all mankind found in properly translated Bibles. Learn what Christ meant when He said on the Tree of Crucifixion, "It is finished." Discover the wonderful promises He left for you, your friends, relatives, and loved ones.
Like I said before, If hell is real, nothing else matters on this side of the grave. One should spend every moment of time and all their money making sure they themselves are truly saved. Then they should spend every moment of their life warning with tears of sincerity those who, according to their own theology, have the sentence of everlasting torture on their heads. But conversely if heaven has been won for everyone on this planet, then everything takes on a whole new meaning. Suddenly true love for both our friends and enemies, as Christ exhorted us, can spring from our hearts. WE cannot possibly truly love anyone we believe God would throw in hell. I know that from bitter experience. We all tend to conform to the way we see God. Seeing a God who torments people breeds contempt for our fellow man and turns a person into a hypocrite. Seeing a God of Love without hypocrisy, breeds forgiveness and sincerity. I've been there. It's your choice. Check out tentmaker.org and the materials available without price. It's not too late to love and be loved.