Finding the Fear in Christianity…

So I have been having some very eye-opening discussions with some fellow Christians and it got me to thinking about one small thing – do people follow God because they are ‘scared of Him’?

We do a lot a talk about grace/mercy and forgiveness and how we should ‘ not live in fear’ of God – but I wonder if this is actually the case. In my discussions, and in many in the past, with quite orthodox Christians I notice a type of ‘hidden’ fear that is not talked about very much…fear to challenge your own personal faith (asking questions).

I have noticed once I go down the path of inconsistencies or illogics in the NT scriptures concerning interpretation of many orthodox mainstays – Christians begin to ‘pull away’ – as if fearful of ‘asking those questions’. They then in turn justify this action by blaming the person asking the question as somehow being ‘UnChristian’ (fortunately for them I am ‘AChristian’). Who, whoa, whoa…I thought the God of perfect love ‘casts out all fears’? I sense those fears.

Apparently asking questions about the nature of God and what it all means is ‘ok’ – as long as you stay in the rigidly designed orthodox lines and behave yourself…going too far can mean expulsion. But I don’t see why that fear is neccesary – not in the path to learn ‘truth’ and more about ‘God’…how can we draw lines in that process? Unless someone wants you to believe they have ‘God figured out’? Then I can see the fear there – if the answers are all there and you deviate from those set answers – well you are being damned in some way for being ‘wrong’. But that sucks…cause the answers are not all there – there is still a personal journey and experience to figure out.

Christians are fearful to ask questions about a God they have figured out. They omit the finer details (like God being figured out already) and let you hear what ‘sounds good’ (not logical – just sounds nice). They are scared of God…they are scared of their higher-ups…they know what is going to happen if you ask ‘those questions’. What was once a nice orderly and loving community will become the same one that ‘judges’ you unto ostracization.

But hey, no one said it was going to be easy to follow the truth.

26 thoughts on “Finding the Fear in Christianity…

  1. Great post! I know that it was fear that kept me in check for many, many years. But, it’s hard to overlook the contradictions in scripture. You either have to face reality or stick your head in the sand!

  2. **do people follow God because they are ’scared of Him’?**

    I evaluate the answer to that question by examining how Christians attempt to persuade non-Christians to follow God. Telling people that if they don’t follow God, they go to hell, or telling people how wrathful God is is very fear-based to me.

    Even telling people how Jesus took the punishment people deserved, and thus satisfied God’s wrath strikes me as fear-based. Because a God who requires people to be punished when they were born imperfect, and thus stand no chance of ever being perfect — and then gets angry at the people about that — is a God who is going to create fear, and is a God I’d only be able to follow out of fear. That type of God cannot create a sense of awe in me, or a sense of love, because the very nature of that God is unjust. That type of God would appeal to my sense of fear.

  3. I think this is the issue upon which a lot Christianity stands or falls. It seems to me that future generations are going to be much less inclined to engage the god of “or else” that has been presented in the past. Few churches truly believe in a good, loving, and gracious god. The god of western Christianity tends to be very fickle to the point of bi-polar. This leaves us with a very inconsistent message. A pastor will speak of the unconditional love of God…. that will torture you forever if you do not respond properly, all in the same sermon. There will always be those who will respond to a fear based message, but I think that number is shrinking…. which is why Christianity is shrinking.

  4. Absolutely. A ton of people do follow God out of fear. I have done it for 3 decades, not really realizing that was at the heart of it until now. And evangelism, as OneSmallStep has pointed out, often centers around giving people a fear of hell. I think fear is the main driving force in much of Christianity. And, as the tribal chief father says to his son at the beginning of “Apocalypto,” “fear is a disease.” That fear leads to a refusal to question. But God is all figured out anyway based on a logic driven post Enlightenment modern reading of scripture so why question.

  5. “I do think that many Christians are ’scared’ into Heaven” (Steve)

    Well, if hell is real – then people should be legitamitely scared – cause that’s a hell of a punishment. Scared so much that they decide to follow God out of fear – which would be a very normal response (intimidation).

  6. Trouble is that no one chooses to follow God, out of fear or anything else.

    God calls and chooses us through the gospel. St. Paul tells us that “no one seeks for God.”

    We are dead in our sins and trespasses and dead people are not capable of choosing anything.

  7. Trouble is that no one chooses to follow God, out of fear or anything else.
    God calls and chooses us through the gospel. St. Paul tells us that “no one seeks for God.”
    We are dead in our sins and trespasses and dead people are not capable of choosing anything(Steve)

    And this is where you lose me completely. If I or anyone else for that matter doesnt choose G-d, then what the Hell does it matter if we sin or not. This belief system that you have is beyond Non-sensical. I know, you will now probably quote some other scripture to negate this one or at least make it plausible in your mind. Wow this is just too freaky. You must have inhaled a ton, when you were a Teen.
    Come to think of it, maybe we could smoke some now and make this stuff work. 😉

  8. “So, their being scared and deciding they don’t want to go to hell, of their own volition, my be a case of having faith in their faith…and not faith in God” (Steve)

    Is this even possible – having faith in your own faith? Most people follow some religious system that dates back about 600 years (or earlier) – and even find roots some 1600 years ago (within Christianity). So what they have faith in is not of their ‘creation’ so to speak – but church fathers more or less.

    Also God chooses us according to your theology – so one cannot choose to follow their own faith or anything even if they worry about ‘hell’ – which is also not of their ‘creation’. It seems like this idea leads to the thought ‘God chooses some’ and does ‘not choose some’…meaning we have ‘no say’…so God chooses who is damned and no matter what they think of it – that’s too bad for them.

    “God calls and chooses us through the gospel. St. Paul tells us that “no one seeks for God.”” (Steve)

    (a) It’s one 5 word scripture – that is mis-quoted – by either you or Paul – take your pick

    (b) You take it too literal – you see the ‘no one’ as ‘everyone’ for all time and no exceptions

    (c) It is a fact some people ‘seek’ God – this is known. Should we say Christians don’t or you do not? That would be a lie. At some point some people ‘seek’ after God.

    It’s just another use of scripture – from the Tanakh – being misquoted to prove ‘how bad we are as people’ and ‘devoid of God’ or cannot ‘have faith’. Now sometimes it is true – no one is seeking (or it seems this way – we feel like Elijah for a time) – but God leaves that option open to us – and does implant faith where and when He needs to (there is absolutely no proof of that whatsoever). If anything, humans function from a level of faith at all times.

  9. You are so good. We are so good. I am so good.

    St. Paul was so wrong. The Bible is so wrong.

    “All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Old Testament)

    Ridiculous. Throw that book out!

  10. “You are so good. We are so good. I am so good. St. Paul was so wrong. The Bible is so wrong” (Steve)

    What if he is wrong Steve? It is a known fact he mis-quotes many Tanakh passages to make his points in a few of his letters (namely Galtians)…to a basically Gentile audience who could not truly argue against what he was saying. Not saying this makes him altogether ‘wrong’ – but it does leave some of his theology open for obvious criticism.

    For some reason, this just gets ignored because it’s Paul, it’s been accepted into canon as scripture…which makes it non-argumentative. Well, that’s a narrow minded perspective to hold and Judaism does not treat the actual Torah like that. Moses is debated daily…and Abraham…to arrive at the best possible thing being said. I do this – and all of a sudden I am ‘too good’…so be it I say. Errors are errors and they need to be pointed out.

    ““All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Old Testament)Ridiculous. Throw that book out!” (Steve)

    Again – a portion of a passage from Isaiah or the Psalms with no context attached – just being used to make some simple generic point about how everything is just ‘bad’. If that’s the way you want to interpret that passages – by bits n pieces of it – be my guest – then what if atheists do this to you?

    “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves” (Gal 5:12)

    Here is Paul in passage wishing harm on those who circumcise people. But what if we used this as justification as something outside of the chapter 5 of that letter. Like justification for suicide or cutting yourself. Kind of like this passage is giving the ‘nod’ to the act for those who do that…meaning it is ‘ok’…cause the one one’s trooubling you need to join the movement that ‘cuts themselves’ (or some kind of hurt done to one’s self to make one look more obedient).

    So kind of like you pulling a ‘piece’ of a whole chapter out from Isaiah and quoting one part – the same can be done anywhere in scripture to prove basically any single point you want. This doesn’t help make the passage from Isaiah mean what you say it does (a generic statement about all time) – it just shows bad interpretation and mis-quoting scritpure out of context…that scripture has it’s own meaning in Isaiah and this should define what both Paul means and how we use it.

    ‘Our righteousness is as filthy rags’ – in comparison to God ‘ yes. Just like how when I say I know absolutely nothing in comparison to God – this is also true.

  11. God’s righteousness is the only righteousness that counts.

    We do not want God and our everyday lives prove it.

    If you can’t see that then you have a pride problem.

  12. Couldn’t disagree with ya more Ol’ Adam. I am just OCD on God. You seem to be projecting a lot of your thoughts and motivations on to others… & I just don’t accept those projections.

  13. “God’s righteousness is the only righteousness that counts. We do not want God and our everyday lives prove it. If you can’t see that then you have a pride problem” (Steve)

    Of course I have a pride problem – don’t we all? I am also selfish – but aren’t we all? I struggle with perceptions of how the world looks to me – I am a limited being – aren’t we all? What I dont have is a mis-quoting problem though…which deals exactly with the problem at hand (we can look at my personal life later and dissect that anytime).

    Steve, you act like I have to earn something – which only shows me your system of faith is based on this (thus your strong concern for me about this). I just follow Jesus dude – I ain’t worried about being covered by blood or some vicarious righteousnes that is ‘implanted’ into me – those are none of my concerns whatsoever…why? Because I don’t figure in the equation of vicarious righteousness nor atonement…they are either done or not done irregardless of a single action I take in life.

    What I worry is that those 2 ideas give people an ‘excuse’ to not deal with their own problems. I make no bones about my own pride and selfishness – but I don’t think that I cannot improve for the sake of the people I love. I don’t think – oh well – Jesus imparted his righteousness to me so I am ‘ok’ no matter what I choose to do. If this is the case – I do not want that imparted righteousness – unless it also comes along with the idea of responsibility on my part (I am guilty for my actions – am I not?).

    We do want God Steve and our everyday lives also prove that – the cup is 1/2 empty to you. We both blog on God – that alone speaks volumnes to our concern about our fellow human and our faith in God (or theology). I just think your negative and this is not a very healthy way to view the world…how you ever going to enjoy it?

  14. I enjoy life plenty!

    I am negative about my own goodness to keep my old Adam in check, lest he take all this for granted.

    The Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee was doing all the right things. But the publican knew he was a miserable wretch.

    Jesus said that the publican had the right attitude and he was the one that went away justified.

    I’m not so bad compared to Joe Blow , but God’s righteousness is all that counts towards our salvation, that’s why Jesus said that we must be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

    We do not live as God wants us to live otherwise we would not sin. We don’t stop sinning because we don’t want to stop.

    This is our condition. But God loves us anyway, and forgives us in Christ Jesus.

    Gotta run. Out to the desert to visit my Mom who is ill.

    Ciao!

  15. “I am negative about my own goodness to keep my old Adam in check, lest he take all this for granted” (Steve)

    It kinda sounds schizophrenic in a way (not to be mean or anything). There is like 2 dual personalities dualing it out in your soul – Adam and Jesus – and we need to keep one in check so the other can succeed. I might be reading you wrong – but is it a 2 nature thing going on here?

    “The Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee was doing all the right things. But the publican knew he was a miserable wretch.” (Steve)

    That’s a perspective about that parable – from your own or someone else’s viewpoint…this doesn’t mean there is not more to that parable than just that view. I agree – coming clean on one’s own humility is key to the kingdom of God – and this ‘sinner’ admittedly did that…but do you think he just walked away and went to do the same thing again – or became more like the Pharisee – as you claim ‘did the right things’?

    “but God’s righteousness is all that counts towards our salvation, that’s why Jesus said that we must be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect” (Steve)

    Extremely debateable interpretation about ‘what Jesus meant’. You mix Paul’s ideas with Jesus’ like a seamless transition is occuring – but in reality one passage is from Matthew and the other from Romans (?). Different books from different times from different people teaching on different subjects.

    Jesus mentions perfection – true – but it has nothing to do with living up to some standard God set called ‘perfection’…not at all from the context of that chapter. Perfection – it would seem – from context is the way God treats people – good and bad – they both get His blessing (the sun and rain) and they can decide what to do from there. Jesus asks us to be ‘perfect’ like that example – one that shows no favoritism to one side or another (same chapter ‘love your enemies’ is in – more proof of this same idea). Basically, to treat people equally.

    As for Paul – he is talking about something altogether different than that topic…we actually have no clue if Paul even knew about this teaching. I personally doubt he is teaching on something he had little idea about – my opinion. I am not sure what passage you are talking about with Paul (Romans I am guessing)…I do not want to speak for Paul until I read him more closely…he might not be saying what most people have him saying.

    “We do not live as God wants us to live otherwise we would not sin. We don’t stop sinning because we don’t want to stop” (Steve)

    Funny how you can pull this out as an idea to prove how much of ‘sinners’ we are (from Adam on) – yet when I mention this connected with the punishment for ‘sin’ – death (wages of sin is death) – we forget that death still is the norm also. So basically we are ‘sinner’s’ that will ‘die’ because this is the nature of ‘sin’…correct? So you tell me – what exactly did Jesus’ death change right thurr? From Adam until now we all still die in our sins – sorry – but if you take Paul literally then so must I on this issue.

  16. The oldadam,

    **that’s why Jesus said that we must be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect” **

    I’ve seen you mention this verse quite a few times, but as has been pointed out before, this verse cannot literally mean perfect as people define it today. There is no such word or concept in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. In Greek, it means to be complete, mature, full, fulfilled. What he’s saying is to be complete/mature like God.

  17. Honestly I think the more I read stuff from Steve, the more I get the feeling he has multiple personalities. On any given day we’re wretched, need to be perfect, miserable sinners, need faith, cant get our own faith cause G-d gives it to us……..the list seems to be endless. Geez Im getting tired just trying to keep up. I think I will go grab a pint now. 😉

  18. Great stuff. I’ve been looking for you guys. This is exactly where I’m at these days. Between fear mongering, The Christ Myth, and a lack of honest God LOVING people to talk too. I’ve been feeling very alone.

  19. Fear of God is having reverance and awe for him. Its not being afraid of being put into hell if we don’t bow down to him. To Christians God is our Father. Now for those of you who have had loving earthly Fathers answer this: were you ever afraid that one day your loving dad might snap and murder you and the rest of your family? No you would never think that because you knew he loved you tremendously and if you were an obediant child you obeyed him because you respected him. This is just like God but soo much more since he is from above (heaven) and gives gifts to his children (christians) to whom he loves.

    I grew up believing that God was an evil andgy tyrant desiring to cast all into hell. I came into faith with this fear and have been following him for quit sometime now baste on this unhealthy and unbilical fear of God.
    God revealed this to me that it was a sin for me to have this unhealthy fear for him. That it was destroying our relationship and our close bond we once had. I use to think If I’m not perfect Gods gonna blot my name out of the book of life! OH NO!

    But God showed me that he does not expect me to be perfect. But he has plans for me to grow more into a loving and Christ-like person.

    In fact he has delievered me from many sinful desires that I once had in my past and replaced that emptyness with his abundance of love! Of cousre there are plenty of things I still struggle with but has God left me? No.

    Never will he leave me, never will he forsake me. Hebrews

    He is going to help me overcome it! With God all things are possible!

    Look at it this way would you tell a todler to go out into the world and preach the message of the gospel or else he will be punished in hell for ever? NO

    God wouldn’t do that either instead he would take a bottle and feed the child with milk cuddle him play with him and bless him with his love. God is love.1John Much more loving then us he sent his only son to die on the cross for our sins. Its a free gift. You don’t earn salvation by being perfect you accept the fact that you can save yourself but Jesus can.

    Gods not a slave driver nor does he want his children to be robots!He’s quit funny and has a sense of humor. Remeber Christianity is not a religion its a relatioinship with the Creator of all things! I don’t DO relationships I DO my chores. He is merciful loving gentle and good. He is an angry God I will not lie but he has a righetous anger not an evil anger.

    Could you parents reading this imaging birthing a child you blessed with your love and cared only for them to grow up rebeling against you, spiting on you, punching you and their siblngs, degrade you, stealing from you, destroy your belongings,get drunk, get high, have sex with multiple people in your own house! What would you say/do?

    Oh well Johnny or Sara because I love you I’m just gunna let you do whatever your hearts desire. Ill let you destroy yourself and this family and me and continue on your destructive path while I will watch in joy and love.

    You would call that a bad parent. A good parent would kick the child of the house and tell them to come back when they’ve smarten up; if they would even let them back in the house ever again.

    God is like that a good God only in his mercy he will let you in his house and will never deny you if you put your faith in what Jesus did on the cross for your sins.If you don’t then you must be punished.

    For the wages of sin is death.

    God is not saying let me put my son on the cross to force them into bowing down to me. He is not a prideful God. Pride is a sin he hates. He is saying stop hurting yourselves I love you, I made you, I sent my son to die for you I want to fill that emptyness in your heart with my love.I want to be you Father and save you from the devil who wants to take you away from my love. I want you listen to my words my truth and respect have reverance for me because I know what’s good for you!

    God does not desire anyone to go to hell. But becaus ehe is love and because he is good evil must be punished.

    …So worship God acceptably with reverance and awe. Hebrews 12

    The fear of the LORD is the beggining of knowledge. Proverb.

    The fear of the Lord means respect and awe and reverance for the Creator of all things.
    Not a: Oh he’s out to get me! Fear.
    You would respect an artist for his work how much so for the Holy One who made our very souls.And everything in exsistance.

    In his word he says my people die from lack of knowledge. Picking scriptures without readin in context and woith out the help of God to bless you with understanding, will not help you believe in Jesus and he will bless you tremendously with knowledge.

    God Bless!
    Call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) and you shall be saved!

  20. Amen and Praise God!

    “Christianity is not a religion its a relatioinship with the Creator of all things!” (shevonne)

    I wish this were all it was, but it is also a religion. It s a religion that is messed up because we have rampant disobedience. The church is failing at building that relationship into what it is called to be… a heart for the poor and needy. The world does not see our joy. They see a group of people that celebrate while others suffer. We need to grow up and do what we can in our own families and communities. Only when people see the love of God in us will they realize the value of our faith and the offer of God’s saving grace.

  21. “But God showed me that he does not expect me to be perfect. But he has plans for me to grow more into a loving and Christ-like person” (Shevonne)

    I basically agree. I serve a God that does not need perfection for someone to follow him, but perfection is found in love and treatment of others (ie: respect). The more I look into these concepts the more I find the God that created us.

    “The fear of the Lord means respect and awe and reverance for the Creator of all things” (Shevonne)

    I agree, my point exactly…it just does not mean to be scared. I mean there is some basic fear of the unknown (obviously) – and of a God so powerful – but those are normal and to be expected…but scared into following this God is not the norm.

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