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Posted: May 5, 2006

     I don't think most genuinely born-again Christians set out to become liberal Christians. Nevertheless, some do. For some reason they go from the fundamental position of "Thus saith the Lord!" to the liberal "Thus saith the heart!" They go from a Bible-believing to a Bible-disputing position.

     Why is that?

     Well, first we need to distinguish between thinking and emoting. We all think and emote in various degrees and at different times. Thinking is based on reason and the rational, logical consideration of information, facts, and principles. Emoting, on the other hand, is based on feelings and the emotional effects of perceptions, opinions, and desires. Now, with the difference between thinking and emoting in mind, let's consider again the question of how people go from a fundamental Bible-believing position to a liberal Bible-disputing position.

     I think part of the answer lies in the fact that there are some things in the Bible that are less than pleasant. After all, how many people really enjoy hearing about judgment, chastening, hell, the devil, and tithing? Yet, those things are there and we need to preach and teach them if we are to "declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts20:27).

     Consider, for example, what the Bible has to say about hell and those that will end up there. It is a decidedly unpleasant subject. According to the Bible, hell is a place of fire and torment (Luke 16:24-25) where "their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44). All those who die without trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior are condemned to hell (John 3:18, 36) because "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The only escape from hell will be a temporary reprieve at the Great White Throne judgment of the unsaved, as described in Revelation 20:11-15, where they will stand before Almighty God. From there they, and hell itself, will be "cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14-15), "which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8) for all eternity (Revelation 14:10; 20:10).

     Now, as I said before, what the Bible teaches about hell and those that go there is unpleasant. Not only is it unpleasant, it is distasteful and unsettling. Yet, it is there. It is in the Bible. How do we deal with it?

     The thinker says, "That is terrible! Millions are dying without trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior! How can I prevent them from going into the lake of fire for all eternity?" The emoter says, "That is terrible! Millions are dying without trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior! How can God allow them to go into the lake of fire for all eternity?"

     The thinker reads in the Bible "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and, in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The thinker then reads John 14:6, where "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." and Acts 4:12 where the Bible says, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The thinker acknowledges the Bible statements and reasons that in order to prevent millions from dying without Jesus Christ and going into the lake of fire for all eternity, someone must "Go...into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).

     The emoter, however, reads the same Bible passages but reacts quite differently. They may very well accept the truth of the Scriptures on an intellectual level, especially in regards to those that have heard the gospel message, but it just doesn't feel right or fair that someone who has grown up in a remote jungle somewhere and has never heard of Jesus Christ should wind up in the lake of fire for all eternity as well. Eventually, if unchecked, the feeling that it is unfair may eventually overtake their intellectual acknowledgement of the Bible and lead the emoter to search for an answer that "feels right" or seems somehow more fair that the harsh reality of the Scriptures.

     Do you see the difference here? The thinker sees the millions dying without Christ and is motivated by what the Bible says to reach them with the gospel message. The emoter, on the other hand, sees the millions dying without Christ and is motivated by what the Bible says to question the fairness of the gospel message.

     Now just questioning the Scriptures is not going to turn a fundamental Bibl-believing Christian into a liberal Bible-disputer. One thing that I learned a long time ago is that truth can stand up to any sort of honest questioning. In fact, truths are verified and validated by honest questioning, so long as the questioner is willing to accept answers. Unfortunately, it is often more difficult for the emoter than for the thinker to accept the answers that they don't agree with.

     Getting back to our discussion concerning the fairness of the gospel message, we can now follow the steps of an emoter from a fundamental Bible-believing position to that of a liberal Bible-disputer. The process begins when the emoter finds a particular Bible teaching emotionally uncomfortable or disagreeable. Rather than agree that John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 apply to all people everywhere, for instance, they begin to search for a more agreeable solution to the problem of millions dying without Christ. After all, "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and "is rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4).

     Since it does not seem fair that a merciful, loving God would send someone to hell for the misfortune of being born in a remote jungle where the gospel is not preached, then there must be a another way for them to get to heaven. Surely a God who is "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9) would make an exception for them. It just feels right, doesn't it?

     The next step is to come up with a reasonable basis for God making an exception. Obviously a bad person might still go to hell, but what if the person is trying to be good and live up to whatever light they may have in their native religion? Wouldn't God extend mercy to such a person who is at least trying to do right? It wouldn't be fair to send to send him to hell. After all, it is not his fault that he has never heard the gospel.

     Once the emoter has justified how our friend in the remote jungle can get to heaven without Jesus Christ, it is a short step to extend God's merciful exception to all those who have not heard a clear gospel presentation, regardless of where they live, so long as they, like our jungle friend, are trying to do good and follow whatever light they have. It doesn't seem fair that God would not make an exception for a good Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Mormon, or whatever who just had the misfortune of being taught the wrong thing.

     Seeing this progression, it is easy to see how someone could eventually conclude that a loving, merciful God would not condemn anyone to the lake of fire for all eternity. It's just not fair that someone should suffer for eternity for a few mistakes in this short life.

     Hell soon becomes a metaphor and its flames symbolic. The once fundamental Bible-believer becomes a liberal Bible-disputer. Their feelings have trumped their faith and their own emotions have overruled God's Word. Emoting wins out over thinking.

     Keep in mind that God created emotions. Our feelings are important but we should not allow them to overrule reason. Consequently, we cannot throw out the clear teaching of the Bible just because it offends our sensibilities.

     Some things in the Bible may just not feel right or fair to us. We may be tempted to follow our heart and search for a more emotionally satisfying explanation for the things we find unpleasant. But be warned: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

     Instead of following our heart we need to follow God and His Word. We should be like the Psalmist who said "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches" (Psalms 63:5-6); "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands" (Psalms 143:5).

     So, the next time you find yourself following your heart contrary to the Word of God, stop and think. Remember, the road to liberalism is paved with good intentions.

-Pastor Al

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