An Open Letter to Al Mohler

You recently took issue with John Shore’s piece in Time magazine in which he proposed “a Christianity without hell.”  I took issue with him, too.  Therefore, you and I agree that John has interpreted the Bible in such as way as to render it practically meaningless, and thus proposed a Christianity which has nothing to do with Christ or the Bible.

Where you and I part company is that you cling to the traditional teaching that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment which those who have not accepted Christ in this life will enter and never be able to leave.  By contrast, I believe what Jesus described as hell is actually the judgment of God in this life on this earth, and that by walking with Him we can find salvation in the midst of these judgments.  I believe that everyone is going to heaven, but that does not at all mean that righteousness and sin don’t matter.  On the contrary, we’re all going to have to give an account up there of everything we’ve done down here.  I believe the Bible is clear about this and have written a book-length explanation of my position, accessible at the link above.

As for your interpretation of the Bible, however, I don’t even think you really believe what you say you believe, because if you did, you would talk about heaven and hell a lot more than you do.  A whole lot more.

Think about it.  If you as a Christian really believed that anyone dying without Christ was proceeding to a pit of never-ending physical and emotional torment you would do everything you could to spare them.  People are dying all the time, and I would think that you would want to spare as many of them from hell as possible.  I did a quick internet search and found from three different sources that about 150,000 people are dying every day.  That’s over 6,000 per hour, over a hundred per minute, and more than one per second.  If every day, some of those 150,000 people might be going to your version of hell, why in the world are you talking to people about any other subject on The Briefing than that?  What else could be more pressing?

On your October 30th podcast, right after you spoke about your conviction on the reality of hell you then segued to “Population control anti-natalism of cultural elite closely tied to eugenics.”  Talk about a non sequitur!  If some people are on their way to hell as you understand it, how does what the cultural elite are thinking compare to that in importance?  And then, continuing your descent from the supremely important to things which are not, you spoke about “Geographic clustering of worldview in America evidence of changing landscape of nation.”  Huh?  Who cares about “geographic clustering” if people are going to hell by the truckload?

Since October 30th when you made clear your conviction and concern about “Christ-less” people going to hell when they die, here are the subjects you have spoken about on your podcast (and there’s not going to be a word about hell in any of them):

  • Apple CEO proclaims his homosexuality a divine gift, revealing extent of cultural shift on issue
  • Taiwan gay pride march displays importance of theological beliefs to culture’s morality
  • Colorado governor warns rapid legalization of marijuana as too costly
  • Cultural influences creating and influencing celebration of Halloween crucial to consider
  • Tragedy of Brittany Maynard ending her life reminder humans are not self-defining beings
  • UN Climate report raises question of nature of scientific authority
  • Election day is an exercise of political and Christian responsibility
  • Election Day looms large on America’s political, cultural and moral horizons
  • Partisan divide in America points to a demographic divide
  • Obama comments about stay-at-home moms reveals priority of professional over family life
  • Population control solution to climate change horrifying example of anti-natalism

Where is your concern about hell?  Did Brittany Maynard know Jesus?  Isn’t the answer to that question more important that the circumstances surrounding her death?  According to your stated belief, if she knew Jesus, she is with Him now and forever and if she did not, then she will suffer a fate infinitely worse than the disease she feared.  And what does the “UN Climate report” have to do with the eternal destiny of the human souls of your listeners and those with whom they’ll have interactions today?  Your belief should be driving you to urge them to warn everyone.  And “Election Day” looms large?  According to your doctrine, hell looms far larger than that!  What are the results of the U.S. mid-term elections in comparison to an eternity of ghastly punishment?

Thus the problem you have with your doctrine of hell is not me, but rather your own behavior.  You are saying that people are going to hell unless they accept Jesus but you are giving the majority of your time to issues other than facilitating those all important decisions for Jesus.

I am not suggesting that the disconnect between your stated belief and your behavior is unique to you.  On the contrary, you are a representative sample of Evangelical Christians.  You claim to believe that eternal destiny matters far more than anything else, yet you want to use most of your airtime to talk about anything but that.

As for me, I believe that everyone is going to heaven, and because of that, everything we think, say, and do on earth matters.  I care about many of the same public policy issues you do, but the difference is that I can focus on them secure in the biblical assurance that everyone’s eternal destiny is heaven.  What I can’t understand is why you insist that everyone’s eternal destiny is not secure, but you can feel comfortable spending most of your time talking about issues other than helping people avoid that worst-of-all-possible outcomes.

 

An Open Letter to Mick Mooney

To Mick Mooney:

Having read your post – WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know? (link below) – I feel the responsibility to rebuke you.  And since your post was public, my response is public.

It is, of course, a bad thing when someone sins.  What’s worse, however, is when someone encourages others to sin.  What’s worst of all, though, is using the words of God to encourage others to sin – because it makes it seem as if God Himself is okay with sinful behavior.  In this post you have written, you are doing what’s worst of all.  You are selectively referring to – and distorting – passages of the Bible to make a point that violates the very spirit and intent of the Bible.  You are proving that the most despicable kind of lie is the half-truth – a lie disguising itself as the truth.

You say Jesus “had become friends with prostitutes, was hanging out with ‘sinners’,” but that’s misleading.  The truth is the prostitutes and sinners, precisely because they were ashamed of their prostitution and sin, came to hear His teaching about righteousness (Luke 5:8; 19:7-8).

You say Jesus bought “people who were already drunk yet another round of beers,” but the story of turning water into wine gives no indication that the people at the wedding were drunk (John 2:1-11).  And the people Jesus designated to pass on His teaching – the apostles – warned repeatedly that drunkenness was something to be avoided, not embraced (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3-5)

You use the example of Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery from being stoned as if He had justified her behavior.  Yet He told her, “From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).  Therefore, your analogy supporting abortion is based on the misrepresentation that Jesus had no problem with adultery – which He obviously did (Matthew 5:27-30; 19:9; Luke 18:20).  His opposition was to stoning – not to a moral standard.

When you say that Jesus opposed the Pharisees you are right, and when you suggest that He despises how the modern-day institutional church merchandises His life and truth you are right as well.  However, when you go on to suggest that the alternative Jesus offers is to leave people in their drunkenness, adultery, abortions, and other sins – and even to justify those behaviors – you have done Him and your readers a terrible wrong.

In response to the Pharisees’ laws, you are presenting Jesus as offering lawlessness or licentiousness as an alternative.  On the contrary, Jesus’ alternative is a greater law than that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).  For example, while the Pharisees said adultery was bad, Jesus said that even thinking about it was bad (Matthew 5:27-30).  The Pharisees’ laws went only so far as outward behavior (Matthew 23:25-28) while Jesus’ laws went to the heart – where sins – like adultery, abortion, and drunkenness – first take root.  A person who took Jesus’ rules concerning adultery seriously would never commit it because he or she would never engage in the thoughts that could ultimately lead to that act.

Therefore, Jesus’ opposition to the Pharisees is the half-truth of your post.  Your lie is about the reason for His opposition.  You suggest He had no moral standards, when the truth is that He was opposed to the Pharisees because 1) while they had good standards they did not live up to them (Matthew 23:3) and therefore were hypocrites, and 2) their standards were not high enough – that is, they practiced their righteousness only before men instead of before God who sees the heart (Matthew 6:1; 23:5).

The greater law of Jesus is love.  Love forgives sin, but it does not condone sin.  Therefore, I can forgive you for writing a post like this, but I cannot condone it.  I cannot condone it because it is particularly reprehensible – making victims of readers who are only casually familiar with the Bible.  They will recognize your allusions to actual Bible passages but lack enough knowledge to understand exactly how you are distorting them.  I can forgive you because you did not come up with this idea on your own.  You were influenced to think this way, and those who influenced you therefore deserve more condemnation than you do.  You’ve simply bought into modern society’s cherished hope that Jesus, if He exists at all, is upset only by religious hypocrisy, and, other than that, practically “anything goes” when it comes to the pursuit of human pleasure.

Your post presents a false dichotomy: either side with those who think adultery, abortion, drunkenness and other such things are okay or else be a Pharisee.  There is a third way, and it is the way of Jesus.  The way of Jesus is to live up to the moral standards of God – to walk before Him thinking only thoughts of which you’re sure He’d approve.  The way of Jesus is to get the log out of our own eyes for the specific purpose of then being able to remove the speck from our brother’s – not to go around saying that foreign objects in the eye are not such a bad thing.

What would Jesus do (WWJD)?  Certainly not what you propose.  For if God’s intention was to leave us in our sins (as your post suggests), then what need was there for Him to subject Himself to rejection, torture, and death?  Did mankind really need the crucifixion of the Son of God in order to make them feel okay about getting drunk, having an abortion, or cheating on a spouse?

Mick, I pray that you’ll repent and seek to undo the damage you have done with your post.  (Until then, I’ve written this post on your behalf.)  Jesus is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  He came to lift us from our sins – all our sins, whether they be sins like adultery or sins like religious hypocrisy.

WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know? | Mick Mooney.  (2 min read; 302 words)

An Open Letter to David Platt

David,

I don’t know enough about the “Heaven Is For Real kind of books” to be as negative about them as you are, but neither do I know enough about them to be positive either.  I’ve always been far more interested in the Bible…as you clearly seem to be as well.

On that point, at 4:20 you conclude this clip by saying:

“Let’s minimize the thoughts of man and magnify – trust – let’s bank our lives and our understanding of the future on the truth of God.  At the same time, let’s lay aside our traditions and submit to God’s word.  So none of us wants to believe things about heaven, hell, and the end of the world just because we grew up hearing certain things taught.  There’s too much at stake in our lives and others’ lives for that.”

Assuming you are sincere, David, I invite you to read The Biblical Case for Everyone Is Going to Heaven and Whatever Became of Jesus Christ? The Biblical Case for the Second Coming as Accomplished Fact.  Both books prefer the truth of God’s word on these subjects to the traditions of men that we Evangelicals have been taught.

Mike

An Open Letter to George Will

During ABC “This Week,” conservative panelist George Will weighed in on what he called the “growing consensus” of public opinion regarding same-sex marriage.

via George Will: ‘Quite Literally, The Opposition To Gay Marriage Is Dying’ (VIDEO) (00:55).

Dear George,

I’m deeply disappointed in you.  Is the sanctity of marriage not a principle worth defending against the tides of human opinion?

Support for “gay marriage” is part of the broader coarsening of social morality.  The rising tide of immorality is indeed strong, but is that sufficient reason to sacrifice principle?

I had thought you were a careful thinker.  If the prior definition of marriage is to be struck down, what is the new one to replace it – and upon what source of authority is it based?

Indeed, you have deeply disappointed me.

Mike Gantt

An Open Letter to Frank Turk and TeamPyro

[Note:  Frank Turk is an author at the blog Pyromaniacs.  Dan Phillips and Phil Johnson also write for this blog.  Collectively, the three are called TeamPyro.]

Dear Frank,

I won’t be reading or commenting on your blog anymore.  You’ve deleted the last three or four comments I’ve made on posts there, though there was nothing offensive in what I said.  In fact, one comment was a simple affirmation and expression of appreciation for the  post.  It appears you have decided that you don’t want me to have any voice there at all.

You and I interacted a previous post of yours which I have written about elsewhere.  You took issue with my views on church and became quite hostile.  Your final comment to me on that post was to invite me to debate on your debate blog.  I subsequently interacted with you by e-mail, but your hostility only increased.  Your claims to be acting in the spirit of Christ are hollow, because He does not act in the way you have.

I would have been happy to present all my views for your scrutiny and debate.  If I am wrong in the teaching I have derived from the Bible, I want to know that more than anyone else wants me to know it.  But you were derisive in your manner to me and unwilling to work together to find a way to work out a debate.

I can’t keep wasting the Lord’s time by commenting on your blog when you delete my comments.  If I really am wrong about the Lord as you say, you should not be afraid to demonstrate that to people by our interaction.

I am sad to have to stop reading and commenting on your blog.  If you want to interact with me, you can find me here.  You will not be finding me there.

To Him to reigns over all and judges us all,

Mike

An Open Letter to John Loftus of “Debunking Christianity”

[Note:  John Loftus hosts the blog Debunking Christianity.  He is author of the book Why I Became an Atheist.  John was an evangelical Christian before becoming an atheist.]

John,

I have decided to stop reading and commenting on your blog.  The reason for this is the way you operate your blog.  That is, you portray yourself as open-minded but your blog actually functions as an echo chamber for your beliefs, and works aggressively to quench and stigmatize any dissent from those who would comment on it.

I have observed and experienced first hand on multiple occasions the way your “regulars” swamp any comments favorable to Christ with multiple hostile refutations.  Earlier this week, I commented on a post of yours and was met with numerous pointed challenges – including gratuitous insults and invectives –  by your regulars.  I did not complain about the venom but rather responded to each one with a calm focus on the points at issue.    After a few days, this resulted in a total of some 250 comments (mine being a sizable fraction of the total, written with great care and respect for those who would read them).  I was satisfied that I was at least able to convey my point of view.  You found this intolerable, and you said you were going to delete all the comments and re-publish your post without them.  And that you did.  All the work I put into those comments offering reasoned explanations to your “debunkers” was washed away in an instant.  I wrote those explanations for you and your debunkers but also for the Christians uncertain in their faith who visit your site.  I wanted to give those unsettled believers another side to what they were hearing from you.  If they decided to follow you then so be it, but at least they got to hear another side.  You obviously don’t want them to hear that other side, because it threatens your goal of deconverting them from their faith in Christ.

You operate your blog like a church, and not a very open-minded church at that.  You are the pastor and your regulars are the choir.  You seek visitors because you want your church to grow.  You seek to convert the visitors by bullying and applying enormous peer pressure on them.  When you went from evangelical to atheist all you did was change uniforms – you’re still doing all the recruiting, enlisting, training, and battling that you did before.  It’s still all about getting people to say, “Amen” to you and your worldview.  It’s only your worldview that has changed.  And your blog actually operates more like a gang than a church.

Jesus of Nazareth lived a life more moral than that of anyone else.  He truly came from heaven to earth.  And to heaven He has returned through His resurrection.  It is bad enough that you have turned your back on Him.  But that you have set up a website whose purpose is to persuade others to imitate your mistake is truly tragic and deeply saddening.

I had hoped we could have a mutually respectful dialogue on our points of disagreement.  Your methods, however, will not allow that.  You only want two or three comments from dissenters which will then be drowned out by your sycophantic followers in vituperative tones rather than rational discourse.  While I occasionally sense some good will from them, their predominant tone was hostile and they liked “piling on.”  You never jumped in to stop their overkill; only to stop the one commenting for Christ.  Nevertheless, I bear no ill will toward you or them.  The Lord is judge of us all.

I move on because I cannot in good conscience be a part of your trap for shaken believers.  You are shrewd enough to keep just enough believers in Christ around to make the game seem unrigged.  But it is rigged.  I’m sure you would never sign up for a debate in which you were allowed up to three presentations and your opponent was allowed unlimited rebuttals.  And yet that is the basis on which you “invite” dissenting Christians to debate on your site.  I’m not the only person I’ve seen you threaten to bar for commenting too much – even though all we did was respond to the comments made to us.  A newbie comes by and reads a post from you that is followed by a mountain of comments that disdain the few that might dare to disagree with you, and figures, “Wow, this atheist argument is really powerful!”  I can’t let my words and my time be invested in such a scam.

I hope you will come to your senses, John, and return to Jesus Christ.  If you ever loved Him in the first place, you surely should love Him now.  His forbearance towards us is amazing.  And the magnanimity of His grace unprecedented.  There is truly none like our Lord Jesus Christ.

We shall all bow the knee to Him one day.  I bow mine now.  I won’t be reading or commenting on your site again, so the next time you hear from me will be if and when you reach out to me.  May God have mercy on us all.

Mike

An Open Letter to Thom Stark

[Note:  Thom Stark wrote a book titled The Human Faces of God:  What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It).  I wrote a 12-part review of this book which begins with this introduction.  Thom wrote a response to my review which appears at this page on his web site.  I then wrote a response to Thom’s response which you can find here.]

Dear Thom,

As you may recall, about a year ago I ran across a review of your book on Steve Douglas‘ blog, Undeception. I commented on this particular post of his, and in the exchange both you and Steve insisted that I couldn’t reasonably argue with your book until I’d read it.  (Up until that point, I’d only read the front matter and the first chapter.)  As you know, I’ve since read the entire book and reviewed it.

Going through this process has convinced me that I really did know enough to argue with you about your thesis last year.  It’s all there in the title:  “Scripture…gets God wrong.”  That idea bothered me when I first read it, and it bothers me still.

Your book was lengthy, but not convincing.  Having a chapter titled, “Jesus Was Wrong” probably did not help your case…at least where I was concerned.  Jesus lacks no credibility with me.

The next time someone objects to your thesis, don’t make them feel like they have to read your book in order to make the objection.

In any case, I hope you’ll have a change of heart.  Jesus Christ Is God.

Mike

[Thom’s response to this open letter is here.]

An Open Letter to John MacArthur

Dear John, [Wikipedia profile for John MacArthur; John’s web site]

In this video clip, you say that the best way to find a good church is to look for one that “really takes the Bible seriously.”  However, any church that actually takes the Bible seriously will sooner or later abandon the church so that it can pursue the kingdom of God.  Therefore, you can know that a church is not taking the Bible seriously and not seeking the kingdom of God simply by the fact that it continues to exist as an institution.

Instead of pointing people to a church, you should be pointing them to a Savior – Christ Jesus our Lord!  If they find and cling to Him, they will be His true church.

How to Be in the One True Church

Sincerely,

Mike Gantt

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26ChjHpOUMA]

An Open Letter to Kenneth Copeland

Dear Bro. Copeland, [Kenneth Copeland’s Wikipedia profile] [Kenneth Copeland’s web site]

I admire you for many things.  Among them are your signature confession of Jesus as Lord, your clarion call for faith in the word of God, the boldness of your preaching, and the richness of your teaching.

I am, however, deeply disappointed in your emphasis on worldly wealth – both for your followers and yourself.  As you know much better than I do, this has brought significant controversy to the cause of Christ where you are concerned.

It is clear from the New Testament that contentment – not zeal for gain – is to be the mark of believers.  Greed was condemned in the Old Testament, but it regarded as even more inappropriate in the New Testament where faithfulness to Jesus, spiritual values, and consideration of the poor are given the ultimate emphasis.

Contrary to your teaching, we cannot serve God and mammon for no one can serve two masters.  A heart so divided cannot stand.

A result of your focus on worldly success is that your ministry resembles a business more than it does the ministry of Jesus.  This does not honor Him.

I hope you will reconsider your position on this issue so that more people might be won to the purity and simplicity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3):  The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now.

Respectfully,

Michael Gantt

An Open Letter to William Bennett

Dear Dr. Bennett,  [William Bennett’s Wikipedia profile] [William Bennett’s web site]

Your 1992 book title, The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, speaks volumes just by itself.

Where has virtue gone in our country?  Why does it seem to matter so little to so many people?  More and more, people pursue success and pleasure – not morality.

You’ve spoken on many themes.  I wish you would return to this one.  It’s been almost twenty years since you published your book and the need for it is greater now than it was then.

God grant that we may return to more moral living.  That is, may He grant us repentance.  It’s not politics that will save us – it’s repentance that will.

Do You Love What Is Right?

Whose Approval Do You Want?

It’s a Salvation of the Soul…Not Circumstances

Sincerely,

Michael Gantt