Monthly Archives: February 2016

Abraham’s bosom and heaven

Image result for clipart heaven public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What happens at death for Christian believers?

I was in discussion online with a few people on the meaning of paradise, the third heaven, heaven, and Abraham’s bosom. To one person I said:

There is enough evidence that at death the body returns to dust (whether in the grave or cremated) and the spirit returns to God. I’m indeed pleased about that as I get older and move towards the time of my elevation to Paradise, heaven, Abraham’s bosom, my Father’s house – whatever one wants to call it. All of these words are in Scripture and they apply to where believers went at death.[1]

This is confirmed in Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV), ‘And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’.

No reconciliation with God in Old Testament?

A fellow replied to me:

I am wondering how Abraham’s bosom can be the third heaven if it existed at a time before Jesus died?

I can agree that all there were en route to being with God. But only after Jesus died could any man be reconciled with God. That is why it was called Abraham’s bosom and not heaven. A place on the other side of a divide in Hades.[2]

I cannot agree[3] with his statement that ‘only after Jesus died could any man be reconciled with God’. We know that Abraham was justified by faith. This is confirmed in several NT places. Rom 4:1-3 (NASB) states:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

This last statement is found in Gen 15:6 (ESV), ‘And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the Lord] counted it to him as righteousness’. See also Zechariah 4:6ff and Melchizadek (Gen 14; Heb 7). In addition:[4]

clip_image002 Abraham was called ‘the friend of God’ (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; James 2:23);

clip_image002[1] Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ‘saw the God of Israel’ (Ex 24:9-11).

What could be a more powerful example of the relationship Moses had with God than in the details of what is written of Moses in the closing verses of Deut 34:9-12 (ESV)?

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

So, there was not a prophet like Moses in Israel, ‘whom the Lord knew face to face’. Now that’s a powerful example of a relationship, knowing someone face to face! The Lord worked signs and wonders through Moses and there was mighty power and great deeds of terror demonstrated by Moses in the sight of all Israel. Why was he able to do these miraculous deeds? The Lord worked through him in his relationship with God.

clip_image002[2] David, in spite of his many failings, was a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (see the David and Goliath episode, 1 Sam 17:1-58; David’s relationship with God is seen especially in Psalm 119:47-48; Acts 13:22). Since the Lord was David’s shepherd – Psalm 23 – that speaks of a solid relationship of the sheep with the shepherd.

Jim George pursues this theme in A Man After God’s Own Heart (Harvest House 2008).

Abraham’s bosom and the third heaven

Image result for public domain clipart on heaven

This person responding to me asked a penetrating and good question. How can ‘Abraham’s bosom’ refer to the third heaven if it existed before Jesus’ death? That is a presumption he made. The story is recorded before Jesus’ death in Luke 16, but was the story told by Jesus before his death? Was it historical narrative or parable? That has been the discussion by Bible scholars and teachers for many years.

What is the third heaven? Three heavens are identified in Scripture:

clip_image003 The first heaven is associated with the firmament, which refers to the sky and is called ‘the heavens’ – the earth’s atmosphere (examples are in Genesis 2:19; 7:3, 23; Psalm 8:8).

clip_image003[1] The second heaven is a reference to outer space, the starry heavens (Deuteronomy 17:3; Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29).

clip_image003[2] The third heaven is the language Paul used in 2 Corinthians 12:2 (ESV), ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows’. Then in the next verse (2 Cor 12:3 ESV), this ‘third heaven’ was associated with paradise: ‘And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows’. So, paradise seems to a part of the third heaven.

Therefore, the third heaven is the place where God and the angels (and human beings) live. In the Old Testament it is called ‘the heaven of heavens’ (see Deut 10:14) and ‘the highest heaven(s)’ (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 148:4). The language of Psalm 2:4 explains another dimension of the third heaven, ‘He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision’. Here location of God is called ‘the heavens’. The context of Psalm 2:4 in Psalm 2:1-3 is the nations raging, the people plotting and the kings and rulers opposing the Anointed God.

There is an excellent article explaining these three uses of heaven on the Let Us Reason Ministries website, ‘How many heavens are there and what is the third heaven Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12?

The ESV translates Luke 16:22 for ‘Abraham’s bosom’ as meaning ‘the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side’.

There is a long-standing debate over whether this is an actual incident from Jesus or a parable told by Jesus. I accept it as a parable (some contest that a real name, Lazarus, cannot mean a parable and makes it an incident) which means there was only one primary point to be made. I accept it as an illustration of what happens at death for the believer and the unbeliever. I will not discuss further the parable, non-parable views as they are detailed and not easy to resolve. The place to resolve that is to go to commentaries for detailed discussions on such.

In the Talmud, ‘Abraham’s bosom’ was used as a synonym for heaven. See the explanation of ‘Abraham’s bosom’ in the Jewish Encyclopedia. In Judaism, the Talmud includes discussions and commentary on various aspects of Jewish history, law, customs and culture. It has two parts, the Gemara and the Mishnah. The Talmud moved from oral to written form, starting about the second century AD and was completed about the fifth century AD.

There are actually two works known as “Gemara”–the Babylonian Gemara (referred to as “Bavli” in Hebrew) and the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Gemara (referred to as “Yerushalmi“). The term “Gemara” itself comes from the Aramaic root g.m.r (equivalent to l.m.d, in Hebrew), giving it the meaning “teaching” (Gemara: The essence of the Talmud).

This article in GotQuestions? gives a helpful summary of the meaning of Abraham’s bosom:

Abraham’s bosom is referred to only once in the Bible—in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). It was used in the Talmud as a synonym for heaven. The image in the story is of Lazarus reclining at a table leaning on Abraham’s breast—as John leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper—at the heavenly banquet. There are differences of opinion about what exactly Abraham’s bosom represents. Those who believe the setting of the story is a period after the Messiah’s death and resurrection see Abraham’s bosom as synonymous with heaven. Those who believe the setting to be prior to the crucifixion see Abraham’s bosom as another term for paradise. The setting is really irrelevant to the point of the story, which is that wicked men will see the righteous in happiness, and themselves in torment, and that a “great gulf” exists between them (Luke 16:26) which will never be spanned.[5]

Therefore, the expression ‘Abraham’s bosom’ could refer to something similar to the OT, ‘As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace’ (Gen 15:15 NASB), i.e. gathered to his people. It could refer to the expectation to be received by Abraham (Apocrypha 4 Macc 13:17 NRSV; Talmud and Hebraica, ch 16.20). Some have even suggested it is a picture of the messianic banquet (Lk 13:28-30) [suggestions by Earle Ellis (1981:206)].


I consider the story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) relates to what happens at death and whether it is an actual story or parable, it tells us about it. It is not a story designed to explain Abraham’s bosom versus third heaven, paradise or heaven. It deals with what happens at death and where believer and unbeliever go and what they experience. I accept that this story is a parable, as do Earle Ellis (1981:201, 205); Norval Geldenhuys (1979:424); A T Robertson (1930:224); William Hendriksen (1978:782), and Walter Liefeld (1984:991). However, I do not consider that any damage is done to the teaching on life after death if the story is historical or parable.

In spite of an online person’s objections, I find biblical evidence that there were prominent OT people who had a relationship with God. These included Abraham, Moses, and David.

The issue in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is to differentiate between the nature of the place where the righteous person was – in paradise and experiencing comfort, compared with where the wicked person was at death – in torment in Hades. Between these two places a ‘great gulf’ is fixed that cannot be bridged (Luke 16:26).

Works consulted

Ellis, E E 1981. New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co./London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd.[6]

Geldenhuys, N 1979. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Hendriksen, W 1978. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Liefeld, W L 1984. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke, vol 8, 795-1059. F E Gaebelein (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Robertson, A T 1930. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Gospel According to Luke, vol 2. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.


[1] Christianity Board, ‘When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be’, 15 February 2016, OzSpen#57. Available at: (Accessed 2 March 2021).

[2] Ibid., KingJ#99.

[3] The following is my response at ibid., OzSpen#101.

[4] I have added these extra examples of OT persons with a relationship with God after I made the online response. My wife brought these to my attention.

[5] GotQuestions? 2002-2016. What is the difference between Sheol, Hades, Hell, the lake of fire, Paradise, and Abraham’s bosom? (Accessed 23 February 2016).

[6] The original edition was published in 1966 by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. This copy is based on the 1981 softback edition.

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 March 2021.

Do Christians go to heaven immediately when they die?

Heaven or Hell

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What do you think Christians believe about this critical topic? I found a sampling on a Christian forum on the Internet that may give some insights into what the evangelical Christian community believes. There are a few grabs from that thread. A person started the thread with:

cubed-iron-sm ‘Many old hymns of the church, and some new ones, talk about going to heaven when we die. Crossing over. Pearly gates etc…. Why is that, when clearly heaven is NOT the Christian’s destination? Jesus said no one has seen the father, so why do a lot of Christians espouse this?’[1]

cubed-iron-sm ‘I would say that since heaven is “My Father’s house”, and since Jesus Himself said “I will come back and take you to be with that you also may be where I am”, that pretty much tells me that the saved will indeed one day cross over and see the pearly gates. That is… heaven.  So clearly heaven is our destination’[2]

cubed-iron-sm ‘People don’t go to heaven when they die.  They must already be there before they die’.[3]

cubed-iron-sm ‘The Father’s house [John 14:1-10] is the NEW Jerusalem, not heaven’.[4]

cubed-iron-sm ‘Just because no one accended (sic) to Heaven except Jesus doesn’t mean no one ever will’.[5]

A. What about Stephen at death?

I’m not convinced by that last statement.[6]

Stephen was proclaiming the Gospel and was being stoned to death. What did he see as he was dying? This is what we read in Acts 7:55-60 (ESV):

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen saw the Lord – the Son of Man – in the heavens, at the right hand of God. This is where Stephen was going at death. There is no soul sleep here or Abraham’s bosom (rich man and Lazarus) or Paradise (thief on the cross). When Stephen was dying, he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:55). Stephen saw ‘the heavens opened’ and the Son of Man was there with God himself.

Concerning death and heaven, here we have Stephen dying and he knew he was going into the presence of the Lord and Stephen said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’. Stephen saw Jesus in heaven and asked Him to receive Stephen’s spirit.
This sounds very much like what Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:6-8 (ESV):

‘So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord‘.

There seems to be evidence here that Stephen went to heaven, where Jesus was, at death. Therefore, we should not be adamant about no heaven at death for Christian believers.

The person who started this thread challenged what I wrote here:

Jesus received Stephen’s spirit in the same place that He did the thief’s spirit, in paradise. I’d be careful to not take literally the wording used in Acts 7, otherwise you will have a tough time dealing with v 60 where it says Stephen “fell asleep”.

As far as what Paul writes in 2 Cor 5, this is often taken out of context, as Paul states he would “prefer” to be with the Lord, it does not indicate ones death accomplishes that, otherwise who is Jesus coming back for?
The best indication we have of where believers go when they die, is in Luke 16, formerly called Paradise.[7]

B. What happens at death?

Image result for coffin public domain(courtesy

I replied to this person’s objection:[8]

Jesus received Stephen’s spirit into heaven as Acts 7:55-56 indicates.

I have covered the meaning of ‘sleep’ at death in my article, ‘Soul sleep – a refutation‘. ‘Sleep’ is a metaphor for death. It does not refer to sleeping after death, instead of going into the Lord’s presence, as seen in my exposition. There is no ‘tough time’ as an exegete in dealing with Stephen who ‘fell asleep’ at death (Acts 7:60) when one knows the meaning of why OT and NT used ‘sleep’ for death.

I have not taken 2 Cor 5:8 out of context as 2 Cor 5:1-10 is dealing with the heavenly dwelling. Some of Paul’s emphases here are that ‘we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:6:ESV). AND, ‘we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord‘ (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). When will we be away from the body and at home with the Lord? That happens at the Christian’s death. The topic is leaving this body to be home with the Lord. When does that happen? At death. That is what verse 6 states, which I’ve quoted.

This objector stated, ‘Jesus received Stephen’s spirit in the same place that He did the thief’s spirit, in paradise’. He was imposing ‘paradise’ on the text in Acts as that word is never mentioned in Acts 7:55-60.

Who is Jesus coming back for at his second coming? The body that is turned to dust after death is not at home with the Lord. It will be the time of union of spirit and body. The resurrection body is described in 1 Cor 15:35-49 (ESV).

Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT) tells us what happens at death, ‘For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it’. So, at death our spirit returns to God and the body becomes dust in the grave.

What, then, is the meaning of 1 Thess 4:16-17 when it states that ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first’?

As indicated with Stephen, when he died from stoning (Acts 7:55-60) and looked into heaven, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven and Stephen’s spirit was received there (Acts 7:59). Whether one calls it paradise, heaven, ‘my father’s house’, at death, the spirit of Christians goes to that place and the body goes to the grave to become dust. At the last day when Christ returns, the body as dust will be raised and there will be a union of the resurrected body and the glorified spirit. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

C. Heaven and eisegesis

What is eisegesis? See Exegesis v. Eisegesis. Here is a quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis, which indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow God’s voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

The person who started the thread did not like what I wrote above so he interjected:

It doesn’t say that, you’re inferring it.

Jesus had already established the pattern, which was consistent with the thief on the cross. Nothing changed between those two events. Paradise is NOT the same as heaven, otherwise Jesus lied. Stephen had a vision, he did not actually SEE God.

My point is the whole thing needs to be interpreted from within scripture, NOT on it’s (sic) own. Heaven has NEVER been the believers destination, Eternal Life is.[9]

This is a false accusation against what I wrote. He has invented here my views. He is an expert in building a straw man logical fallacy, which is a false view of a person’s position.

From that person’s statements, this is the false information:

blue-satin-arrow-small His view was that nothing changed after the thief on the cross. This is false because the thief on the cross died under the Old Covenant and before Jesus’ resurrection.

blue-satin-arrow-small I never said Paradise was the same as heaven. The fact remains that Paradise was the term Jesus’ used under the Old Covenant with the thief on the cross. Heaven is the term used of Stephen when he was dying and he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:55 ESV). Jesus didn’t lie. Paradise was an Old Covenant term while heaven is that used under the New Covenant.

blue-satin-arrow-small This person’s claim that Stephen had a vision is false as Act 7:54-60 doesn’t describe it as a vision. Stan invented what I did not say in his response to me.

blue-satin-arrow-small Stan’s claim is that Stephen ‘did not actually SEE God’. What does Acts 7:55 (ESV) state, ‘ But he [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’? How can one see the glory of God if God is not there? Acts 7:56 (ESV) states, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at he right hand of God’. So he saw the Son of Man and God. Otherwise how could he know that the Son of Man was at God’s right hand?

blue-satin-arrow-small I agree with this person that it needs to be interpreted ‘within Scripture’ if that means comparing Scriptures, but his claim is false that ‘heaven has NEVER been the believers destination, Eternal Life is’. Heaven was Stephen’s destination. Being present with the Lord at death was Paul’s goal (2 Cor 5:8).

This fellow engaged in eisegesis when he pushed his view that believers do not go to heaven at death and tried to gloss over the biblical evidence provided.

Robert Morey’s summary of the view espoused in Scripture is:

That the Epistles would further develop what happens to the soul after death and go beyond the gospel material is also expected. The apostles were conscious of the fact that their understanding was clouded during their sojourn with Christ (John  12:16). It was only after Pentecost and the final revelations given to the apostles that they could, at last, speak of death and the afterlife with clarity. It was only after the last pieces of the cosmic puzzle of revelation were given that they could see the whole picture.

Before Christ’s ascension, believers as well as unbelievers were said to enter Sheol or Hades. After Christ’s resurrection, the New Testament pictures believers after death as entering heaven to be with Christ (Phil.  1:23), which is far better than Hades. They are present with the Lord (2  Cor 5:6-8), worshiping with the angelic hosts of heaven (Heb.  12:22, 23) at the altar of God (Rev.  6:9-11). Thus believers do not now enter Hades but ascend immediately to the throne of God.

In the New Testament, there is, therefore, a development of understanding which took place after Christ’s resurrection. Before Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles assumed that everyone went to Sheol or Hades. This Hades had two sections, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. But Christ’s resurrection changed this picture. Thus Paul uses the language of transition when he speaks of Christ taking the righteous out of Hades and bringing them into heaven (Eph.  4:8, 9).

That Christ went to Hades, i.e., the world beyond death, is clear from Acts  2:31, While in Hades, Peter pictures Christ as proclaiming to “the spirits now in prison” the completion of His atonement (1 Pet. 3:18-22). Whereas “paradise” in the gospel account (Luke 23:43) referred to the section of Hades reserved for the righteous, by the time Paul wrote 2 Cor. 12:2-4, it was assumed that paradise had been taken out of Hades and was now placed in the third heaven.

According to the post-resurrection teaching in the New Testament, the believer now goes to heaven at death to await the coming resurrection and the eternal state. But, what of the wicked? The wicked at death descend into Hades which is a place of temporary torment while they await the coming resurrection and their eternal punishment (Robert Morey, Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna, Faith Defenders, based on Morey 1984, ch 3).

D. Ecclesiastes 12:7, death and the spirit[10]

(image courtesy


There is an interesting OT verse that speaks of what happens at death: Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV), “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”. Other translations are:  “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV); “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (NIV).

Some who support annihilation for the unbeliever at death want to translate ‘spirit’ as ‘breath’. None of these translations uses “breath” instead of “spirit”. Why? Because that is not what the word means in context. See the support for “spirit” translated as “breath” by the Seventh-Day Adventists HERE.

How do we know that “spirit” in Eccl. 12:7 does not mean “breath”?

If we look at the context in Eccl. 12:5, it states what is happening at death, “Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (ESV). What happens at death as breath ceases is not what is stated in Eccl. 12. It is referring to human beings going to their “eternal home”, which means at death, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). How do we know?

Eccl. 3:21 asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (KJV). The implication is that the spirit of beasts perishes with the body (goeth downward to the earth), but the human spirit survives death (as in Eccl. 12:5-7). It is inaccurate contextually to say that “the breath of man goeth upward”. Why? Because at death, the breath ceases but the person lives on.

Psalm 104:29 also emphasises that the breath ceases at death: “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (KJV). Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; and Eccl. 3:20.

The person pushing his view that a person does not go to heaven and meet with God did not like this emphasis.

E. Solomon no longer believed in the God he once knew

Therefore, this fellow on the Christian form imposed this meaning on what I wrote:

I think it’s important to keep Ecclesiastes in context, it was written by Solomon as an old man in a depressed, back slidden state. His perceptions were not those of the wisest man in the world, but of a man who had lost hope. It is one of a very negative and lonely King who no longer believed in the God he knew in his glory days. His wisdom had turned to fatalism. NOT an accurate depiction of the reality of ETERNAL LIFE, as Jesus promised us.[11]

Note his emphases regarding Solomon who was the human author of the book of Ecclesiastes:

design-blue-small Keep Ecclesiastes in context;

design-blue-small Solomon was an old, depressed, back-slidden man;

design-blue-small He had lost hope;

design-blue-small This very negative and lonely King no longer believed in the God he used to know.

design-blue-small His wisdom was fatalism;

design-blue-small So, Eccl 12:7 is not an accurate depiction of eternal life that Jesus promised.

My immediate response was:[12]

From where did you gain that information? You did not refer to the content of what I wrote.

The fact that this book of Ecclesiastes is contained in the OT indicates that it is God-breathed Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). Even though it is a view from ‘under the sun’ (Eccl. 1:3), it comes with the stamp of God’s authority on it.

The fact remains that this is what happens at death: ‘the dust returns to the earth as it was [the human body], and the spirit returns to God’ (Eccl 12:7). This is confirmed by Paul, ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). To the Philippians he wrote: ‘My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better’ (Phil 1:23 ESV).

The response was:

F. Did you read Ecclesiastes 1:1-4?

(King Solomon & the Ark of the Covenant, image courtesy


His reply to the above was that he had gained his information,

From years of study … just like you.

So you’re advocating /asserting that there is NO negative content in scripture? Did you read the first four verses of Ecclesiastes 1? Do you agree that life is meaningless and that the earth remains forever? Do you accept that the sun hurries around the earth to rise everyday?
Come on Oz….I expected far more proper exegesis from you then you evidence here.

As far as 2 COR 5:8 is concerned, what Paul states as a desire does in no way imply what you assert. He knew full well we would only see Jesus when He returned, as he states throughout his letters. Inferring what you do into this verse is NOT supportable. Both verses refer to Paul’s desire, NOT what will happen when He dies. The same holds true for Heb 9:27… because we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die.
http://www.truthabou…t-with-the-lord [13]

Note the link. He obtained his information from this Bible teacher online.

G. What happens when another invents your or my views about life after death theology?

This applies to all attempts to give a false view of a person’s statements or perspectives on any topic.

My reply was to tackle him head on as he had invented claims against my view that were false.[14]

You are inventing a straw man fallacy again. You state: ‘So you’re advocating /asserting that there is NO negative content in scripture?’ At no place in my post did I state that. You’re engaged in eisegesis of my post. If you continue to do this to me, I’ll not reply again.

When we use logical fallacies, we need to understand that

a fallacious argument can make productive conversation impossible. Logical fallacies are often used by politicians and the media to fool people because they have the deceptive appearance of being reasonable—despite their exploitation of our emotional, intellectual, and psychological weaknesses (Lumen Learning: Writing Skills Lab).

Why is it impossible to have a logical discussion when logical fallacies are used? It is based on the person’s use of fallacious (erroneous, faulty, distorted) reasoning. When illogic is used, reasonable conversation, debate and writing cannot be pursued in a logical manner.

Eccl 1:1-4 (NIV) reads:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

‘Everything is meaningless’ is the view from the perspective of those who ‘toil under the sun’ (1:3). The RSV translates v. 2 as, ‘Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity’. That seems like a fair estimate of the world if one is looking at it from a secular point of view, i.e. ‘under the sun’. However, this is also the view expressed in Ps 90:3-10; 102:24-26; 35:5ff; Gen 5:29; 47:9. Solomon is affirming what is stated elsewhere in the OT.

The word translated as ‘vanity’ or ‘meaningless’ is hebhel. What does it mean? Hebrew exegete H C Leupold explained:

The exact force of the word “vanity” (used thirty-one times in the book – BDB) must be ascertained most carefully. We have retained the traditional rendering “vanity of vanities,” but this was done because it is the least objectionable of the available translations. The word “vanity,” hebhel, really means a “vapor” or “breath,” something like the breath that condenses as we exhale into the cold winter air, condenses and disappears at once. Now the point is, shall hebhel be translated “transitoriness” or “vanity”? Does it refer to that which is fleeting or to that which is utterly futile? That latter connotation is the one usually associated with the English term “vanity” in connections such as these.

It is our conviction that hebhel connotes primarily that which is fleeting and transitory and also suggests the partial futility of human effort. Certainly, to construe that the verse in such a way as to make it mean practically that life is futile and utterly empty would mean to put a pessimistic meaning into the term that is not warranted by facts. The word emphasizes rather how evanescent earthly things are, how swiftly they pass away, and how little they offer while one has them (Leupold 1969:40-41)

So, Stan, the exegesis of the term ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’ is not what you want to make it. More than that, I was dealing with Eccl 12:7 and not with Eccl 1:1-4. When I do the hard yakka with accurate exegesis of Eccl 1:1-4, I do not conclude as you do. I urge you not to accuse me about information that has no basis in fact when compared with what you posted. Your straw man included imposing on me the need to exegete Eccl 1;1-4 when I did not mention it.

You have demonstrated what happens when you try to exegete the OT from an English translation with your statement from Eccl 1:4 (NIV), ‘the earth remains forever’. The earth remaining forever means nothing more than

the earth is the permanent ground on which this coming and this going of generations actually takes place.

The connection being what it is, there cannot be an assertion here about the eternal duration of the earth, for the expression “forever” (le’olam) is frequently very relative in its meaning and here signifies little more than “a good long while.” One need not, therefore, fear that this verse contradicts Ps. 102:25f. – “Generation” (dor) being the new and important issue in the thought development, though a noun here stands first in the sentence (Leupold 1969:45).

You state, ‘Do you accept that the sun hurries around the earth to rise everyday?’ You are referring to Eccl 1:5 (NIV) that states, ‘The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises’. That is a perspectival observation for any human being and when Solomon gives his human view of life ‘under the sun’, that is an accurate view of what human beings see. It is not meant to be a scientific explanation that would satisfy the demands of cosmologists. Ecclesiastes is referring to ‘the ceaseless round of rising, setting, and hastening back to the starting point’ (Leupold 1969:46).

Stan, I think you ought to quit bragging about your exegetical prowess. You have failed in your examination of these passages from Eccl 1:1-4.

As for 2 Cor 5:8 (NIV), the souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence. What Paul asserts as a desire would make no sense in the God-breathed Scriptures if that is not what happens at death. Your view lacks biblical exegesis. Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, explains:

Death is a temporary cessation of bodily life and a separation of the soul from the body. Once a believer has died, though his or her physical body remains on the earth and is buried, at the moment of death the soul (or spirit) of that believer goes immediately into the presence of God with rejoicing. When Paul thinks about death he says, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. He also says that his desire is “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1.23). And Jesus said to the thief who was dying on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43), The author of Hebrews says that when Christians come together to worship they come not only into the presence of God in heaven, but also into the presence of “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:23)…. God will not leave our dead bodies in the earth forever, for when Christ returns the souls of believers will be reunited with their bodies, their bodies will be raised from the dead, and they will live with Christ eternally…. (Grudem 1994:816-817).

As for Heb 9:27 (NIV), it states, ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’. What do you want that to mean? You state: ‘we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die’. This plainly is a false statement. Nowhere in Heb 9:27 (NIV) does it state that people will be be ‘judged immediately after we die’. That is your invention. It’s eisegesis with your imposing your beliefs on the text. Heb 9:27 (NIV) does state that people will die once and after that face judgment but nowhere does this verse state when that judgment will happen after death. Nowhere! That really is very poor exegesis by you, Stan.

This is another false statement by you: We will not ‘see Jesus or God after we die’. Jesus proved you wrong when he said to the thief beside him,  “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). At death, the thief ‘saw’ Jesus because he was with Jesus. We know from 2 Cor 5:8 that Paul would be ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’. In Phil 1:23 (ESV) Paul affirms his desire to ‘depart and be with Christ, that is better by far’ rather than remain on earth. His desire would be pointless if such a reality of dying and being with Christ was not possible. When Stephen was being stoned, he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ (Acts 7:55, 59 ESV). Where was the Lord Jesus? He was standing at the right hand of God, so Stephen at death had his spirit received by the Lord Jesus.

The exegetical evidence from OT and NT overwhelms your false position that believers do not go directly into the Lord’s presence at death. At death believers go to be with the Lord and their bodies rot in the grave (returning to dust) only to be resurrected at Christ’s second coming when the resurrected body will be joined with the spirit (1 Cor 15 NIV).

Before Christ’s resurrection, both believers and unbelievers went to Sheol/Hades – two separate places in that location (see Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21; Lk 16:22-23). After the resurrection, believers go to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) which is better than Hades. According to 2 Cor 5:6-9, believers are present with the Lord and are worshipping with the angelic hosts in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).

Dumbing down my exegesis doesn’t work. This fellow erected a straw man fallacy. I have sound biblical grounds for the position I maintain. What he created was a false view of my theology on life after death.

If you want to read this fellow’s response to me, see StanJ#63. There are way too many red herring logical fallacies in his posts for me to address them. A red herring fallacy happens when a person doesn’t deal with the specific issues I raise but is off and running with what he/she wants to talk about. In this case, this fellow was pushing his own agenda of no heaven at death for the believer and that Solomon was not an inspired author when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. His view denigrates the authority of the Old Testament and makes him the superior judge of what is authoritative.

H.  How red herring fallacies work

My assertions about Stan’s using a red herring fallacy are not fallacious but are truthful. I find the following explanation of a red herring fallacy to be helpful in what this fellow does. Let’s examine what he does, based on this explanation of the red herring by The Nizkor Project.

Fallacy: Red Herring

Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

Description of Red Herring

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

  1. Topic A is under discussion.
  2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
  3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

This is what Stan does over and over with others and me on this forum. This is an example of Stan’s red herring with me, using this Nizkor Project explanation:

  1. I (Oz) was discussing topic A: “The fact remains that this is what happens at death: ‘the dust returns to the earth as it was [the human body], and the spirit returns to God” (Eccl 12:7). This is confirmed by Paul, “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). To the Philippians he wrote: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:23 ESV)’ (OzSpen#56).
  2. Topic B was introduced by Stan in the guise of being relevant to what Oz said about Heb 9:27 when Stan said: ‘The same holds true for Heb 9:27…because we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die’ (StanJ#61). I showed Stan that ‘As for Heb 9:27 (NIV), it states, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. What do you want that to mean? You state: “we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die”. This plainly is a false statement. Nowhere in Heb 9:27 (NIV) does it state that people will be “judged immediately after we die”. That is your invention. It’s eisegesis with your imposing your beliefs on the text. Heb 9:27 (NIV) does state that people will die once and after that face judgment but nowhere does this verse state when that judgment will happen after death. Nowhere. That really is very poor exegesis by you, Stan’ (OzSpen#62). I demonstrated to Stan that his interpretation of Heb 9:27 – that ‘we do not get judged immediately’ is adding to what Heb 9:27 states. That’s because the text does not state when that judgment will take place.
  3. Thus StanJ abandoned Oz’s Topic A.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for this fellow to admit that he used a red herring logical fallacy in this instance or to get him to admit that he used  this tactic with others. I’ll let others expose what he does in inventing his kind of reply, that often does not relate directly to what the other poster stated. Is this how he operates in normal conversation in a church situation?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are you prepared to sing with and endorse ‘When we all get to heaven (Terry Blackwood, Karen Peck & friends)?

Have I presented enough evidence in this thread to demonstrate that heaven is the Christian believer’s destiny at death?

I’m ready. Are you?

I. Conclusion

Whether in Old or New Testaments, the Bible is clear on where believers go at death. They go into the presence of the Lord God that is called variously paradise, heaven, the Father’s house and Abraham’s bosom.

Some low views of Scripture were expressed in this thread. I understand[15] that this questioning of the authority or denigration of the OT seems to me to be associated with a low view of the attributes of God, especially his truthfulness. If God’s words are not true, he will be treated as a liar or person who can’t be trusted with instructions in the OT. Yet, Scripture affirms that ‘God is not man, that he should lie (Num 23:19 ESV) and ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb 6:18 ESV).

I consider that a person’s view of Scripture revolves around  his or her view of God. See my series, ‘Can you trust the Bible? Part 1‘.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Leupold, H C 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press/Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House (copyright 1952, The Wartburg Press).

Morey, R A 1984. Death and the Afterlife. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.


[1] Christianity Board, StanJ#1, ‘When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be?’ 3 February 2016. Available at: (Accessed 15 February 2016)

[2] Ibid., IAM4JESUS#2.

[3] Ibid., lforrest#3.

[4] Ibid., StanJ#4.

[5] Ibid., Iforrest#12.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#17. This is my response to Iforrest#12.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#18.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[9] Ibid., StanJ#21.

[10] I raised this issue in ibid., OzSpen #53.

[11] Ibid., StanJ#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#56.

[13] Ibid., StanJ#61.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#62.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#59, responding to justaname.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 26 April 2018.

Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

(image courtesy Dave Barnhart)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have not heard the term, ‘prevenient grace’, preached from many pulpits today in my part of Australia. In fact, in my many years as an evangelical believer, I can’t recall ever hearing it expounded, even though I have attended Wesleyan churches. The problem is probably associated with the fact that not much evangelical theology is expounded from the pulpit.

However, I dared to use it as a passing example in a post I made on a Christian Forum online. I was responding to a person who wrote about….

A. Grace

She said, ‘We hear the word a lot, but are we quite sure we know what it really means?’ Then she gave a down-home example with an emphasis on freedom.[1]

1. Does grace mean freedom?

thumbnailMy response was:[2] In the story you have given, you have indicated the grace of one person to another. What does that ‘grace’ mean in a Christian context? Are you saying that this grace means freedom?

Or, are you considering this grace to be like that of God towards the undeserving? In fact, the sinful undeserving attitude and behaviour towards God deserved something worse. An example could be that of Australia’s mass media mogul, the late Kerry Packer, who had this said about him at the beginning of his obituary in The Age newspaper, ‘The last time Kerry Packer died, 15 years ago, he quickly took the opportunity to denounce the existence of an afterlife. “I’ve been on the other side and let me tell you son, there’s f—ing nothing there,” he was fond of saying’.[3] Dorothy Rowe reported of Packer:

When the Australian media mogul Kerry Packer had recovered from a massive heart attack during which he virtually died, he told his friend Phillip Adams, “I’ve been to the other side, and let me tell you, son, there’s f—ing nothing there. There’s no one waiting for you. There’s no one to judge you, so you can do what you bloody well like (in Rowe 2009:205).

What seems to be missing in that Packer example is that the near-death experience 15 years before his actual death, where he stopped breathing for 8 minutes (other reports say 6 minutes),[4] was just that – a near-death experience. When he was air-lifted from the Warwick Farm racecourse, Sydney, where he was playing polo after a massive heart attack, it was not permanent death but a near-death experience.[5] If it were permanent death, Packer would not have been alive to make that kind of blasphemous statement about what happens at death.[6] A much more reliable indicator is that provided by almighty God who stated that ‘each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NLT). Kerry Packer knows about it now. ‘Kerry Packer died of kidney failure on Boxing Day [26 December], 2005, aged 68’ (Phillips 2013).

However, God, in knowing that all human beings are sinful and guilty before Him, extended his goodness to them, those who did not deserve it. This is His grace in action. Thanks to God’s revelation in Scripture, we know that the grace of God manifested to sinful human beings, is what God does:[7]

(1) He is patient (forbearance) and delays punishment for sin (Ex 34:6; Rom 2:4-5; 3:25; 9:22; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 3:9, 15);

(2) In regard to salvation, God provides the proclamation of the Word of God, conviction of the Holy Spirit and prevenient grace (1 Jn 2:2; Hos 8:12; Jn 16:8-11; Matt 5:13-14; Tit 2:11). This is most often called the ‘common grace of God’.

But God’s special grace is seen in election and predestination (Eph 1:4-6); redemption (Eph 1:7-8); salvation (Acts 18:27); sanctification (Rom 5:21); continuing in the faith (2 Cor 12:9); receiving an unshakable kingdom (Heb 12:28); and continuing until the final revelation of Jesus Christ at his second coming (1 Pet 1:13).

2. Clumsy and not elegant

How would a person respond to the above?

She came back with, ‘The term “prevenient grace” always seemed kinda clumsy to me. The idea seems to be that God was ready with His grace before I ever thought about sinning. I’m grateful to Him for that, of course…but there should be a more elegant way to express it.  Ahh, well.  Who am I to try to rewrite the language?’[8]

While the word ‘prevenient grace’ does not appear in Scripture, to my knowledge, the teaching does. Let’s investigate the evidence.

B. Biblical evidence for prevenient grace[9]

Prevenient grace (or common grace) is not that difficult to explain. Titus 2:11 (ESV) does it very well, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’. The issue relates to the fact that human beings can’t initiate salvation. If we are to be saved to inherit eternal life, God must take the initiative. Titus 2:11 makes it clear that when God takes this initiative, through his grace (common or prevenient), it frees the human will in relation to salvation. To further explain the meaning of ‘appeared’ in this verse, see my article:

clip_image004 How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11

That God has freed the will is inferred from the number of exhortations in Scripture to turn to God (see Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; 18:32; Joel 2:13-14; Matt 18:3; Acts 3:19). We also see it in the exhortations to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Matt 3:2; Mk 1:15; Lk 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30. Then there are verses that exhort people to believe (2 Chron 20:20; Isa 43:10; Jn 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 Jn 3:23). It would be impossible to turn to God, repent or believe if God had not in some way made it possible for such to happen for rebel sinners. He does this by sending grace before. Prevenient is based on the Latin verb, praevenio, i.e. prae = before; venio = come.
This does not mean that this prevenient/common grace enables a person to change the permanent bent of his/her will towards God (that would be Pelagianism). It does mean that a person can make that initial response to God so that God can then give repentance and faith. It is like what the author wrote in Lamentations 5:21 (NIV), ‘Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return’. The KJV translated it as, ‘Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned’. We can see this message also affirmed in Jer 31:18-19; Ps 80:3; 85:4).

Since Scripture tells us this much, then God’s prevenient grace has given human beings a measure of freedom to be restored to him. We can see some of this expressed in a verse such as Rom 1:20 (ESV), ‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse‘ (emphasis added).

A simple definition of prevenient or common grace is: It is the grace of God that restores to the sinner the opportunity to make a favourable response to God. My view is that it is God’s grace that makes it possible for all people to be saved. God must take the initiative if human beings are to be saved. Titus 2:11 summarises prevenient grace.

Be warned! This discussion has caused theological heartache between Calvinists and Arminians, the latter supporting prevenient grace and the former opposing it. I’m a Reformed Arminian supporter of prevenient grace.

See these other articles,

clip_image006 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image006[1] Does God only draw certain people to salvation?

1. Prevenient cookies for the kids

Image result for clipart cookies public domainHow do you think the person would reply to the above evidence? Here goes: ‘There really ought to be a more elegant term for it.  But I can’t think of one, either. On the other hand, I can’t think of any other use for the term “prevenient”. She had gone to the store to provide prevenient cookies for the kids?  Nope…doesn’t work’.[10]

How do I respond to the concept of ‘prevenient cookies’?[11] I did give another term for prevenient grace, i.e. common grace. Or could we say that prevenient grace is synonymous with grace that God extends to all people that enables them to come to Christ. That’s enabling grace.

A little while back I wrote an article that attempts to address some of these issues: Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

Perhaps it would be better to call it enabling, amazing grace before salvation (Titus 2:11 ESV).

In the Statement of Faith of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, part of it reads (in relation to prevenient grace):

We believe that humanity was created in the image of God but fell from its original sinless state through willful disobedience and Satan’s deception, resulting in eternal condemnation and separation from God. In and of themselves and apart from the grace of God human beings can neither think, will, nor do anything good, including believe. But the prevenient grace of God prepares and enables sinners to receive the free gift of salvation offered in Christ and his gospel. Only through the grace of God can sinners believe and so be regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto salvation and spiritual life. It is also the grace of God that enables believers to continue in faith as well as good in thought, will, and deed, so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God.

‘Prevenient cookies for the kids’ could be ‘getting cookies so that the kids can gorge’ at the appropriate time – New Year’s Eve. Imagine having a theology of ‘grace in preparation for the gorge’. I’m not being sacrilegious. I’m using that analogy – with an extension. ‘Assisting grace’ that comes before salvation is the idea. It is contrary to irresistible grace.

See my article, How a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary online gives the meaning of ‘prevenient’ as antecedent, anticipatory (source). provides the meaning as, ‘coming before, antecedent, anticipatory’.

How about antecedent grace or grace that comes before salvation?

C. The counter of irresistible grace

The most common resistance to the biblical view of prevenient grace comes from the Calvinistic exponents of irresistible grace.

This is the kind of argument from a Calvinist in support of irresistible grace and against prevenient grace:

The Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace should be rejected on biblical grounds. First and foremost, it turns Paul’s words “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6) on their head. The Greek term used here means to “accomplish” or “perfect,” similar to how the writer of Hebrews says Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The doctrine of prevenient grace affirms that a work is done in the sinner but it denies that the efficacy of the grace is guaranteed. This makes no sense if we are assured that God will perfect what He starts in a person. Second, there is no reason to believe that the two “him’s” in John 6:44 are different groups of people. Two Greek words separate the first “him” who is drawn by the Father from the second “him” who is raised up on the last day. Grammatically and contextually, there is nothing that would begin to support the idea that the verse means not all who are drawn will be raised up on the last day. We find a similar idea in Romans 8:30, where we read that all whom God calls, referring to the inward calling, will be justified and later glorified (‘What is prevenient grace?’ Got Questions Ministries).

The counter to this is from James Arminius himself:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil (Works of James Arminius, vol 2. ‘Grace and Free will’)

The teaching of Arminius was that the will was so bound with sin that it is ‘dead in sins’ and that it needed God’s grace through Christ for regeneration. That grace is needed to illuminate the mind towards God. ‘This grace goes before, accompanies and follows’ regeneration.

1. What is irresistible grace?


(image courtesy ChristArt)

R. C. Sproul, a Calvinist, describes irresistible grace as ‘effectual calling’. For Sproul,

the effectual call of God is an inward call. It is the secret work of quickening or regeneration accomplished in the souls of the elect by the immediate supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result…. irresistible in the sense that God’s grace prevails over our natural resistance to it (Sproul 1992:169-170).

We need to understand that the language of ‘effectual calling’ is a way to soften the language of ‘irresistible grace’, with the latter coming with overtones of God forcing a person to receive salvation. Lemke (2010:112) considers that ‘some contemporary Calvinists seem to be a little embarrassed by the term “irresistible grace” and have sought to soften it or to replace it with a term like “effectual calling”‘.

While Sproul (1992), Spurgeon (1856) and J. I. Packer (1993:152-153) use the language of ‘effectual calling’, other Calvinists are more up front in emphasising that grace that brings about salvation cannot be refused – people are unable to resist. Packer’s language is that ‘in effectual calling God quickens the dead’, people understand the gospel through the Holy Spirit enlightening and renewing the hearts of elect sinners. They embrace this ‘truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection’ as they are now regenerate and have been enabled ‘by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good’ and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Packer 1993:153). Spurgeon (1856) said, ‘If he shall but say, “To-day I must abide at thy house,” there will be no resistance in you…. If God says “I must,” there is no standing against it. Let him say “must,” and it must be’.

Steele, Thomas and Quinn (2004:52-54), as Calvinists, are more to the point, using the language that ‘the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made’. It is issued ‘only to the elect’ and the Spirit does not depend on ‘their help or cooperation’. In fact, ‘for the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ’. That sounds awfully like God forcing the elect to come to Christ and by implication, leaving the non-elect to damnation, or God’s choice to irresistibly damn the non-elect.

John Piper and the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, do not use the softly, softly language. They state that irresistible grace

does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible…. The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills.[12]

However, there is a paradoxical statement in the Bethlehem Baptist statement in that only a few paragraphs after making the above declaration, it stated:

Irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.[13]

It sure is a contradiction in terms and the Bethlehem Baptist Church has given that contradiction by affirming that ‘the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance’, yet God never ‘forces us to believe against our will’.[14] They state that irresistible grace has been described this way:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.[15]

A Calvinist continued his opposition to prevenient grace: ‘Why don’t you consider prevenient grace a violation of free will?’[16]

This was my response:[17] It is not a violation of free will. It is common grace. It is no more a violation of free will than a person receiving a soul/spirit is a violation of free will.

God takes the initiative in all salvation. We know that prevenient grace is not a violation of free will because God has stated it clearly. This is what He has done: ‘For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people’ (Titus 2:11 ESV).

This means that the human will is freed in relation to salvation. It is not a violation of free will. We know that the will has been freed in relation to salvation because it is implied in the exhortations given above:

  • to turn to God.
  • to repent, and
  • to believe.

Prevenient or common grace is no more a violation of a person’s will than their receiving a beating heart before birth and breath after birth. See, ‘How your baby begins to breathe’ (Dr Amy).

2. Why irresistible grace is unbiblical

Love and justice

(image courtesy ChristArt)

See the William Birch article, on the Society of Evangelical Arminians’ website, ‘Arminius vs Calvin on Irresistible Grace’.[18] Some of the chief theological issues, as I understand them, with irresistible grace, are:

clip_image010 It violates the fundamental principle that God gave to our first parents (Adam & Eve) in the Garden at the beginning of the human race, ‘ And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”’ (Gen 2:16-17 ESV). The man, Adam was given the freedom to choose to eat or not to eat from the tree. What did Adam do? He and his wife exercised their God-given free wills and they ate, thus bringing sin to the entire human race (Gen 3:1-7).

When it comes to salvation, this principle of free will choice is violated by Calvinistic irresistible grace. The Calvinistic view is God forcing the salvation of grace on human beings. The obvious response is that that is for the eternal benefit of the saved. My response is that this is for the eternal damnation of the lost as well. Double predestination (i.e. both the lost and saved are predestined eternally by God) makes God into a monster, in my view, who demands that a large section of humanity will be eternally perishing – according to His irresistible grace. It is demanded by God that it should be that way. What kind of God would do that when he has declared he is a God of love for the whole world (John 3:16)?

Is this a libertine view of free will? Not at all! See my article,

blue-coil-sm What is the nature of human free will?

This leads to some further, but related, problems with irresistible grace:

clip_image010[1] It reveals God as an unfair supernatural being. See my articles,

blue-coil-sm The injustice of the God of Calvinism;

blue-coil-sm Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

clip_image011 It contravenes a fundamental of New Testament Christianity of God

loving the world and Jesus’ dying for the whole world of sinners. This is explained in my articles,

blue-coil-sm Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

blue-coil-sm Calvinists squirming over the world;

blue-coil-sm Does God love the world or only the elect?

blue-coil-sm Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world?

clip_image011[1] It makes God into a Being of partiality who plays the favourites. This especially violates the biblical teaching, ‘for God does not show favoritism’ (Rom 2:11 NIV). In Romans 2, the context is no favouritism between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). Then in Acts 10:34-35 (NIV), Peter preached the good news to the Gentiles, ‘Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right’.

Caleb Colley explained:

Exactly what does it mean that God is impartial? God offers salvation to every man, no matter what external circumstances, such as socioeconomic status or nationality, might apply to him. God does not offer salvation only to the Jew, just because he is a Jew, or only to the Gentile because he is a Gentile. The Greek word translated “respecter of persons” in the King James Version of Acts 10:34 (“God is no respecter of persons”) is prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man (Lenski, 1961, p. 418). Under Roman law, for example, a defendant’s societal status was weighed heavily along with evidence. Any human judge might show undue favor to a plaintiff or a defendant because of private friendship, bribery, rank, power, or political affiliation, but God, the perfect Judge, cannot be tempted by any of the things that might tempt a human judge to show unfair partiality.[19]

D. Conclusion

This is not an article where I provide a refutation of every verse the Calvinists use to try to counter prevenient grace. It is an overview of some of the issues. I write as a Reformed, classical Arminian who is convinced from Scripture of the doctrine of prevenient grace as taught in Titus 2:11 (ESV).

For a refutation of one of the primary Calvinistic verses against prevenient grace, see Craig L. Adams, “Calvinism and John 6:44?. John 6:44 (ESV) reads, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’.

I am convinced that the biblical evidence points to prevenient grace that is an antecedent to salvation, but it is grace that is available to all but can be resisted.

Works consulted

Lemke, S W 2010. A biblical and theological critique of irresistible grace. David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke (eds). Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, 109-162. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise Theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Phillips, N 2013. Packer’s last words to his son. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), February 11. Available at: (Accessed 2 February 2016).

Rowe, D 2009. What Should I Believe? Why Our Beliefs about the Nature of Death and the Purpose of Life Dominate Our Lives. London and New York: Routledge.

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Spurgeon, C H 1856. Effectual calling, sermon 73, 30 March. Available at: (Accessed 5 October 2011).

Steele, D N, Thomas C C, & Quinn S L 2004. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] Christianity Board, Grace, The Barrd#1. Available at: (Accessed 31 December 2015).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#4.

[3] The Age, Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer 1937-2005: Obituary (online), 28 December 2005. Available at: (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[4] This report stated that Packer was ‘without a pulse for six minutes’, Emma Alberici, Kerry Packer dies, The 7.30 Report (online), 27 December 2005. Available at: (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[5] See the photograph of Kerry Packer on his hospital bed, who had been ‘admitted to Saint Vincent’s Hospital after suffering a heart attack while playing polo at Warwick Farm, 7 October 1990’. Available from gettyimages at: (Accessed 1 January 2016). See other details of this Packer experience in ‘Kerry Packer and a plea for privacy’ (Oxford University Press 2015), available at: (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[6] For an example of research into near-death experiences, see the interview with Dr Peter Fenwick, one of Britain’s leading neuropsychiatrists, on a year-old research project in the cardiac unit, Southampton General Hospital on Australia’s Lateline, 30 October 2000. Available at: (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[7] With help from Thiessen (1949:155-156).

[8] Christianity Board, loc cit., The Barrd#5.

[9] With considerable help from Thiessen (1949:155-156).

[10] Christianity Board, loc cit., The Barrd#7.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[12] Desiring God, ‘What we believe about the five points of Calvinism’ (rev. March 1998). Available at: (Accessed 5 October 2011). I was alerted to this reference from Piper in Lemke (2010)..

[13] Ibid.

[14] This contradiction was pointed out in Lemke (2010:112).

[15] The Calvinist Corner, available at: (Accessed 3 October 2011).

[16] Christian, The ‘Free Will’ Dilemma, Hammster #517, June 23, 2013. Available at: (Accessed 31 December 2015).

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#519.

[18] This was posted, July 5, 2010.

[19] Apologetics Press 2004. God is no respecter of persons (online). Available at: (Accessed 31 December 2015).


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 4 June 2016.

Does God love the world or only the elect?

God is Love

(courtesy ChristArt)


By Spencer D Gear

This is a reasonable question:

When christians tell non-believers God loves them, before sharing the gospel. There are many verses I can refer to with regards to the Love shown by God to both believer and unbeliever. But when we say “God loves you”, is there scripture to show this?[1]

After a reply, he wrote this response:

The problem I run into is the context.

1. John 3:16 is the top verse I hear. Does it mean the WHOLE WORLD.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:9 KJV)
*why not the world?
2. When verses are referring to believers (Israel/ church) and not unbelievers.
3. I know God sends the rain to both the wicked and the righteous.
A better question I should ask is…..
Would YOU tell Esau “God loves you”?[2]

My response was:[3]

John 17:9 states, ‘I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours’ (ESV).

With regard to John 17:9 and who it is that Jesus is praying for, we get the answer by reading the context. Please read the whole of John 17 to know who Jesus is praying for. Evangelical commentator, Leon Morris, wrote of John 17:9:

Very simply Jesus prays for them. He makes a distinction between the little band of disciples and the world. His prayer is not for “the world”. This does not mean that “the world” is beyond God’s love. Elsewhere we are specifically told that He loves it (3:16). And throughout this chapter it is plain that Jesus came with a mission to the world, and that the disciples were now to carry it on. A little later Jesus prays that the disciples may do certain things “that the world may believe…” (v. 21), and “that the world may know” (v. 23). The world is to be reached through the disciples and it is for His agents that Jesus prays. But He could scarcely pray for “the world” as such. As “the world” it was ranged in opposition to God. Its salvation lay precisely in its ceasing to be “the world”. Prayer for the world could only be that it be converted and no longer by the world. But that would be a different prayer. We see it for example in His prayer for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Now He prays rather for the little group of His friends. Notice that they are again described in terms of their relationship to the Father. They have been “given” to Christ. They belong to the Father (Morris1971:725).

Another wrote:

There are passages in John that can reasonably be interpreted that way [God loved the world, John 3:16] , e.g. John 14:23. Personally I tend towards a more universal concept. Luke 6:35 suggests that our love for enemies is based on God’s own love for his enemies, but I think a reasonable case can be made that God only loves his people, and in John, only the elect.[4]

My response was:

If God only loved the elect, that makes “for God so loved the world” an oxymoron.

It makes God commit self-contradiction, which he does not do. Could it be that your doctrine of God only loving the elect is the one in error? “God so loved the world” cannot be dissected and deconstructed to mean “God so loved the elect”, unless one wants to get into eisegesis.

Luke 6:35 has no relation to God’s love for the world or the elect. It relates to what he told his disciples to do, ‘But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…” It is talking about rewards for believers, not whether or not God loves the world or only the elect. In context, I think you are wanting Luke 6:35 to say something it does not say. Clutching at straws?[5]

Norman Geisler (1999:77) agreed: ‘Few teachings are more evident in the New Testament than that God loves all people, that Christ died for the sins of all human beings (cf. 1 Tim 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2), and that God desires all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)’.



Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Morris, Leon 1971. The Gospel according to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.



[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘The Love of God’, toolmanjantzi#1, Available at: (Accessed 3 February 2013).

[2] Ibid, toolmanjantzi#3.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[4] Ibid., Hendrick#12.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#14.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 February 2016.

Pedophiles: It’s not their fault!!

Sin Paint

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

There are some outrageous views in the world of secular journalism. I came across an opinion piece in the Melbourne (Australia), Herald Sun newspaper online, ‘Should we help paedophiles? What choice do we have?‘ (Shepherd 2015).[1] The sub-heading was, ‘If people are born straight, or gay, is it possible that paedophiles can’t help being what they are?’ The article began:

Evidence shows that it might be true; paedophiles are born that way. Recent research suggests some faulty wiring in the brain. Things about children that are meant to elicit a protective response instead elicit a sexual one.

A published paper from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found paedophiles are far more likely to be left-handed, and have a lower IQ, which indicates there’s a problem with brain development.

Which would make it not their fault.

Why don’t you take a read of what I consider to be an extremist view of an alibi for sexually deviant behaviour of paedophilia in ‘The Science of Pedophilia: Is It a Sexual Orientation?’ This article states, ‘The good news, though, is that, if researchers can figure out how the brain’s wiring becomes crossed, scientists could figure out ways for mothers to minimize their chances of giving birth to pedophiles’ (Brice 2012).

What an excuse for justification of wicked sexual abuse of children by adults (mostly males).

A. What is paedophilia?

Michael Seto,[2] who wants to legitimise paedophilia as a sexual orientation, provided this definition, ‘Pedophilia can be defined as a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, as indicated by persistent and recurrent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, arousal, or behavior (“or” because the diagnosis can be made on the basis of thoughts and urges alone)’ (Seto 2012:231-232).

Margo Kaplan, assistant professor of law, states that paedophilia ‘refers to a type of sexual interest – specifically an intense and persistent sexual interest in prepubescent children. Pedophilia need not entail any behavior; one may be a celibate pedophile, similar to how one may have sexual desires for adults while remaining celibate’ (Kaplan 2015:86-87).

In common language, these two professionals define paedophilia as adults having a sexual attraction to children through thoughts, fantasies and sometimes involving sexual behaviour between an adult and a child.

B. Why is paedophilia a crime?

Here in Australia, those who are found guilty of paedophilia have committed a criminal act and these are five examples of penalties for such crimes.

1. Dennis Ferguson

clip_image002(Dennis Ferguson 2009, photo courtesy Wikipedia)


One of Australia’s most notorious paedophiles was Dennis Raymond Ferguson. In sentencing him to jail for his crimes, it was reported in The Daily Telegraph:

The evil man Ferguson seems intent on forgetting he ever was.

Such vile criminals don’t come much worse.

As one judge put it, Ferguson is a “cunning and scheming man – not without some intelligence – a danger to children and foolish parents”.

Justice Derrington said Ferguson’s chances of rehabilitation were zero when sentencing him to 14 years in a Queensland jail in 1988 (Lawrence 2009).

2. Forty-one year old paedophile

The Australian newspaper reported in 2010 on the disparity between the length of sentencing for the crime of paedophilia in the USA compared to the drastic leniency in Australia. The report stated that an American pedophile was sentenced to 21 years jail for pleading guilty to photographing a 2-year-old girl and trading the child pornography on the Internet. His Australian (Canberra) cohort was jailed for a quarter of that time for doing the same actions with 4 children.

The 41-year-old [Australian] – who cannot be named – was sentenced … to seven years jail, and must serve a minimum of 4 1/2 years after pleading guilty to 13 counts of indecency against children, using a child to produce child pornography and transmitting child pornography.

Four children, including his own infant son, were captured in the images, which the ACT Supreme Court was told were regarded as “trophies” by the man.

The other children were aged five, seven and nine and included his godchild (McKenna 2010).

3. Brett Peter Cowan


(Daniel Morcombe, phogo courtesy Wikipedia)

One of the most prominent and extremely sad examples of the action of a paedophile here in Queensland was the death of Daniel Morcombe, a 13-year-old, who was abducted from the Sunshine Coast (Woombye) and killed by paedophile, Brett Peter Cowan. Cowan’s paedophilia is confirmed in Olding (2014). This article states:

  • ‘A man who was raped and almost killed by Brett Peter Cowan 27 years ago, when he was seven years old, says the predator destroyed his life’.
  • ‘Cowan had a shocking record of paedophilia and a hole in his alibi but he told the inquiry he would not have taken Daniel because he liked boys that were six or seven years old, not 13’.
  • ‘A former girlfriend of Cowan’s told the program about the night he abducted a six-year-old boy from a Darwin caravan park in 1993 and raped him. He left the boy for dead with horrific injuries but the child survived’.

4. Abuse by clergy or workers at Christian institutions

Then there are horrifying examples of sexual abuse of children by clergy. Here is but one example of many about which I, as a Christian, am utterly ashamed. This abuse victim wrote:

I would think seriously about donating a kidney if I am given the opportunity to stand before the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. And after eight years of battling the Anglican Church for answers, something exciting has happened concerning the sexual and physical abuse of more than 200 children.

Yes, to hell with the kidney, it means nothing compared to the horrific and violent abuse children suffered at the hands of Anglican clergy and staff over the five decades the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home was functioning.

I was raised in that Anglican home for 14 years, 10 of which were brutal. I was sexually violated and physically abused. To this day I bear the scars on my back from a flogging.

The scars in my mind are deeper (Campion 2013).

5. Fifty-six year old paedophile

As I was writing this article, there appeared a lead item on the Brisbane Times website, ‘Convicted paedophile who raped stepdaughter to be watched until 2021’ (Branco 2016). Here it was stated that this 56-year-old was convicted of raping his 7-year-old step daughter. ‘The man was sentenced to eight years in jail in January 2008 after pleading guilty to offences including rape and grievous bodily harm. He was released on parole in September 2010 but hauled back into prison four years later when he was found living with a 15-year-old girl but had since been released again’. Although released on 17 January 2016, he has to report to authorities for another 5 years. Psychiatrists diagnosed him with paedophilia or a similar condition of paraphilia and ‘classed him a low to medium risk of reoffending’ (Branco 2016). These are the kinds of despicable acts in which he engaged:

He raped the girl when she was just seven years old, beating her, holding her upside down and smacking her.

When the girl was only eight, he punched her so hard she fell down the stairs.

In some cases, the offences occurred while the girl’s mother was asleep in another room….

[The psychiatrists] each noted a tendency for the 56-year-old to minimise and deny his crimes, with Dr Josephine Sundin even noting he perceived himself as an “unhappy and unlucky victim” (Branco 2016).

Now scientists want to label this kind of predatory, sordid behaviour as something over which the paedophile has no control as it is wired into his physical being – the brain (see Shepherd 2015).

C. The victims

Bill Glaser wrote in 1997:

Paedophilia: The health problem of the decade – Dr Bill Glaser

Imagine a society afflicted by a scourge which struck down a quarter of its daughters and up to one in eight of its sons.

Imagine also that this plague, while not immediately fatal, lurked in the bodies and minds of these young children for decades, making them up to sixteen times more likely to experience its disastrous long-term effects.

Finally, imagine the nature of these effects: life-threatening starvation, suicide, persistent nightmares, drug and alcohol abuse and a whole host of intractable psychiatric disorders requiring life-long treatment. What would the society’s response be?

The scourge that we are speaking of is child sexual abuse. It has accounted for probably more misery and suffering than any of the

great plagues of history, including the bubonic plague, tuberculosis and syphilis. Its effects are certainly more devastating and widespread than those of the modern-day epidemics which currently take up so much community attention and resources: motor vehicle accidents, heart

disease and, now, AIDS. Yet the public response to child sexual abuse, even now, is fragmented, poorly coordinated and generally ill-informed.

Its victims have no National AIDS Council to advise governments on policy and research issues; They have no National Heart Foundation to promote public education as to the risks of smoking and unhealthy

lifestyles; They do not have a Transport Accident Commission to provide comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation services for them.

A massive public health problem like child sexual abuse demands a massive societal response. But firstly, we need to acknowledge and understand the problem itself, and this is, sadly enough, a task which both professionals and the community have been reluctant to undertake despite glaringly obvious evidence in front of us.

Source: Excerpt from Glaser, W. “Paedophilia: The Public Health Problem of the Decade” – Australian Institute of Criminology Conference on Paedophilia, Sydney, April 1997.[3]

As a long-term counsellor and counselling manager (now retired), I have deep compassion for helping victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. However, as will be evident in this article, I do not support the solutions offered by a secular worldview because I’m convinced it does not get to the core of what motivates a person to violate another sexually – especially a child.

This I will admit: The need is urgent to do something substantial about finding a solution to the problem. However, I’m not convinced my secular society has the understanding for doing this. Some have the will to do something, like Bravehearts, but what is the best long-term solution?

I’ll declare my colours as we examine two radically different worldviews and their impact on the paedophilia issue, using Shepherd’s (2015) article as an example.

D. Worldview of a difference

What is a worldview? All of us have one. It may be defined as ‘a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of our world’ (Sire1988:17). James Sire explained that these are the seven rock-bottom questions that need to be answered to uncover the elements of a worldview:

(a) What is prime reality – the really real?

(b) What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

(c) What is a human being?

(d) What happens to a person at death?

(e) Why is it possible to know anything at all?

(f) How do we know what is right and wrong?

(g) What is the meaning of human history? (Sire 1988:18)

What are the worldview dimensions in Tory Shepherd’s article (Shepherd 2015) in her proposing that for the paedophiles, it is not their faults that they have these thoughts towards and then sexually abuse children?

Whether she wants to acknowledge it or not, she is promoting a worldview that deals with at least 3 dimensions of such a view. My analysis of her article reveals three primary dimensions of the following worldview dimensions: (a) external reality, (b) the nature of human beings, and, (c) the nature of right and wrong.

(a) The nature of external reality

This deals with ‘whether we see the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit, or whether we emphasize our subjective, personal relationship to the world or its objectivity apart from us’ (Sire 1988:18)

Shepherd was into the ‘it feels’ subjectivity when she stated that the uncovering of every dirty secret and hints of new ones ‘feels unending, unendable’[4], and ‘it also feels as though giving any kind of helping hand to paedophiles is an insult to survivors’. This is an example of subjective emphasis.

The personal relationship to the world of external reality is seen in Shepherd’s statement that ‘under the Circles of Support and Accountability program’ volunteers would ‘support paedophiles … emotionally and practically to reintegrate into society’. This assumes that this will help them to be autonomously functioning paedophiles. Nothing is said here about the paedophile being cured of his disorder, disease, malfunction, or – dare I mention it – sin.

(b) Teaching on the nature of human beings

Are people only physical beings, highly complex machines, without a soul and spiritual dimension?

Shepherd points to ‘evidence’ of the possibility that ‘paedophiles are born that way’. So the nature of human beings is driven by the worldview of naturalism. Human beings are physical beings with ‘some faulty wiring in the brain’. Thus, when these physical beings are supposed to have ‘a protective response’ to children instead of ‘a sexual one’, it is because of bad wiring in the brain.

This brain development, according to the Toronto research, also is driven by naturalism as paedophilia is associated with being left-handed and lower IQ, ‘which indicates there’s a problem with brain development’.

It needs to be noted that naturalism, in philosophy, is ‘a theory that relates scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe (whatever their inherent character may be) are natural. Consequently, all knowledge of the universe falls within the pale of scientific investigation’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2016. S v naturalism).

The Virtuous Paedophile website (quoted by Shepherd) stated, ‘We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away’. This affirms the physical being dimension of paedophilia. Their view is that they can’t do anything about it as it is physically caused (genetic). This is further confirmed by the language, ‘We did not choose it, cannot change, and [we] successfully resist’ the ‘temptation to abuse children sexually’.

(c) Demonstrates a perspective on what is right and wrong

Are human beings made in the image of a good God whose character is righteous, or are right and wrong ‘determined by human choice alone, or the motions simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival’ (Sire 1988:18).

Shepherd raises that question that, like straight and gay people, paedophiles ‘can’t help being what they are’. However, she does speak of ‘every dirty secret’ being uncovered and ‘hints of new ones’ cropping up and this goes on and on. But there is no discussion of how one knows it is a dirty as opposed to a clean secret. She wants to disclose some aspect of what seems wrong or ‘dirty’, but no criteria for identification are given.

She mentions the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study that found paedophiles are more likely to be left-handed and have lower IQ, thus indicating ‘a problem with brain development’. Then she draws the moral conclusion that this ‘would make it not their fault’ because it is physically caused by the brain. She did admit that ‘not all experts agree’, claiming ‘it’s genetic’ or ‘learned behaviour’ that could be ‘triggered by trauma or abuse’, but Shepherd did not get into discussion of right or wrong actions and what makes it morally one way or the other.

Then there is a push to try to differentiate ‘between a paedophile and a sexual offender’, which she claims is a ‘seldom-made distinction’. Here definition is that ‘it is possible to be deviant’ (presumably referring to a sex offender) and not deviant (‘attracted to children, but to never act on it’). I found it puzzling that no criteria were given to make this differentiation and then extending that to an understanding of how being attracted to children and thinking on children may lead to acting out paedophilic behaviour. This read like a relativistic attempt to explain and justify attraction to children.

In speaking of a USA based group, Virtuous Paedophiles,[5] Shepherd wrote, ‘I suspect the mere idea of a paedophile calling himself or herself virtuous will have the self-appointed virtue police shuddering in their jim jams, but it’s an interesting concept’ (Shepherd 2015). This is Shepherd’s judgmental, value-laden assessment of how those who oppose ‘virtuous paedophiles’ could respond. She wants to make a right vs wrong assessment against those who oppose any thought of a group of Virtuous Paedophiles. So, she is making a value judgment but her view is loaded with anti-conservative values. She judgmentally labelled those who opposed ‘virtuous paedophiles’ as ‘self-appointed virtue police’ whose behaviour is to shudder ‘in their jim jams’. She is the one who has morally decided it is suitable to engage in put-downs of those whose values she rebels against. To label them as ‘virtue police’ is an extremist, rebellious opinion.

Shepherd’s value judgments of right and wrong continued. She could not see politicians having the ‘will to spend the money’ to roll out a nationwide program to help paedophiles (and thus save children) as it ‘will never be a vote winner’. She adds that ‘only the brave and petrified’ would be courageous enough ‘to try to get help’. Her value judgment is that ‘shame and fear would stop most of them’. From where did she gain that information to reach that verdict?

She is not identifying the criteria for her to determine what is right or wrong. Her moral challenges continued: Financial compensation for the children sexually abused in institutional care and considering ‘the actual cost to society of the pervasive trauma’ were raised by Shepherd. There is no discussion here of the impact on the psyche, soul or spirit, although one has to read between the lines to see some possible hint with the language of ‘pervasive trauma’ – but that’s a remote indicator.

She wrote of ‘every dirty secret uncovered’ and hints of more cropping up. There was no indicator of how to know it was a ‘dirty secret’. If it is ‘not their fault’ (her language, borrowed from ‘recent research), to call it a ‘dirty secret’ is provocative, contradictory language in my understanding. A ‘dirty secret … (that is) not their fault’ is an oxymoron way of putting it.

What about this value judgment? ‘What if, for less than the price of helping one survivor to heal, we can stop several from being hurt in the first place?’ (Shepherd 2015). I ask: Why should one pursue that which is right when it is not the paedophile’s fault and morality is not the issue? Why should a paedophile be morally blamed when it is an issue with wiring in the brain? How does one choose to save children (which I would do) and prevent paedophiles from committing acts (which I would do)? It is honourable to choose the vulnerable over the perpetrator, but what values of right and wrong are being used and how are they chosen? Shepherd does not articulate these and give a moral framework for deciding right from wrong.

What morality is contained in Shepherd’s (2015) statement, ‘If paedophiles get sympathy, respect and treatment, they say, there would be fewer offences. Fewer children raped. Surely that’s something worth thinking about?’ I find that to be another oxymoron. How can they receive ‘respect and treatment’ if it is ‘not their fault’? Why not accept these values: If we let paedophiles do what comes naturally to them (because their paedophilia is not their fault), why should we be worrying about how they practise paedophilia? It’s their natural desire being expressed and surely it would be inappropriate to inhibit something they can do nothing about? The way I’ve just stated it represents the values of a relativistic worldview that is expressed in this article by Shepherd. If the paedophile can say, ‘I will think and do what is right for me’, he/she is expressing relativism in action.

This journalist reported on phone calls to the Centres Against Sexual Assault from ‘people fantasising about children’ and they want help but there is little help available and ‘hardly any publicly funded programs’ for these paedophiles who are ‘potential offenders’. So these people have to be turned away from getting help. Wait a moment! These are the paedophiles for whom it is ‘not their fault’ and the problem is related to a physical malfunction in the brain’s wiring over which they have no control. This is another oxymoron. They can’t have it both ways: (i) It’s not their fault; (ii) it’s caused by a brain problem, but (iii) they need help through government funded programmes.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is ‘only just starting to bring home the horror’ how ‘institutions have forever attracted and then protected paedophiles’. What makes child sexual abuse a ‘horror’ when this abuser is not the fault of paedophiles? The problem is wrong wiring in the brain (Shepherd 2015).

Can’t you see the anomalies of trying to obtain help for paedophiles and victims when a journalist wants to label childhood sexual abuse as a ‘horror’ without providing a framework of morality to determine that sexual abuse is wrong and the abuse by the paedophile is a ‘horror’? I do not support child sexual abuse nor the paedophile’s behaviour, but again we see the values of relativism in action as promoted by Shepherd in her article.

For a more detailed analysis of worldviews, see Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino, ‘Questions about worldviews’ (Geisler & Bocchino 2001: 55-69).

Are values relative or absolute? This issue will be investigated now.

C. The paedophile cure

Three factors are exposed in Shepherd’s article: (1) Moral relativism, (2) Humanism, and (3) Secularism. The paedophile cure involves dealing with these three threats and promoting absolute truth. Let’s examine the issues.

1. Moral relativism

Moral relativists

argue that there are no objective moral values which help us to determine what is right or wrong. They claim “everything is relative.” In order to defend this position, the relativist puts forth two arguments: (1) Since people and cultures dis agree about morality, there are no objective moral values; (2) Moral relativism leads to tolerance of practices we may find different or odd (Beckwith 2009).

I find it to be a deceitful tactic to raise the expectation of a paedophile’s reputation to, ‘It is not their fault’, when not even bothering to explain how paedophilia and child sexual abuse can be regarded as wrong or ‘a horror’ (language cited by Shepherd). Please understand that I oppose paedophilia and child sexual abuse with vehemence, but Shepherd gave no grounds for determining what is right or wrong with these views. Moral relativism and secularism were assumed.

We live in a world that has many following the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I Did It My Way. If I’m allowed to choose my own values and do it my way, I need to allow you to do it your way. That means paedophiles, rapists, terrorists and thieves need to be allowed to pursue their own morality. The logical outcome of moral relativism is that nobody can stop anyone from doing what they want to do. That system of values will lead to chaos in society. Could we be seeing that in certain examples around the world? I’m thinking of,

What is the other value system that counters this? Truth is absolute! What does that teach? More on that below.

2. Humanism

This term is a little more difficult to define as it has at least two dimensions. In one of its forms, ‘humanism itself is the overall attitude that human beings are of special value; their aspirations, their thoughts, their yearnings are significant’. This is an emphasis that I support as it asserts ‘the value of the individual person’. Since the time of the Renaissance there have been many thoughtful Christians and non-Christians who were pleased to call themselves humanists in a positive sense. These have included some Christians, including John Calvin (1509-1564), William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and John Milton (1608-1674) [Sire 1988:74-75].

There has been another negative view of humanism. Its tenets were drafted in Paul Kurtz & Edwin H Wilson’s Humanist Manifesto II (The American Humanist Association, 1973). Secular humanists would probably find the first 6 tenets of this Manifesto to harmonise with their secular values for the practice of secular humanism. In the words of the Preface to this Manifesto, ‘varieties and emphases of naturalistic humanism include “scientific,” “ethical,” “democratic,” “religious,” and “Marxist” humanism. Free thought, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, deism, rationalism, ethical culture, and liberal religion all claim to be heir to the humanist tradition’ (The American Humanist Association, 1973).

However, what is secular?

3. Secularism

What does it mean to have a secular view of life? Albert Mohler states that ‘secular refers to the absence of any binding divine authority or belief. Secularization is a sociological process whereby societies become less theistic as they become more modern’ (Mohler 2015:5).

The Council of Australian Humanist Societies claims that ‘Australia is and has always been a country with secular values’ (Harrad 2015). We know that this is not the case because when the first fleet arrived in Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788 with convicts from Great Britain, Richard Johnson was the first chaplain on The Endeavour and he represented the Anglican Church of Great Britain.

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Rev Richard Johnson (ca. 1756 – 1827)








If you were to go into downtown Sydney, there’s a place where I would like you to stand.

clip_image004It’s down at the Circular Quay end of Castlereagh street – on the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets. In a little square, there’s a monument – passed by and unread by hundreds of people every day.

Imagine you are standing in that spot, but instead of looking up at the tall buildings, and hearing the noise of the cars and the buses, above you is a great tree. You are in a wilderness – and the sounds you hear are the sounds of kookaburras – and the sounds of marching feet. For it is very near that spot – at the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets – that, on Sunday 3rd February 1788, the first Christian church service was held in the Colony of New South Wales.

Just imagine it… Out in the harbour are moored eleven ships – the ships of the First Fleet, having carried just over a thousand people from Southampton.

There’s the Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, twenty officials and their servants, 213 marines with some wives and children, more than 750 convicts – one chaplain and his wife – as well as one eternal optimist – a certain James Smith, the man who had actually stowed away on the First Fleet! (Marcus Loane, Hewn from the Rock, 1997-2016).


(photo courtesy Anglican Church League)

Marcus Loane explained the conflict between evangelical Christian values and secularism in the start of the Australian colony.

In 1792, he [Richard Johnson] wrote to the inhabitants of the Colony. It was a booklet he had published because the population of the Colony was increasing, and there was no way he could see everyone … so he wrote this booklet to set forth the gospel and to call upon men and women to repent. This is a part of what he wrote, and it gives us a good insight into what Johnson saw was his task and his message….

I have told you again and again, that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that there is no coming to God with comfort, either in this world, or in that which is to come, but by him. He has told you so himself. And the apostle assures you, that there is no other name under heaven, given unto men, whereby they can be saved. Look unto him, and you shall be saved; if not, you must be damned. This is the plain truth, the express declaration of the Bible. Life and death are set before you.

Permit me then, as your minister, your friend, and a well-wisher to your souls, to press these serious and weighty considerations home upon your consciences once more. I hope and believe that I have asserted nothing, but what can be proved by the highest authority, the word of the living God.

They certainly deserve your closest and most careful attention, since it is plain beyond a doubt. that upon your knowledge or ignorance, your acceptance or rejection of this gospel, your everlasting happiness or misery must depend.

Yes, Richard Johnson was a man of the gospel – but there are two other men of whom we should take note –

Two other Men

The clear preaching of the gospel by Johnson soon brought him into conflict with the Governor, Arthur Phillip.

Phillip had no time for such strong Evangelical stuff and asked Johnson to “begin with moral subjects”.

This shows the fundamental division between these two key people in the new colony. Johnson was an evangelical, called to preach the gospel. He was concerned for the eternal welfare of the men and women of the colony. He wanted to see them turn to Christ and be saved.

Phillip, on the other hand, was called to establish the new settlement, and what he was concerned about was good order and a solid moral fibre for the community. He was happy to use what he saw as “religion” as a means to an end. It was OK to have a chaplain, as long as he didn’t take things too seriously.

But, as we know, Johnson did….

Let’s face it – if we preach the pure gospel of Christ today, we are not going to have civic leaders or social commentators or the media queuing up to thank us. The message we are called to proclaim is a lot more demanding than the polite morality many want to church to teach!

But there was another reaction to Richard Johnson’s preaching that was less favourable.

When, due to ill health, Arthur Phillip returned to England in December 1792, Major Francis Grose assumed control as Acting Governor.

Grose hated Johnson and the gospel he preached, and he set out to make life as hard as possible for the Chaplain.

In 1793, after continued government inaction on the construction of a promised church building, Mr Johnson built a church – largely with his own hands. It was big enough to hold 500 people and it opened on 25th August 1793 (Loane 1997-2016).

Yes, there were secularists with the first fleet who wanted to promote their agendas and oppose the faithful, evangelical chaplain, Richard Johnson, who planted biblical Christianity at Australia’s beginning. The result is that today the evangelicals have a large Anglican evangelical diocese in Sydney. The Bible Society reported:

In the Anglican Church, the presence of the evangelical diocese of Sydney makes things clear. Unlike other dioceses, it is the only one with better than expected attendance, according to the report’s criteria based on Census data.

In Sydney, 68,000 Anglicans are in church each Sunday. In Melbourne 21,000 Anglicans are in church on Sunday. It was pointed out at General Synod … that the growing churches were evangelical such as City on a Hill in Melbourne, and the Trinity group of churches in Adelaide (Sandeman 2014).

You will note in the Shepherd (2015) article that she does not provide any worldview framework for determining that the practice of paedophilia is wrong or a ‘horror’ and the sexual abuse of children is wrong. God did not come into the picture in determining values, so she is promoting a secular perspective for determining values. When this happens, the morals are determined by the government in power and there is no divine standard to which one or a government can appeal for determining morality and what is legal vs illegal.

My understanding is that Shepherd, in relying on the research she quoted, has arrived at an ethical view of paedophilia that could be described as relativistic secular humanism. However, Shepherd is espousing a view that I find prevalent in the daily radio & TV news and news online. The emphases are:

flamin-arrow-small The are no absolute values of right and wrong;

flamin-arrow-small Progressive liberalism and free thought;

flamin-arrow-small Belief about paedophilia that has no relationship with God’s values;

flamin-arrow-small Paedophilia related to a physical attribute – wiring in the brain.

In avoiding a Christian solution through a theistic worldview (which is expected from a secular newspaper journalist), Shepherd has avoided dealing with a core issue that could help fix the problem.

That is also the case with Kylie Miller’s assessment. She is a senior analyst of the National Crime Authority in Australia, who concluded her presentation on ‘Paedophilia: Police and Prevention’ with this viewpoint:

Given the very low rehabilitation rate for paedophiles, their tendency towards lifelong offending, and the high number of potential victims, it is clear that the resources expended on the detection of child sexual abuse, need to be balanced against resources devoted to the prevention of child sexual abuse. Although law enforcement plays an important role in detecting and countering child sexual abuse, the criminal justice system cannot deal with this problem alone: it needs to be tackled holistically. Police, lawyers, the courts, community services, teachers, doctors, parents and the media all have a role to play in countering child sexual abuse, and a cooperative and coordinated effort is vital to successfully reduce paedophile activity (Miller n d).[6]

Miller, although her emphasis was on a law enforcement perspective, in this summary conclusion has omitted an important dimension of a holistic solution. This is now addressed.

4. A diagnosis and cure provided by a Christian worldview

Scripture is very clear that the problem of sinful humanity, with its many manifestations, has to deal with a deceitful human heart that not only affects paedophiles, writers dealing with paedophilia, and those of us reading this article on paedophiles. In addition, the problem of sexual immorality is a sin that is an unrighteous action that will prohibit people from entering God’s kingdom. The language from 1 Corinthians 6:9 is very clear, ‘Do not be deceived’. There is a deception being practised when one does not want to deal with the sins of sexual immorality (including paedophilia). See the context of this statement about deception in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV).

Try convincing a 5-year-old raped by a paedophile that it’s not the paedophile’s fault but the paedophile was born that way and he can’t help it because of a brain malfunction. I find this to be straining at a gnat to justify immoral, wicked, devastating behaviour.

Scripture’s perspective is:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV).

Where does the paedophile fit into this list of ‘wrongdoers’? He would be among ‘the sexually immoral’ or ‘men who have sex with men’. The ‘sexually immoral’ term is based on the Greek, pornos, which means ‘the sexually immoral persons in this world … differentiated from an adulterer ( 1 Cor 6:9; Heb 13:4)’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:700).

I find it to be half-baked or whacko when the world’s standards can become such that they want to redefine sexually immoral behaviour into that ‘which would make it not their fault’ and ‘if paedophiles got sympathy, respect and treatment, they say, there would be fewer offences. Fewer children raped. Surely that’s something worth thinking about?’ (Shepherd 2015)

Yes, it’s certainly worth thinking about for one second and no more and then dumping the idea because it is right off base when compared with a biblical worldview of the cause of sexual perversion, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Where is the cure? It is through a heart change, an inner change of one’s being, that brings a change of view towards the nature of human beings, the human dilemma, right versus wrong, and how the Lord God is involved in the change process through Jesus Christ. Let’s examine some of these emphases:

flamin-arrow-small Psalm 51:10 (NIV), ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’.

flamin-arrow-small Proverbs 4:23 (NIV), ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

flamin-arrow-small 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV), ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[7] The old has gone, the new is here!’

flamin-arrow-small Colossians 3:1 (NIV), ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God’.

What does ‘heart’ mean in the Old Testament Scriptures here cited? In Psalm 51:10, ‘“Heart” is in the Hebrew the center where thoughts and plans originate. This is to be redone, as is also the spirit of the man [human being] himself, which had wavered in uncertainty and vacillated between hope and despair’ (Leupold 1959:405).

That new creation for every person, including the paedophile, requires acknowledgement of the real problem. It is not primarily a wiring in the brain issue, it is a sinful human heart. See the article by Greg Herrick, ‘The Seat of Sin, the Heart’ (Herrick 2004). But a relativistic secular humanist will run a mile from wanting to label the paedophile’s problem sin. But that’s exactly what it is. If researchers spent more time on allowing the Gospel to be proclaimed to paedophiles and then those who responded to be discipled, we should get closer to the cure. However, it still leaves us with punishment in prison for those who do not respond to Christ’s salvation. For them, there is no cure and they will have to be constantly monitored whenever they are out of jail. That’s the sad situation we face with paedophile back-sliders (recidivists)

The Christian worldview difference that provides a diagnosis and cure for the paedophile problem, which is the problem for any sinner, is covered in my summary article, The Content of the Gospel . . . and some discipleship.

However, don’t expect a secular audience to accept this diagnosis.

5. Sin and an antagonistic, secular, Australian culture

The rejection of the Christian diagnosis is seen in what happened to a Christian street preacher on Queensland’s Gold Coast in December 2015. Family Voice Australia covered the story:


A member of Operation 513 preaches in Cavill Mall on the Gold Coast (photo courtesy Family Voice Australia, 7 December 2015).

George, a Queensland street preacher with the Operation 513 group, was arrested on Friday night, despite being authorised to assemble and preach peacefully in the Surfers Paradise Cavill Mall under the state’s Peaceful Assembly Act. Operation 513 had preached in Cavill Mall on several previous occasions without any complaints.

At about 10.30 pm, a police sergeant approached George and told him to “move on” after he had mentioned some sins listed in the Bible (eg 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – such as adultery, slander, theft, greed, swindling and homosexual conduct.

George and the group organiser Ryan Hemelaar asked for clarification.  The female sergeant said (in part): “You have talked about homosexuality, offending members of the public about homosexuality.  You are talking about other religions – [saying] that they aren’t right, aren’t God’s way.  Now we have members of the public here who are of other religions. Your words over this speaker are causing anxiety. A member of the public has had a go at you and this man here [George] is antagonising him by quoting [from the Bible] in the opposite of what he is trying to say.”

Ryan Hemelaar tried in vain to explain that the group had official authorisation, so that under section 45 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act, police could not lawfully give a “move on” order.

An acting senior police sergeant and an inspector then arrived and told George to move on immediately or be arrested.  George refused to move on. He was handcuffed and arrested for disobeying a police direction. He was later released and  issued with a notice to appear in court later this month.

Family Voice Queensland director Geoffrey Bullock is deeply concerned by the police action.

“Since when has it been an offence to discuss Bible teaching in Queensland?” he asked. “Whatever happened to religious freedom?  Are we rapidly becoming a ‘police state’?” (Family Voice Australia 2016)

I don’t expect that a relativistic, secular humanist perspective like that promoted in Shepherd’s article will want to be open to the biblical worldview in this article because ‘the heart is deceitful’ for paedophiles, paedophile researchers, journalists, and me. Without changed hearts, we’ll be seeking all kinds of secular alibis to explain or justify sinful behaviour.

D. What makes paedophilia immoral and unlawful?

Notice how a secular, anti-Christian expresses it crudely and blasphemously online. The topic was, ‘What does the Bible say about pedophilia?’[8] This person wrote:

Bugger what the bible says or does’nt (sic) say. IT’S WHAT WE BELIEVE IS RIGHT OR NOT AND IT’S NOT. Believe it or not we live in a different century to when the bible was written and we deal with things according to the current bible which is the book of law and common ethics.[9]

That’s a crude, moral relativist’s way of expressing it. However, the fact remains that for paedophilia to be immoral, there has to be an absolute law of right or wrong. ‘It’s what we believe is right or not’ is not the way to build a just society. That’s the means of promoting moral relativism of all people doing what’s right in their own eyes.

We had an example of such in the Old Testament: ‘In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes’ (Judges 17:6; 21:25 NLT). What was the result? They departed from the Lord God and made ‘household gods’ and ordained priests to lead worship to these false gods (Judges 17:5 NIV). There were no judges in the land of Israel to point out the wrong and how this behaviour deviated from God’s law. There were no judges in the land of Israel to point out the wrong and how this behaviour deviated from God’s law.

The essence is: For paedophilia to be unlawful, there needs to be laws made by the governments to convict paedophiles. Here are the laws proposed by the Australian state of New South Wales, as reported by Brittany Hughes of Triple M:

Paedophiles who prey on children younger than 10 for sexual intercourse will face life behind bars under new laws to be introduced to NSW Parliament….

Attorney General Gabrielle Upton will introduce legislation increasing the maximum penalty for the offence from 25 years to life behind bars.

The proposal is part of a series of measures taken by the government following a pre-election promise by Premier Mike Baird to get tough on child sex offenders.

If passed, Ms Upton says the laws will see paedophiles hit with lengthy jail terms and “bring sentences into line with community expectations,”

“These are the worst crimes against the most vulnerable in our community, our children, our young people and too often sentences handed down don’t align with community expectation” (Hughes 2015, emphasis in original).

This NSW legislation was passed on 24 June 2015 that increased the maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a child under age 10 from 25 years to life in prison (Mamamia News 2015)

How do the laws in my home state of Queensland (Qld) against paedophilia compare with other states. Sadly there is no uniformity of legislation across the Australia. However, this is the Qld situation when compared with Victoria and South Australia:

In Victoria the crime of sex with a child under 10 attracts a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment.

In Queensland and South Australia, many serious sex offences against children already carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (Mamamia News 2015).

The Queensland government has made available online a copy of its Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 (effective at 19 March 2014 when this legislation was published online), that states that ‘criminal activity’, including criminal paedophilia, ‘involves an indictable offence punishable on conviction by a term of imprisonment not less than 14 years’ (Queensland: Crime and Misconduct Act 2001).

Paedophilia is illegal because the law of the country in which one lives makes it illegal, along with punishment for the perpetrator.

However, who or what informs the content of this legislation? Obviously people in government and in the community consider that it is wrong for an adult to sexually violate a child. But what makes it wrong?

That’s not how Tory Shepherd (2015) reported it. Her article began with:

Evidence shows that it might be true; paedophiles are born that way. Recent research suggests some faulty wiring in the brain. Things about children that are meant to elicit a protective response instead elicit a sexual one (Shepherd 2015).

Notice the language, ‘It might be true’. It did not begin with a statement such as, ‘Paedophilia is wrong. The law of the land states that it is morally reprehensible behaviour that is always immoral. It is an indictable offense and that conduct should never be tolerated in a civil society. Children should be protected from such vile predators’. Could you imagine a journalist in a secular newspaper writing what I created in this paragraph?

Why could she not conclude that way? It seems that her relativistic, secular humanism worldview enables her to brush aside the absolutes of morally repulsive paedophilia because if it is a problem with ‘wiring in the brain’, then it ‘would make it not their fault’ (Shepherd 2015).

What is morally right or wrong does not appear in Shepherd’s worldview, based on her article.

1. What informs government legislation?

This is where the crunch comes. Can people be good without God? Can they develop truly just legislation for all in society? Is it possible for both paedophile and victim to be treated with compassion in a secular society?

Peter Hitchens, a world renowned journalist and brother of the late Christopher Hitchens (leading British columnist and prominent atheist), attempted to address this in his article, ‘Good without God? Morality’s Foundations Crumble in the Absence of Christianity’ (Hitchens 2014). Peter’s claim was that Christopher’s dismissal of absolute theistic morality and his claim that ‘the order to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed’. Christopher claimed that human beings ‘are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves’. Peter contradicted this as being ‘demonstrably untrue’ by examples of mothers devoted to children, doctors and nurses risking infection and death to care for others, husbands and/or wives caring for sick, incontinent and demented spouses at the ends of their lives. Peter noted that ‘the absolute code has been jettisoned, and we have all become adept at making excuses for shirking such duties’ and ‘selflessness of this kind will become less common’ with many spin-off effects in diverse disciples and situations. Part of his assessment was:

Christianity is without doubt difficult and taxing, and all of us must fail to emulate the perfection of Christ himself, but we are far better for trying than for not trying, and we know that there is forgiveness available for honest failure. My brother’s suggestion that we are urged to be superhuman “on pain of death and torture” reveals a misunderstanding both of the nature of the commandments and of the extent of forgiveness. There is also some excuse-making involved (Peter Hitchins 2014).

Some of the comments online about Peter Hitchens’ article included:

  • ‘The freedom to pick and choose what one feels is appropriate provides both perspective and flexability [sic] (tolerance and harmony). A fixed or ‘absolute’ stance leaves no room for compromise or accommodation’ (GR8APE in Hitchens 2014).
  • ‘I think this article is wrestling with how do you say something is right or wrong if there is no higher authority or giver of morality?
    ‘I don’t think it is saying that unless you are a Christian you cannot do good things. Indeed, the gospel says nothing of the sort. It says we are all sinners and have fallen short. Unlike every other religion, the gospel says we are not saved by works, we are saved by the grace of God, so no one can boast. It also says we all know right from wrong, not because we have accepted Christ, but because He has written it on all our hearts’ (Belinda in Hitchens 2014).

These two comments represent the divide I’ve been attempting to expose in this article:

  1. If everyone has the ‘freedom to pick and choose what one feels is appropriate’ with tolerance and harmony and there are no ‘fixed’ absolutes, why should I choose ‘tolerance and harmony’? That’s one person’s point of view (I happen to agree with the person, but my foundation is biblical Christianity). If anyone picks and chooses what is appropriate, the paedophile, murderer, thief and terrorist must be allowed to do the same thing. This is relativism in action and will lead to disaster in society.
  2. However, the second example demonstrates the need for a higher authority than human beings to determine right and wrong of morals. God has written this on the conscience of all human beings (see Romans 2:15-16 ESV).. To be able to put this into action, a person needs a changed heart that only Christian conversion can bring. Other attempts at doing good works are sustained by human energy and have a serious potential to fail when there is no change of heart that Jesus brings to a Christian believer.

Romans 1:19-23 (NIV) is clear that all human beings know the attributes of God clearly, but they suppress the truth of this ‘by their wickedness’ (Rom 1:18). The consequence of this is that there is no such person as an atheist as all people know ‘God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature’ from creation and all people are ‘without excuse’ (Rom 1:20) So those who claim to be atheists are really agnostics who don’t want to know what God has revealed to them because of ‘their wickedness’ which causes them to ‘suppress the truth’ of God’s revelation to them (Rom 1:18).

From the beginning of time, there have been two options for moral direction in any society and they are demonstrated by those two examples: (1) Human beings choose their own values and this could involve turning to world religions (including relativistic, secular humanism), or (2) People turn to the God of Scripture for his absolutes on moral behaviour and use these values for personal and societal morals.

This leads to my concluding evaluation, an issue that has faced humanity throughout its history:

2. What is truth?

These are the words of Pontius Pilate at the time when Jesus was handed over to him. Pilate said to Jesus, ‘“So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”’ (John 18:37-38 ESV).

The Christian answers this question with what Jesus said. He did not want his disciples taken out of the world but that they be kept from the evil one. Thus his absolute is paramount, ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17). Jesus’ further word was in what he said to Thomas, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). What the Scriptures say is true, is absolutely true. ‘You shall not murder’ is true for all people at all times (Ex 20:13; Matt 5:21; Rom 13:9). How is that so? The Scriptures endorse that command. There are two covenants revealed in Scripture: (a) The Old Covenant for the Israelites, contained in the Old Testament, and (b) The New Covenant revealed in the New Testament. Christians pursue the New Covenant.

But what about the other view, ‘I will do what’s right for me; you do what’s right for you’. This is a relativistic view of truth and has these consequences according to Paul Copan:

  • If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do?
  • You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.
  • You’re making universal claims that relativism is true and absolutism is false. You can’t in the same breath say, ‘Nothing is universally true’ and ‘My view is universally true.’ Relativism falsifies itself. It claims there is one position that is true – relativism!
  • You’re applying your view to everyone but yourself. You expect others to believe your views (the ‘self-excepting fallacy’) [Copan 1998].

How then does one determine what is true?

This actually happened when I was aged 6 years. I had just begun primary school and used to walk to our one room, one teacher school, with about 6 grades in the one room, from our cane farm just up the road. One morning I woke up with horrific pains in my knees and ankles which were so swollen and painful that I could not bear to have the sheets touch them.


(Ford Prefect A493A utility – photo courtesy

My parents rushed me to hospital from our cane farm near Bundaberg. It took 30 minutes in our old Ford Prefect utility to where I was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital (now known as The Friendly Society Private Hospital – the Friendlies – Bundaberg, Qld., Australia). I was there for some weeks as the doctors sought a diagnosis. It was there that Thelma Stay, radio announcer of ‘Hello the Hospitals’ on 4BU Bundaberg became my friend as parents, relatives and friends sent me get well greetings through that programme and one of my favourite country music songs was sung – often by Slim Dusty with a song such as, ‘When the rain tumbles down in July’.

I had contracted rheumatic fever and must remain in bed, flat on my back, not raising my head as that would cause further heart damage. When home from hospital, my Dad made a special wooden trestle to put over my body as I lay on the bed, on which to place school books to do school work.

This same kind of experience happened again with further bouts of rheumatic fever at ages 10 and 12 that left me with leaking heart valves.

These descriptions of my rheumatic fever attacks and the excruciating pain remain with me today in my mature age. I live with the truth that corresponds with reality of three rheumatic fever attacks. I can make truthful statements about what happened in those years that could be confirmed by my parents (they are at home with the Lord now). My brother and sister can confirm the events that happened. They were younger so they probably remember the bouts at ages 10 and 12 better. However, with plausible accuracy, we can remember the health issues that happened in my early years. There is evidence that could have been accumulated from doctors, hospitals and others. We live with this view of truth – that which corresponds with the facts of reality.

If objective truth were not available (through correspondence with the facts) and the absolutes of God’s moral laws in Scripture were denied, society would be swimming in the sea of relativism with no absolute view of right and wrong.

For a more detailed explanation of the nature of truth, see, ‘Questions about Truth’ by Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino (Geisler & Bocchino 2001:31-53).

E. Conclusion

A seemingly inoffensive article appeared in the Herald Sun in April 2015 that promoted the view that ‘if people are born straight, or gay, is it possible that paedophiles can’t help being what they are?’ (Shepherd 2015) She introduced the possibility that research into paedophilia has attempted to confirm that for paedophiles they have some faulty wiring in the brain that ‘would make it not their fault’.

A closer look at Tory Shepherd’s article found some other dynamics in the agenda being promoted in the article. After defining paedophilia and revealing why it is a crime, several examples of convicted paedophiles were given and this included acknowledgement of the impact on victims.

After explaining the nature of a worldview and the dimensions of such a view, it was shown that Shepherd appears to promote a worldview of relativistic secular humanism. An attempt was made to demonstrate that that worldview misses a critical diagnosis and cure for paedophilia and other sins, that are available through a Christian worldview. The diagnosis and cure relate to dealing with the heart of the matter, the sinful heart that needs a radical change provided by the Gospel and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The final section examined why paedophilia is immoral and unlawful and how one informs the content of government legislation. This involved an examination of the nature of truth – relativism versus absolutes. Truth is that which corresponds with reality when the evidence is gathered.

Why are people not listening to the truth of Jesus and God’s absolutes revealed in Scripture? ‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Rom 1:18 NLT).

Jesus said: ‘The reason I was born and

came into the world is to testify to the

truth. Everyone on the side of truth

listens to me’ (John 18:37 NIV).


Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[10] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Beckwith, F J 2009. Philosophical problems with moral relativism. Christian Research Institute (online), April 6. Available at: (Accessed 26 January 2016).

Branco, J 2016. Convicted paedophile who raped stepdaughter to be watched until 2021. Brisbane Times (online), January 17. Available at: (Accessed 17 January 2016).

Campion, T 2013. Tommy Campion and Phillip Aspinall – the road to redemption. (online), May 25. Available at: (Accessed 16 January 2016).

Copan, P 1998. That’s true for you but not for me’ (Relativism). uccf: thechristianunions (online). Available at bethinking, at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Family Voice Australia 2016. Gold Coast preacher arrested for talking about sin (online), December 7. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Geisler, N & Bocchino, P 2001. Unshakable foundations. Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Harrad, S 2015. Australian Humanist Conference – Brisbane 2016. Council of Australian Humanist Societies (online), September 28. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Herrick, G 2004. The seat of sin, the heart. (online), June 9. Available at: (Accessed 29 January 2016).

Hitchens, P 2014. Good without God? Morality’s foundations crumble in the absence of Christianity. ABC Religion and Ethics (online), December 3. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Hughes, B 2015. Paedophiles who prey on kids under 10 to get life in jail: Laws tightened to crack down on offenders. Triple M (online), May 11. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Kaplan, M 2015. Taking pedophilia seriously. Washington and Lee Law Review (online), 72(1), Winter, 75-170. Available at: (Accessed 16 January 2016).

Lawrence, K 2009. Inside the mind of evil predator, convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson. The Daily Telegraph (online), September 19. Available at: (Accessed 15 January 2016).

Leupold, H C 1959. Exposition of The Psalms. London: Evangelical Press.[11]

Loane, M 1997-2016. Hewn from the Rock. In ‘Richard Johnson – first Chaplain to Australia’, Anglican Church League (online). Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Mamamia News 2015. New laws mean life in prison for convicted paedophiles, June 25. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

McKenna, M 2010. Aussie pedophile’s jail sentence a fraction of US term. The Australian (online), September 9. Available at: (Accessed 16 January 2016).

Miller, K n d. Paedophilia: Policy and prevention. Detection and reporting of paedophilia: A law enforcement perspective. Australian Institute of Criminology (online). Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Mohler, Jr., R A 2015. We Cannot Be Silent. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books.

Sandeman, J 2014. Two Australian denominations face big challenges. Bible Society (online), July 11. Available at: (Accessed 30 January 2016).

Seto, M C 2012. Is pedophilia a sexual orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior 41, 231-236.[12]

Shepherd, T 2015, Should we help paedophiles? What choice do we have? The Herald Sun (online) April 7. Available at: (Accessed 15 January 2016).

Sire, J 1988. The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog, b updated & exp. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.


[1] Throughout the body of this article, I have used the Australian (British) spelling of paedophile and its derivatives, but have used the American spelling, pedophile, in the title for Internet recognition by search engines.

[2] Dr Michael C Seto is a Canadian clinical psychologist, associate professor, and a director of forensic rehabilitation research. His CV details are at: (Accessed 16 January 2016).

[3] Bravehearts 2012. Child Sexual Assault: Facts and Statistics, December. Available at: (Accessed 15 January 2016).

[4] The word ‘unendable’ was not found in Oxford dictionaries (online), Merriam-Webster dictionary (online),, and The Macquarie Dictionary. There is a brief discussion of the meaning and use of ‘unendable’ at: (Accessed 26 January 2016).

[5] This is not the correct spelling as paedophile in the USA where the group is called ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’. See: (Accessed 15 January 2016).

[6] No date is given for this presentation, but she cites statistics from 1994 and footnotes from 1996.

[7] The footnote at this point stated, ‘Or Christ, that person is a new creation’.

[8] Yahoo! Answers n d. Available at: (Accessed 17 January 2016).

[9] Ibid., knackers

[10] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[11] This is a 1969 reprint edition. The original publication of 1959 was with The Wartburg Press, assigned to Augsburg Publishing House in 1961.

[12] Only the abstract of the article is able free online at: (Accessed 16 January 2016).


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 May 2016.