Category Archives: Wrath of God

This deep-seated problem brings ruin to the outback and to the Australian nation

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If this is not fixed, the rot will continue to infest Australia. The politically correct, left-wing agitators will blame it on ‘climate change’. Insurance Business Australia had this headline on its website:

Climate change-driven flood risk could make Townsville homes “uninsurable”[1]

The reasons for the disasters in Australia are much more detailed than that.

The late Francis Schaeffer, evangelical theologian, philosopher and pastor who founded the L’Abri Community in Switzerland, warned of the ‘spiritual collapse of the West’.[2]

Is Australia on a national ‘Airbus’ path to destruction?


(The Airbus A380, photo courtesy Wikipedia)[3]


(Aeroméxico Connect Embraer 190AR plane crash Durango, Mexico, 31 July, 2018, photo courtesy[4]

The following are only a few examples that point to where Australia is heading.

1. The diseases in the churches of Australia

You heard me correctly. This nation’s problems, including the droughts, fires and floods, will not be rectified until the churches – the Christians – are brought back to health. Healing for this land will start with the churches returning to their first love.

National repentance begins with God’s people who have sinned. How do I know? The Scriptures teach us. There is a direct link between the health of the people of God

and the shape of a nation’s culture.

clip_image006’If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land’ (2 Chron 7:14 NLT).

While this is an OT passage dealing with God’s people among the Israelites, the principle can be applied to any nation: If any nation is going to be restored from whatever is afflicting it (e.g. drought and floods in Australia in 2019), God’s people must humbly seek God in prayer AND turn from their wicked ways.

clip_image007This OT message of the need for God’s people to repent is found in the NT at 1 Peter 4:14-17 (NIRV),

14 Suppose people say bad things about you because you believe in Christ. Then you are blessed, because God’s Spirit rests on you. He is the Spirit of glory. 15 If you suffer, it shouldn’t be because you are a murderer. It shouldn’t be because you are a thief or someone who does evil things. It shouldn’t be because you interfere with other people’s business. 16 But suppose you suffer for being a Christian. Then don’t be ashamed. Instead, praise God because you are known by the name of Christ. 17 


Which wicked ways are in the churches?

clip_image009 Do I need to remind you of the child sexual abuse in churches and church institutions uncovered in the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse report of 2017? Don’t forget some of the church cover-ups. This was atrocious behaviour. See:

  •  The Report into Anglican Diocese of Newcastle released, 7 December 2017[5]
  •  The Report into Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne released, 5 December 2017[6]

clip_image010 I know of one evangelical Christian church that has had 3 pastors who committed adultery. In 2 other churches I know of adultery happening – a pastor’s adultery with a church member.

As a long-term family counsellor, I know from clients that adultery is almost always accompanied by lies and deceit, all of which break God’s laws.

clip_image010[1] We could go down the list of the other commands in the 10 commandments and New Testament and find sinful violations in churches.

  • What about denominations[7] and churches[8] that now ordain homosexuals and marry homosexuals when Scriptures clearly proclaim heterosexuality in both OT (Gen 2:24) and in the words of Jesus, ‘a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Matt 19:5).
  • I haven’t dealt with some churches’ support of euthanasia, murder of children in the womb through abortion, claiming that miracles cannot take place, and challenging the authority of Scripture, concluding it cannot be trusted as a book of truthful documents.
  • Jesus’ warning: ‘’Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act….’ (Matt 7:15-16a).
  • I’m thinking of other teachings like the prosperity ‘gospel’ and the preachers who claim there is no hell.
  • Gossip in the churches. Prov 20:19 (NLT) states: ‘A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers’.
  • A return to ministry to the orphans, widows, elderly, homeless, the poor and other needy people. All denominations need to do it. I thank God for the Salvos, but ALL churches need to minister to those in need. Some do it through the social services division of the denomination. What about the local church taking this need on board? I know of some local churches that distribute food hampers to the needy, including children who go to school having had no breakfast.
  • The local church should be a defender and provider of hope for the hopeless and needy.
  • Where are the local churches that stand against the immorality flooding the nation? Our voices must not be silenced.

James 1:27: ‘Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you’.

Prov 14:31: ‘Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him’.

clip_image009[1] But there’s more and this has to do with what is preached from the pulpit. There are preachers who don’t believe the Bible and its miracles. They destroy the biblical message with their historical-critical methods.

They deny the virgin birth of Jesus, redefine his bodily resurrection to make an apparition or fable, and reject literal interpretation and replace with modernist and postmodernist interpretations. If you want to see which churches are preaching these kinds of doctrines, go along to your local mainline church that has dwindling numbers of older people.

clip_image010[2] For the ruin of Australia to be stopped in its tracks, the solution starts with the churches and individuals in the churches repenting of their sins and returning to their first love of God.

2. This is the call to Australia as a nation.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov 14:34 NASB). To put it another way,

clip_image012 ‘Righteousness raises a people to greatness; to pursue wrong degrades a nation’ (REB). Or,

clip_image012[1] ‘Doing what is right lifts people up. But sin brings judgment to any nation’ (NIRV).

clip_image013 ‘Doing what is right makes a nation great. But sin will bring disgrace to any people’ (IEB).[9]

‘Doing what is right’ does not refer to what people think is right, but to God’s standard of right, called righteousness and justice.

This verse does NOT state, ‘Righteousness exalts the Israelite nation, but sin is a disgrace to the Jews’. It is a proverb of God’s will for ALL nations, without exception. Israel is not excluded, but neither is Australia.

In measuring the greatness of Australia, we can be tempted to consider the area of land in the country, the population of 25 million, whether it has a strong defence force, democracy, the intellectual vigour of the culture, how civilised the nation is, its wealth, natural resources, technology and history.[10]

God has a very different set of standards. This is what represents true greatness for any country. The most important criterion is its relationship to God. Are Australian laws and the people’s actions directed by God’s will?

This is God’s standard: His righteousness, his justice.

Where do we find that standard? It’s in the book of Scripture!

2.1 Laws and practices that are righteous

This is the most searching test for all policies legislated at federal, state, territory and local government levels that will lead to success by the Australian people.

What righteousness will exalt Australia? The proverb is not addressing material things that will make any nation great, but it is language of morality as the rest of the verse indicates with its converse, ‘Sin is a disgrace to any people’.

A similar message for any nation is given in Proverbs 16:12b, ‘a throne [of a king] is established through righteousness’ (NIV).

What ethical legislation will make Australia great? These are but a few examples:

  • Human beings are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), so they must not be treated like animals.
  • Are we caring for the persecuted, widows, orphans, poor and homeless people among us and overseas?
  • Respect life from conception to natural death. Leave conception to God and the union of two people (that can include IVF) and do not end life prematurely.
  • The human family consists of mother, father and children. Let all legislation pursue this end.
  • Do not murder children in the womb or murder for any other reason through euthanasia and assisted suicide.
  • We must address sexuality issues from God’s standards about marriage, divorce, defacto relationships, promiscuity, homosexuality, etc.

2.1.1 Wait a minute!

You might say, ‘That’s a terribly narrow view of society and culture. That’s Christian indoctrination to say following God’s law makes a nation great’.

How does the Australian Constitution of 1900 begin?


(image Constitution of Australia Coat of Arms, courtesy of KissPNG)

WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.[11]

So, calling on the Almighty God of the Judeo-Christian world view is relying on the foundation of our nation.

Is following human-created laws regarding life and death, democracy, law and order, crime and punishment preferred to God’s ways?

All of us support one-way principles in many areas of life.

clip_image017 In Australia, we drive one-way on one-side of the road (unless otherwise indicated). Driving on the left-hand side of the road is a one-way example.

clip_image018 When we use the Google search engine on the Internet, we are narrow-minded. We accept the one-way Google algorithm that makes it such a powerful search engine.

clip_image018[1] Hit a cricket ball into the air or kick a football into the air. It doesn’t keep going and going into space. It comes back to earth because of the one-way pressure on it called gravity. That’s gravity that God has created on earth.

clip_image018[2] God’s one way is for all people to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen so both people and plants can coexist. It is God’s one-way principle for survival on the earth.

clip_image019 The Muslims do it in praying 5 times a day to Allah and facing Mecca and these are the 5 Pillars of Islam for a follower of Islam.

clip_image019[1] See Exclusivity Claims of Major World Religions (Christian Apologetics Alliance)

clip_image019[2] See Point of Exclusion (Ravi Zacharias)

What will put Australia on a pedestal? It will not come from secular, government legislation. It will be when it legislates holistically according to God’s standards of justice and righteousness.

What will devastate Australia? Proverbs 14:34 gives the second part what wrecks any nation.

2.2 ‘Sin is a disgrace to any people’

What sins have been legislated by Australia to make them LEGAL for people to practise? What sins are legal in Australia that the Scriptures call a ‘disgrace’ and sins against God?

The KJV and NKJV translate ‘disgrace’ as ‘a wicked thing’. Remember these wicked things are sins – immoral actions by people against God – and all approved by the Australian nation, i.e. the parliaments and councils.

Which Australian legislation is against God’s laws?

clip_image021 We should not commit fornication / sexual immorality (1 Cor 10:8) – but we call it prostitution, defacto relationships, and sex outside of marriage;

clip_image022 We murder unborn babies in the name of abortion. God says ‘You shall not murder’ (Ex 20:13; Matt 5:21).

In the three decades from 1984-2014, when abortion was illegal in Queensland, Medicare statistics reported that there were 388,220 alleged ‘legal’ abortions in this State[12] (Johnston 2015). When we consider the number of abortions across Australia in the last century, that makes Hitler’s massacre of 10 million Jews and other persecuted people in the World War 2 look like a blip on the radar.

Reporting for abortions is incomplete; reported abortions include only Medicare abortions, and these figures are incomplete for 2010-2011. Abortion figures are for calendar years, some figures are interpolated from fiscal year figures (Johnston 2015).

What would the number of abortions be in Queensland in a given year if 100% of them were statistically recorded?

There is no gentle way to describe what is happening in Queensland than to say we already have a catastrophic, destructive, devastating annihilation of human life in the womb. In defiance of the law, abortions continued to take place before abortion was decriminalised, with federal government financial assistance through Medicare.

‘Abortion [was] legalised in Queensland after historic vote in Parliament’, 18 October 2018.[13]

clip_image023 Murdering adult human beings through euthanasia and assisted suicide in Victoria (Ex 20:13; Matt 5:21) and having inquiries into similar legislation in Queensland and Western Australia;

clip_image023[1] No fault, easy divorce (endorsing adultery in many cases) – Ex 20:14; Matt 5:27;

clip_image021[1] God’s standard, according to both OT and Jesus, is: ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’ (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5; Eph 5:31). What has Australia done? It legalised same-sex marriage, a sin which is ‘a disgrace to any people’ and 1 Cor 6:9-11 (NIV) puts it among the sins that prevent people from entering the kingdom of God.

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[14] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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.

Note that God does not speak of a sexual orientation of homosexuality caused by genetics but of sexual behaviour (wrongdoers): sexual immorality, adulterers, and homosexual men. This behaviour is included among other ‘wrongdoers’ such as: idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.

God’s view is that ‘some of you were’ idolaters, thieves and adulterers, but change is possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is a resistance to this teaching in secular Australia. I refer you to the article, ‘”Treatments” as torture: gay conversion therapy’s deep roots in Australia’, The Conversation, 3 May 2018.[15] This article also appeared on ABC News, Brisbane Qld.[16]

There is another issue that has to be addressed with God’s standards in Australia and that is freedom of religion. Will ALL Australians be able to meet openly and preach from the Bible, Qur’an, Hindu Bhagavad Gita and Agamas, Humanist Manifesto, or will there be censorship of some topics?

clip_image021[2] There must not be discrimination against certain people, including God’s people. God says, ‘If you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law’ (James 2:9).

They are only a few examples of the immoral decisions Australian governments have made that bring disgrace on the nation.

Note: This is a 5-part series of which this is the 2nd part. It is connected to the next article: Pointing Towards a Solution

3.   Notes

[1] Mina Martin 2019. Insurance Business Australia (online). Climate change-driven flood risk could make Townsville homes “uninsurable”, 21 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[2] In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn 1999, Against the Night. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Servant Publications, USA], p. 10.

[3] Photo courtesy Wikipedia (2019. s.v. Airbus). Available at: (Accessed 8 January 2019).

[4] Available at: (Accessed 8 January 2019).

[5] Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017. Available at: (Accessed 15 August 2018).

[6] Ibid. Available at: (Accessed 15 August 2018).

[7] ‘Same-sex couples will be allowed to get married in the Uniting Church of Australia after the denomination’s national body agreed to now wording.

‘The church agreed to adopt an additional belief statement on marriage on Friday night [13 July 2018] at Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne’s southeast during a seven-day triennial assembly.

‘“Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life,” the new additional statement reads.

‘Ministers will be able to conduct same-sex marriages in the coming months if they wish, but individual ministers can also refuse to do so, the assembly ruled (Sunday Mail, 15 July 2018, p. 27). Similar information is available from The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly at: (Accessed 15 August 2018).

[8] ‘Anglicans in Perth have voted to have same-sex relationships recognised … by a two-thirds majority [of the synod]’ (ABC News Brisbane, Qld), 7 October 2013. Available at: (Accessed 18 August 2018).

ABC Gippsland (Victoria, Australia) reported: ‘The Anglican Bishop of Gippsland has defended his decision to appoint an openly gay priest to a local parish, saying he has acted appropriately.

‘Bishop John McIntyre, says his decision to appoint Reverend David Head, who formerly held a position within a Melbourne parish, to the parish of Heyfield is in line with the policy of his diocese’, 27 February 2012, Available at: (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[9] IEB = The International English Bible 2014-2015, Proverbs. Available at: (Accessed 14 August 2018).

[10] Some suggestions by C F Keil & E Delitzsch n d: Commentary on the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, vol 6. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (vol 6, p. 314).

[11] Available at: (Accessed 6 November 2018).

[12] These are my calculations from the data available from Johnston, W R 2015. Historical abortion statistics, Queensland (Australia) [online]. Available at: (Accessed 29 August 2018).

[13] Allyson Horn 2018. Abortion legalised in Queensland after historic vote in Parliament. ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 18 October. Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[14] The NIV footnote is: ‘The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts’.

[15] Marguerite Johnson & James Bennett 2018. ‘Treatments’ as torture: gay conversion therapy’s deep roots in Australia. The Conversation (online), 3 May. Available at: (Accessed 2 October 2018).

[16] Available at: (Accessed 2 October 2018).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 May 2019.


Connection between spiritual condition of the nation and disasters

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Aus scale)

Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)

Debbie 2017-03-28 0010Z.jpg

(Debbie shortly after peak intensity approaching Queensland, Australia on 28 March 2017, image courtesy Wikipedia)

“I kept the rain from falling when your crops needed it the most.

I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. Rain fell on one field, while another field withered away.

People staggered from town to town looking for water, but there was never enough.

But still you would not return to me, says the Lord”.

Could there be a link between a nation’s disasters and its spiritual condition before the Lord God Almighty?

Here are a few examples from Scripture that demonstrate the pattern:

1. Amos 4:6-9, 12 (NLT)

“I [the Sovereign Lord] brought hunger to every city
and famine to every town.
But still you would not return to me,”
says the LORD.

7 “I kept the rain from falling
when your crops needed it the most.
I sent rain on one town
but withheld it from another.
Rain fell on one field,
while another field withered away.
8 People staggered from town to town looking for water,
but there was never enough.
But still you would not return to me,”

says the Lord.

9 “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees.
But still you would not return to me,”

says the Lord

12 “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced.
Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”

That was an instance from another nation of the core of the problem – the link between a nation’s spiritual condition and God’s sending drought. There IS A SOLUTION. Repent of our sins against God, Australia, and return to Him in confession and repentance.

The prophet Joel provided another case in point:

2. Joel 2:11-13

There is ‘a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance’ (Eccl 3:4). I hope you have been doing lots of crying and grieving over the state of Australia and for God to open the heavens and send rain. Please grieve with the farming families in drought.

But here is another statement about the core problem …

… The day of the LORD is an awesome, terrible thing.
Who can possibly survive?

12 That is why the LORD says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.

Originally, this was a warning to Israel, but the same principle applies to Australia. The day of the Lord’s punishment is terrible. Droughts, cyclones, bush fires, earthquakes (remember Newcastle NSW, 28 December1989 and the earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale)[1] and tsunamis are devastating in their impacts.

Through Joel the prophet, the message to Israel and by inference to Australia to stop this drought is that no human being can break it by causing the rain to fall. Only the Lord God Almighty can do that. He shouts to all Aussies:


3. We have the same kind of message from Jesus

Every catastrophe is the Holy God’s merciful call to people to repent of their sinful ways. The Gospel of Luke records:

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God (Luke 13:1-3 NLT).

In verses 4-5 of Luke 13 we read: ‘And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL PERISH TOO’.

4. Does this sound like Australia in the twenty-first century?

The Scriptures are adamant:

You should know … that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.

3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT).

There is a direct connection between Australia’s moral and spiritual condition and disasters – the drought, floods, fires and other catastrophes. I do NOT equate one disaster with one type of moral disaster from God. That’s God’s business to do the connecting. I know clearly from Scripture that there is an association between the nation’s spiritual conditions and disasters that come (see the above examples.

5. More disasters

(a) The Townsville floods 2019


A general view of the flooded Townsville suburb of Idalia. Photograph: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images[2]


GOOD CAUSE: Sunshine Coast residents have donated to Townsville flood victims in the throes of cleaning up. AAP/DAN PELED[3]

clip_image006(1) How much rain was received?

According to Higgins’ Storm Chasing, ‘Townsville has broken its 6 day, 7 day, 8 day, 9 day, 10 day, 11 day and 12 day accumulative records from this event. A final 12 day total of 1391.4mm has been observed [in February 2019]’.[4]

The Bureau of Meteorology made this statement about the Townsville flood on 15 February 2019 (reported by ABC News, Brisbane, Qld):

It is difficult to oversell the amount of rain that has fallen in north Queensland. Places like Paluma, Woolshed, and Upper Bluewater got over two metres of rain in 12 days.[5]


(2) Estimated cost of Townsville flood damage.

Qld Premier, Ms Annastasia Palaszczuk,  said … ‘the state budget is estimated to take a hit of at least $1.5 billion after catastrophic bushfires and floods ravaged Queensland over the last three months’.[6]

(b) North-West Queensland: From drought to flooding and cattle disaster


Rachael Anderson of Eddington station[7] says she has lost about 2,000 cattle, roughly half the herd. Photograph: Rachael Anderson[8]


Grazier David Batt and volunteer Ash Travers line up carcasses for a mass burial. Supplied: Max Batt.[9]

(1) According to ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, ‘An estimate is that the floods have ‘killed as many as 500,000 animals across Queensland’s north and central-west’.[10]

(c) Fires in Victoria

In February 2019, Victorian fire authorities were bracing for hot and windy weather on Sunday [10 Feb] as they continue to fight fires which are threatening lives and properties in parts of the state.

ABC News, Brisbane, Qld provided this Victorian fire photo on 1 and 2 February 2019:


Photo: The bushfire was burning in a westerly direction towards Moe-Walhalla Road. Photo supplied: Jimmy Lia, 1 February 2019[11]

6. I must give two warnings.

6.1 First warning

Don’t bother coming to the Trinitarian, Lord God Almighty in prayer if you don’t believe He exists. If you are an atheist, agnostic, humanist, sceptic, or secular person, you are wasting your time seeking help from the God in whom you do not believe.

How do I know? Scripture says: ‘It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6).

If you don’t believe in the existence of God, it would be like going to McDonald’s to buy a hammer and shovel. Don’t waste your time in praying to the God you don’t believe in.

If you are struggling with knowing if God exists, see these articles online:

clip_image016 Evidence for the existence of God

clip_image016[1] God reveals Himself in nature to everyone

clip_image016[2] Does God send cyclones?

6.2 Second warning

Forget about praying for rain if you want what God does not want for you. Scripture places this boundary around our praying: ‘Here is what we can be sure of when we come to God in prayer. If we ask anything in keeping with what he wants, he hears us. If we know that God hears what we ask for, we know that we have it (1 John 5:14-15).

If it is God’s will to send rain to the outback NOW, He will send it when we pray. He may have a greater lesson to teach us. Have Australian people repented of the sins of the nation and changed its immoral laws to agree with God’s laws? Have individuals repented and sought God’s forgiveness.

If God doesn’t send rain, what could be other blockages in Australia that are causing God to say, ‘No, not yet’?

If God sends a deluge of rain that we rightly label as disaster, God’s ways are the same. He will not tolerate Australia’s wicked ways. What I’m saying applies across this sinful world and to all countries. I’m focussing on Australia because we live here.

Note: This is a 5-part series of which this is the 4th part. It is connected to the next article: The path Australia treads to ruin

7.  Notes

[1] See Emily Verdouw 2013. On this day: Newcastle earthquake strikes. Australian Geographic (online), 7 November. Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[2] The Guardian Australia 2019. Flood waters inundate Townsville homes as army called in – in pictures (online), 5 February. Photograph: Andrew Rankin/AAP. .Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[3] Chloe Lyons 2019. Donations pile up for Townsville flood appeal. Sunshine Coast Daily (online), 11 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[4] Higgins Storm Chasing 2019. Ridiculous Rainfall Accumulations Up To Day 12 Of The Townsville Floods (online). Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[5] ABC Weather by Kate Doyle 2019. North Queensland rains trigger BOM special climate statement (online), 15 February 2019. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[6] Talissa Siganto and staff 2019. ABC News, Brisbane, Qld. ‘Summer of disasters’ reveals the cost of climate change for Queensland taxpayers (online), 19 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[7] Eddington station is located 20km west of Julia Creek in outback NW Qld, Australia. See: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[8] Ben Smee 2019. Up to 500,000 drought-stressed cattle killed in Queensland floods. The Guardian Australia(online), 11 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[9] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Burying cattle killed in the Queensland floods (online), 21 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[10] Steven Schubert and Ben Deacon 2019. ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, (online), Drought-hit Channel Country cattle producers welcome floodwater from weather system that devastated neighbours, 23 February. Available at: (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[11] ABC News, Brisbane Qld 2019. Tanjil South bushfire, 1 February. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2019). The entry on 2 February 2019 was from ABC News, Brisbane. Watch and Act warning issued for Grantville fire as authorities prepare for worsening conditions (online). Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 May 2019.


The path Australia treads to ruin

By Spencer D Gear PhD


(The bushfire in Bunyip State Park, Victoria, Australia. Picture: Ionee Reid. Source: Supplied, courtesy[1]

If we want to deal with the devastation of Australia’s drought and other catastrophes, we need to start with a clean up of the churches and a call to repentance by the nation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s voice has been silent about this core issue that associates Australia’s spiritual condition with the drought, floods, fires and other crises.

1. A core issue

Why hasn’t the PM called the nation to HUMILITY, PRAYER AND REPENTANCE for our sins and for God to send rain to break the drought?

We need leadership from the Prime Minister to call for a Day of Repentance and Prayer for rain. Step up to the mark Mr Morrison and lead the way! What an example it would be to see a Christian Prime Minister, ScoMo, and many MPs in local churches praying as they repent and ask God to heal the land and send rain.

This also means reversing the ungodly legislation that is a ‘disgrace’ to the people and the nation.

Other nations have called their people to repent in times of disaster.

1.1 Great Britain did it during World War 2

King George VI had called the people of Great Britain to National Days of Prayer and Repentance four times [during World War 2].  Yet, his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in [66][2] years as the Queen of England, has not once called for [a] National Day of Prayer. The last time Britain had a National Day of Prayer was during the Second World War (Newman 2012).

1.2 South Africans called to prayer during drought

South Africa’s Colin Newman related what happened in South Africa after his conversion to Christ in 1977. The President called for a National Day of Repentance and Humiliation before God. As a new Christian he was impressed with the masses of people in central Cape Town who filled the churches to overflowing. It was a time of intense, earnest heart searching prayers of repentance.

The rains came a couple days later and he was awe struck Newman 2012).

1.3 Zambia’s national day of prayer

clip_image004(map of southern Africa courtesy Biofocuscommunicatie)

Since Zambia officially was declared a Christian nation in 1991,[3] its President has called the nation to days of prayer during drought, and the nation has also celebrated National Days of Thanksgiving when God graciously answered their prayers with rain (Newman 2012).

Could you imagine this kind of statement appearing in any mass media outlet in Australia in a capital city or elsewhere?

“Our [Zambian] identity is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. The values, principles and ethics which we embrace as a people reflect the person of Jesus Christ.

“Love, dignity, integrity, honest, hard work, patriotism among others are the hallmark of who we are as a people,” she said.

That’s from the Lusaka Times 2016. Zambia commemorated its 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December.[4] Lusaka is the capital and largest city in Zambia, with a population of about 1.7 million people.[5]

1.4 Alabama, USA

With parts of Alabama [USA] suffering an exceptional drought, Gov. Bob Riley [was] turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.

Riley issued a proclamation Thursday declaring June 30 [2007] through July 7 as “Days of Prayer for Rain” and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty. This drought is without question a time of great difficulty for our farmers and for communities across our state,” Riley said in a statement.[6]

I know I’ll be criticised, especially by the media, for reminding you and our communities that droughts provide us with a reminder that human beings and government cannot control the creation of when rain comes or when the heavens are closed. Surely this drought reminds us we depend on a Higher Power – the Lord God – who sends the rain and stops the rain.

3. Call to action

clip_image006(James Edmund Allen 1938, prayer for rain, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Australia’s Brian Pickering explained:

It was back in 2006 when Australia experienced a severe drought. God called for Australia to repent following national prayer to end a severe drought. God is still waiting according to the leader of the Australian Prayer Network, Brian Pickering.

God Is Still Waiting for Australia to Repent.[7]

I add: God is still waiting for Australian legislation to be determined by God’s standards. Quit this human morality and practise God’s justice in ALL legislation.

How could my headline be changed to reflect what Australia can do about the BIG drought?

The big dry: ‘See us, hear us, help us Lord God Almighty. We repent of our sins against You. Lord, encourage Aussies please, please to dig deep and send material help to the farmers’.

Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, and church leaders: Australia needs your leadership to call all God-fearing people to pray for an end to the drought.

Why should God break the drought when ‘righteousness exalts a nation’ and Australia legislates laws that are a disgrace, i.e. promoting wicked, immoral behaviour?

We can take action as a nation by repenting of our sins, returning to God, and legislating God’s righteousness. That will mean cancelling legislation that violates God’s commands of righteousness.

3.1 Expect mass media attacks

3.1.1 The ABC

There was an opinion piece in ABC Religion & Ethics by Bryon Smith. It was titled: ‘Faith without works: Why the Prime Minister’s call to pray for rain is offensive’ (Smith 2018).

It was a response to Morrison’s speech in Albury: ‘It’s great to see it raining here in Albury today. I pray for that rain everywhere else around the country. And I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that’.

Byron Smith found fault with this statement:

For many Christians, this was a small but encouraging gesture: the nation’s most prominent public official acknowledging that rain is a blessing we receive as gift, an expression of our dependence upon a whole network of creaturely relationships overseen by a Creator.


for many atheists, it was a small but offensive gesture: the national leader talking to a sky fairy, embracing and promoting irrational superstition. Some responded on social media with angry mockery, warning of theocracy or taking the opportunity to criticise Morrison’s particular brand of Christianity.

As a Christian, I found Morrison’s comment to be offensive. But not because a Prime Minister speaks publicly of prayer or is open about his Christian beliefs.

Rather, what I find truly offensive is the profound disconnect between his professed prayers and the pro-coal – and thus anti-farmer – agenda of his government. To pray when facing a crisis like widespread drought is not the problem. But when the government Morrison leads has spent many years doing little or nothing about the root causes of the warming that is worsening such extreme weather, then inviting the nation to pray in response is somewhat galling (Smith 2018).

So, according to Smith, prayer is unacceptable until the government gets its act together over global warming.

Byron, who sends the rain and who withholds it? You’ve left the Lord God out of your equation, even though you say you speak ‘as a Christian’. Is God’s intervention that far down your priority list?

3.1.2 Pray for Rain

On 22 April 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald had this headline:[8]

Pray for rain, urges [John] Howard’


(photograph John Howard courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The report stated:

Prime Minister John Howard has urged Australians to pray for rain as hard-hit agricultural regions face zero water allocations due to drought.

Mr Howard warned last week that farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin faced having no water for the coming irrigation year unless heavy rain fell in the next six to eight weeks.

On Sunday he said he intended to meet irrigators over coming weeks to discuss the grim situation.

Meanwhile, he encouraged people to seek divine intervention.

“It’s very serious, it’s unprecedented in my lifetime and I really feel very deeply for the people affected,” Mr Howard told ABC Television.

“So we should all, literally and without any irony, pray for rain over the next six to eight weeks”

What was the result?

3.1.3 It rained

God held off the drought-breaking rains until 2010-11. The headline in ABC News, 14 April 2010, was:

Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin

Chrissy Arthur, ABC News, Brisbane, Qld: Posted 14 Apr 2010, 7:47am:[9]

A river expert says water from the Paroo River in south-west Queensland is flowing into the Darling River in New South Wales for the first time in 20 years.

There were record floods in the Paroo River last month (March 2010) and authorities say that is providing a boost for the Murray-Darling Basin.

clip_image010(No way through to Glenorchy, where the Wimmera River has flooded houses, sheds and farm properties. At Ashens, just north of Glenorchy, in the Wimmera region of NW Victoria, crops are under water. Photo courtesy Laura Poole)’[10]

Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, got it right on one point I’ve stressed in this series of articles:

‘“We can’t make it rain. But we can ensure that farming families and their communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet” the government said in a statement’.[11]

He didn’t give any hint as to whom or what can cause it to rain. God Almighty has his reasons for delaying the rain, sending cyclones, allowing fires. Some of these include:

  • The link between a nation’s morality and God’s judgment.
  • ‘‘Righteousness raises a people to greatness; to pursue wrong degrades a nation’ (Prov 14:34 REB).
  • Ungodly legislation and practices in Australia are a disgrace to the nation and lead to Australia’s doom.
  • Only God sends the rain and withholds it.
  • Godless, secular Australia refuses to bow the knee to the Lord God Almighty.
  • We want his blessings of rain without the commitment to Him. We deserve what we get.
  • When will local, State and national leaders call the nation to prayer to break the drought and stop other disasters?


(image courtesy Pinterest)


(photo courtesy North Queensland Register)[12]

4.  Note

[1] Available at: (Accessed 25 May 2019).

[2] She began her reign in 1952 and the coronation was in 1953. As of 2018 she has reigned 66 years and was aged 92 in 2018.

[3] 2016. Zambia commemorates 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December. Available at: (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[4] Available at: (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[5] Wikipedia (2018. s.v. Lusaka).

[6] Phillip Rawls 2007 (Associated Press writer). Riley calling for statewide prayer for rain. The Decatur Daily (online), 29 June. Available at: (Accessed 6 November 2018).

[7] Vision Christian Radio 2018. God is still waiting for Australia to repent (online). Available at: (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[8] Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[9] Chrissy Arthur 2010. Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin. ABC News Brisbane, Qld. (online), 14 April. Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[10] ABC Rural and News reporters 2010. Drought breaks at last, as Victoria floods (online), 5 September. Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[11] Stephanie Bedo 2018. Australia’s crippling drought crisis: Overcoming past mistakes to save ourselves for the future. (online), 6 August. Available at: (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[12] North Queensland Register is based in Townsville City, Qld, Australia. Available at: (Accessed 4 April 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2019.


Prop it for what?

Waves of Affliction


By Spencer D Gear

Who’s propping it up?

This is a pointer to a theological term that is not on the top of the seeker-sensitive theological hit parade. It’s out of favour even among some evangelicals. It has caused considerable controversy in theological circles.

Dr Gary Long introduced the controversy reasonably well:

 In discussing the design or extent of the atonement, there are three key doctrinal terms which are related to the priestly sacrifice of Christ on earth, that is, to the finished work of Christ. These terms are redemption, propitiation and reconciliation. Evangelical Arminians and Calvinistic “four point” universalists or modified Calvinists hold that there is a universal design of the atonement which provides salvation for all mankind without exception or which places all of Adam’s posterity in a savable state. They contend that there is a twofold application of these three doctrinal terms — an actual application for those who believe, a provisional application for those who die in unbelief. The historic “five point” or consistent Calvinist2 asserts that these terms have no substitutionary reference with respect to the non-elect. In contrast to the former who hold to an indefinite atonement, the consistent Calvinist, who holds to a definite atonement, sees no purpose, benefit or comfort in a redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate or a reconciliation that does not reconcile, which would be the case if these terms were applicable to the non-elect (Propitiation in 1 John 2:2’).

First John 2:1-2 reads in the ESV,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

In 1 John 2:2, the Greek noun used that the ESV translates as ‘propitiation’ is hilasmos, which the NIV translates as ‘atoning sacrifice’. There has been much debate among Greek scholars as to the meaning of the noun form which is found in one other place in the NT and that’s in 1 John 4:10. The verbal form is in a few other verses.

What’s the meaning of ‘propitiation’ in 1 John 2:2?

I’m relying on I Howard Marshall’s commentary summary of the controversy (Marshall 1978:117-120).
Here are some of the issues with this word:
1.  When it is used outside of the Bible, it conveys the meaning of ‘an offering made by a man in order to placate the wrath of a god whom he has offended. It was a means of turning the god from wrath to favorable attitude’ (Marshall 1978:117).
2.  However, in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT) – the LXX – the meaning has been debated. Westcott and Dodd argued that in the OT, ‘the scriptural conception … is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which from without occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship’ (in Marshall 1978:117). Therefore, they concluded that
3.  In secular sources, the word means ‘propitiation’ (placating an offended person), but in the Bible it means ‘expiation’ (a means of neutralising and cancelling sin (Marshall 1978:117). However, neither of these words is in common use in the English language so modern translations offer a paraphrase. The NIV and NRSV use, ‘atoning sacrifice’, which tries to combine two ideas: an atonement for sin and an offering to God (a sacrifice). The TEV used ‘the means by which our sins are forgiven’ while the NEB used ‘the remedy for the defilement of our sins’, the latter seeming to be closer to the meaning of expiation (Marshall 1978:117-118). The ESV, NKJV and NASB retain ‘propitiation’.
4.  L Morris and D Hill objected to the Westcott and Dodd interpretation and showed that in the OT ‘the idea of placating the wrath of God or some other injured party is often present when the word-group in question is used…. The meaning in the present passage would then be that Jesus propitiates God with respect to our sins [the Greek preposition peri]. There can be no real doubt that this is the meaning’ (Marshall 1978:118).
5.  In 1 John 2:1, the thought of Jesus as our advocate [NIV: ‘One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’] is of one who is pleading the cause of the guilty sinners before a judge in order to obtain pardon for ‘acknowledged guilt’. ‘In order that forgiveness may be granted, there is an action in respect of the sins which has the effect of rendering God favorable to the sinner. We may, if we wish, say that the sins are cancelled out by the action in question. This means that the one action has the double effect of expiating the sin and thereby propitiating God. These two aspects of the action belong together, and a good translation will attempt to convey them both’ (Marshall 1978:118).
6.  How does one find an English word that combines expiation and propitiation? ‘Atoning sacrifice’ is an attempt but I find that it de-emphasises the propitiation too much. I can’t see a way around this except for a preacher to make sure he/she explains 1 John 2:1-2 together and that needs to include both the advocate and the propitiation. A ‘propitiatory advocate’ could be a way around that, but the English language is too clumsy to put it that way as many people don’t understand the meaning of ‘propitiatory’ as it is not used in contemporary English in my part of the world.

Some other views on the meaning of propitiation

clip_image002 1. Leon Morris refers to hilasmos related words in Rom 3:25, Heb 2:17 and 1 John 2:2; 4:10. His exegesis of the word indicates that it means,

the turning away of wrath by an offering…. Outside the Bible the word group to which the Greek words belong unquestionably has the significance of averting wrath…. Neither [C H] Dodd nor others who argue for “expiation” seem to give sufficient attention to the biblical teaching….

The words of the hilaskomai group do not denote simple forgiveness or cancellation of sin which includes the turning away of God’s wrath (e.g. Lam. 3:42-43)….

The whole of the argument of the opening part of Romans is that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, are sinners, and that they come under the wrath and condemnation of God. When Paul turns to salvation, he thinks of Christ’s death as hilasterion (Rom 3:25), a means of removing the divine wrath. The paradox of the OT is repeated in the NT that God himself provides the means of removing his own wrath. The love of the Father is shown in that he “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)….

The consistent Bible view is that the sin of man has incurred the wrath of God. That wrath is averted only by Christ’s atoning offering. From this standpoint his saving work is properly called propitiation (Morris 1984:888).

clip_image002[1] 2. Henry Thiessen wrote that

the New Testament represents Christ’s death as appeasing God’s wrath. Paul says, God set Him forth as a “propitiatory” (sacrifice) (Rom. 3:25); and Hebrews represents the mercy seat in the tabernacle and temple of the “propitiatory (place) (9:5). John declared that Christ is the “propitiation” for our sins (1 John 2:2:4:10); and Hebrews declares that Christ “propitiates” the sins of the people (2:17) (Thiessen 1949:326)

Thiessen quotes W G T Shedd in support of this view – based on the Old Testament:

The connection of ideas in the Greek translation appears therefore to be this: By the suffering of the sinner’s atoning substitute, the divine wrath at sin is propitiated, and as a consequence of this propitiation the punishment due to sin is released, or not inflicted upon the transgressor. This release or non-infliction of penalty is ‘forgiveness’ in the biblical representation (Shedd II:391, in Thiessen 1949:326).

clip_image002[2] 3. Wayne Grudem:

Romans 3:23 tells us that God put forward Christ as a “propitiation” (NASB) a word that means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath to favor.” Paul tells us that “That this was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). God had not simply forgiven sin and forgotten about the punishment in generations past. He had forgiven sins and stored up his righteous anger against those sins. But at the cross the fury of all that stored-up wrath against sin was unleashed against God’s own Son.

Many theologians outside the evangelical world have strongly objected to the idea that Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin.[1] Their basic assumption is that since God is a God of love, it would be inconsistent with his character to show wrath against the human beings he has created and for whom he is a loving Father. But evangelical scholars have convincingly argued that the idea of the wrath of God is solidly rooted in both the Old and New Testaments: “the whole of the argument of the opening part of Romans is that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, are sinners, and that they come under the wrath and the condemnation of God.”

Three other crucial passages in the New Testament refer to Jesus’ death as a “propitiation”: Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; and 4:10. The Greek terms (the verb hilaskomai, “to make propitiation” and the noun hilasmos, “a sacrifice of propitiation”) used in these passages have the sense of “a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God – and thereby makes God propitious (or favorable) toward us.” This is the consistent meaning of these words outside of the Bible where they were well understood in reference to pagan Greek religions. These verses simply mean that Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin.

It is important to insist on this fact, because it is the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. It means that there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. Furthermore, before the atonement ever could have an effect on our subjective consciousness, it first had an effect on God and his relation to the sinners he planned to redeem. Apart from this central truth, the death of Christ really cannot be adequately understood (Grudem 1994:575).

I hope this helps to clarify the fact that both Old and New Testaments affirm the necessity of a blood sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. Jesus’ death was that propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). However, that propitiation is only potential until a person chooses to believe in Jesus to receive God’s propitiation.

This free will choice (human responsibility) in salvation is only possible because God provides prevenient grace to all people, enable them to respond in faith when the Gospel is proclaimed to them. Salvation (repentance and faith) is available only because God takes the initiative.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Marshall, I H 1978. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L 1984. Propitiation. In W A Elwell (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 88. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

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


[1] Grudem’s footnote was: ‘See the detailed linguistic argument of C. H. Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1935), pp. 82-95. Dodd argues that the idea of propitiation was common in pagan religions but foreign to the thought of Old Testament and New Testament writers (Grudem 1994:575, n. 11).
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

God’s hate: Isn’t that obnoxious?

Hate Pride     God is Love

    ChristArt                                                 ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Surely the God of love would not be so loathsome that he would demonstrate hate towards anyone?

Yet we have these statements about God:

checkerboard-arrow-small  ‘And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”’ (Isaiah 6:3 NIV).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 NIV, emphasis added).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts’ (Isaiah 5:16 NIV).

But there is another side to God’s actions:

snowflake-red-smallThere are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him’ (Proverbs 6:16 NIV, emphasis added).

snowflake-red-small ‘Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”’ (Rom 9:13 NIV).[1]

snowflake-red-small ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18 NIV).

snowflake-red-small ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46 NIV).

How is it that the God, whose essence is holiness, love and righteousness/justice, can hate, be angry, and send people to eternal punishment? Norman Geisler provides this helpful insight:

God is not only merciful to the repentant, but He is also wrathful upon the unrepentant. These actions are not incompatible, since they are exercised on different objects.

The definition of God’s wrath

A number of Hebrew words are translated as ‘wrath.’ Charown (Ex. 15:7) means ‘burning anger,’ ‘fury.’ Aph (Ex. 22:24) means ‘ire,’ ‘wrath.’ Ebrah (Num. 11:33) depicts outbursts of passion, anger, or rage. Chemah (Ps. 59:13) literally means ‘heat’ and, figuratively, ‘anger.’ Qetreph (2 Chron. 19:2) speaks of a rage.

The New Testament word for ‘wrath’ is orge. It carries the meaning of ‘strong desire,’ ‘violent passion,’ and ‘ire’ (see Eph. 2:3; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 6:16). As applied to God, wrath means His anger at and hatred of sin, His righteous indignation at all evil, and His jealous execution of judgment on unrighteousness. However, wrath, while rooted in God’s essential nature as just, is not an attribute, but an act that flows from His unchanging righteousness (Geisler2003:396-397).

The answer is fundamental: The God whose essential essence is holiness, love and righteousness, cannot tolerate sin in his presence. To those who repent, God demonstrates his mercy. But for those who are unrepentant, they can expect God’s wrath as a manifestation of his hatred of sin.

God’s wrath is a manifestation of his essence of holiness and righteousness/justice. ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you’ (Psalm 89:14 NIV).

God’s wrath against evil has its foundation in His essence/nature of unchanging righteousness. So the wrath or hatred of God against sin is not God’s essential nature but flows from God’s immutable (unchanging) righteousness.

C S Lewis put it well:

‘God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we must need a nd the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger -according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way’ (Mere Christianity, chapter 5,We have cause to be uneasy‘).

What a sad day it will be for those who reject the One who makes imputed righteousness possible through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice!

Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.


[1] This is citing Malachi 1:2-3.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

This was a false charge against Arminians: ‘God does not hate’

God Hates Lies

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to read misrepresentation of a person’s theological position, take a read of the Calvinist vs Arminian debates on Christian forums on the Internet. I picked up one that stated (discussed below): ‘So much of synergistic, Arminian theology is predicated on the (false) foundation that God can’t possibly hate anyone and instead, actually loves every single person’.[1]

Here is the fuller example from Christian Forums, a forum I frequent regularly as OzSpen for some iron-sharpening-iron experiences (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).

A Calvinist started a thread, ‘Does God hate anyone?’ with this comment:[2]

Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”
Rom 9:13 “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

So much of synergistic, Arminian theology is predicated on the (false) foundation that God can’t possibly hate anyone and instead, actually loves every single person.

It’s a presupposition that isn’t true (see below), yet their entire theology is built on it. What they seemingly fail to realize is that hate is not always a wicked thing. There is such a thing as righteous hate. For example, I hate abortion. In such a situation my hate is justified and is not an evil, but a good. I hate what is evil.

God, in the same way, hates what is evil. His hatred is free from the stain of pride or sin. He hates what is evil, and mankind is evil. It is not wrong of God to hate someone. Yet for some reason, the idea that God could hate someone is taboo in the typical Arminian discussions.

That being said, it’s ironic that some of the attacks of the synergists on these forums have against Calvinism is “Calvinism is wrong, cuz in Calvininism (sic), God hates people!!! RAWR!” When in actuality, as you can see above, all they’re doing is saying Calvinists are guilty of believing what the Bible teaches.

Hardly an accusation!

1. God can’t possibly hate??

Hate Argue

(image courtesy ChristArt)

This was part of his statement above to which I responded:

‘So much of synergistic, Arminian theology is predicated on the (false) foundation that God can’t possibly hate anyone and instead, actually loves every single person…. Yet for some reason, the idea that God could hate someone is taboo in the typical Arminian discussions.

That being said, it’s ironic that some of the attacks of the synergists on these forums have against Calvinism is “Calvinism is wrong, cuz in Calvininism (sic), God hates people!!!’.

I wrote that he provided not one shred of evidence to support this accusation. There was not one quote from an Arminian to state that the Arminian does not believe that God hates. Zero examples were provided. This makes it nothing more than his assertion – his bias against Arminians.

When he makes a denunciation against a theological position with which he disagrees with this kind of assertion, the folks who read his post need his evidence. Without evidence, his posts sound awfully like hot air to me.[3]

1.1 My poor definition

When I challenged him on his, he referred back to my statement in another thread in which I asked, ‘What about the other half of the Calvinistic story? God hated the rest of humanity and sends them to damnation – guaranteed!’[4] I must admit that I did not state this very well when I was referring to the Calvinistic doctrine of double predestination. Therefore, that type of response was expected from a Calvinist (and I deserved it): ‘Here’s evidence that Arminians can’t stand the idea that God would hate anyone. As you can see from this evidence, clearly Oz is showing that he abhors the idea that God hates someone. That’s the only reason he said what he said. Why else would he?’[5]

The issue that he was making a big deal about was what he thought was the meaning of my statement. The facts are that it was my poorly worded statement of the ‘other half of Calvinism’ that was the issue. It was this statement of mine that he took to mean that Arminians do not believe that God hates: ‘What about the other half of the Calvinistic story? God hated the rest of humanity and sends them to damnation – guaranteed!’

This is how I should have said it: ‘What about Calvinism’s double-predestination that makes God the one who foreordains damnation for a large chunk of humanity? The reprobate don’t have an opportunity to get out of that eternal damnation because of the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional reprobation’.

It is NOT a bad tactic that God, in his holiness, righteousness/justice, hates evildoers. I find it to be a bad tactic that a large chunk of humanity is not given the opportunity – according to Calvinistic theology – to respond to the Gospel and receive eternal life. Why? Because they are unconditionally, eternally damned from before the foundation of the world by God himself. I’m talking of the Calvinist’s promotion of double predestination – predestination to salvation and predestination to reprobation.[6]

2. Double predestination

This is an example of a trumped up charge by this fellow against me, a Reformed/Classical Arminian. It is his straw man fallacy against me. He has created a theology which he THINKS I believe but I DON’T. That makes it a straw man fallacy. I urged him to quit this illogical thinking against me.

I agree with James Arminius when he wrote:

Love is an affection of union in God, the objects of which are God himself and the good of justice or righteousness, the creature and its felicity [Prov. 16:4; Ps 9:7; John 3:16; Wisdom 11:24-26]….

Hatred is an affection of separation in God, whose primary object is injustice or unrighteousness [Ps 5:5; Ezek 25:11; Deut 25:15-16; Isa 1:24]; and the secondary, the misery of the creature. The former is from “the love of complacency;” the latter, from “the love of friendship.” But since God properly loves himself and the good of justice, and by the same impulse holds iniquity in detestation; and since he secondarily loves the creature and his blessedness, and in that impulse hates the misery of the creature [Ps 9:5; Deut 28:63], that is, he wills it to be taken away from the creature; hence, it comes to pass, that he hates the creature who perseveres in unrighteousness, and he loves his misery [Isa 66:4].

Hatred, however, is not collateral to love, but necessarily flowing from it; since love neither does nor can tend towards all those things which become objects to the understanding of God. It belongs to him, therefore, in the first act, and must be placed in him prior to any existence of a thing worthy of hatred, which existence being laid down, the act of hatred arises from it by a natural necessity, not by liberty of the will (Arminius 1977a:45; 1977b:456, emphasis in original).

I asked: ‘When will you quit using a false representation of my theology?’

The Scriptures are abundantly clear and he had already provided a limited list of such Scriptures, that God abhors sin. Psalm 5:5 is very clear when David, addressing God, stated, ‘You hate all evil doers’ (ESV). As Arminius has stated, ‘Hatred, however, is not collateral to love, but necessarily flowing from it’.

I agree with W S Plumer, in his commentary on the Psalms, when he wrote of Psalm 5:5,

Those do greatly slander God, who teach that he will punish sin only because it is opposed to his law or his will, and not because it is opposed to his infinite, eternal, unchangeable rectitude. So repugnant to God’s nature is iniquity, that he would not save even his elect, except in a way that should fully and forever put away both the guilt and stain of sin, and bring all conceivable odium on transgression. God would not even spare his Son, when he stood in the place of sinners, lest he might seem to spare sin. Could he cease to hate it, he would cease to be worthy of love and confidence. Nor is it merely some forms of sin that God abhors, but he hates all workers of iniquity (Plumer 1967/1975:81, emphasis in original).

That is what I believe.

When will he quit building straw men about my theology? When will he renounce inventing my theology and making false charges against my biblical thinking?

2.1 How is double predestination defined?

According to a Calvinistic website, double predestination is:

the view that God sovereignly and freely chose to predestine some to heaven (the elect) and some to hell (the reprobate).  This predestination is not based on anything in the person nor is it based on what the foreseen actions and/or beliefs of that person would have been (CARM).

Another explanation was put more bluntly: ‘Double predestination is the belief that God creates some people whose purpose in existence is to be sent to hell’ (Houdmann 2013).

Calvinist theologian, Loraine Boettner, explained unconditional reprobation this way:

The condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily to furnish an eternal exhibition, before men and angels, of God’s hatred for sin, or, in other words, it is to be an eternal manifestation of the justice of God…. This decree displays one of the divine attributes which apart from it could never have been adequately appreciated. The salvation of some through a redeemer is designed to display the attributes of love, mercy, and holiness (Boettner 1932:121-122).

       John Calvin by Holbein.png

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

John Calvin’s version was:

In actual fact, the covenant of life is not preached equally among all men, and among those to whom it is preached, it does not gain the same acceptance either constantly or in equal degree. In this diversity the wonderful depth of God’s judgment is made known. For there is no doubt that this variety also serves the decision of God’s eternal election. If it is plain that it comes to pass by God’s bidding that salvation is freely offered to some while others are barred from access to it…. A baffling question this seems to many. For they think nothing more inconsistent than that out of the common multitude of men some should be predestined to salvation, others to destruction (Calvin 1960:920-921; 3.21.1).

Whoever, then, heaps odium upon the doctrine of predestination openly reproaches God, as if he had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church….

No one who wishes to be thought religious dares simply deny predestination, by which God adopts some to hope of life, and sentences others to eternal death. But our opponents, especially those who make foreknowledge its cause, envelop it in numerous petty objections. We indeed, place both doctrines in God, but we say that subjecting one to the other is absurd….

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death (Calvin 1960:926; 3.21.4-5).

Indeed many, as if they wished to avert a reproach from God, accept election in such terms as to deny that anyone is condemned. But they do this very ignorantly and childishly, since election itself could not stand except as set over against reprobation…. Those whom God passes over, he condemns; and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children….

Paul ascribes to, and claims for, God the credit for salvation, while he casts the blame for their perdition upon those who of their own will bring it upon themselves. But thought I should admit to them that Paul, using a different expression, softens the harshness of the former clause, it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to any earlier context: God aroused Pharaoh [Rom 9:17]; then, “he hardens whom he pleases” [Rom. 9:18]. From this it follows that God’s secret plan is the cause of hardening (Calvin 1960:947-949; 3.23.1).

3. A Calvinist continues to niggle

The Calvinist with whom I am interacting wrote: ‘Ok, so your problem is not with the fact that God hates them (coulda fooled me since you included it as part of the statement), but rather, your problem is with the fact that God throws guilty people into hell? How is that a problem exactly? They’re guilty, aren’t they?’[7]

My response was:[8] When you continue niggling me like this – after I have corrected my statement – I will not continue to communicate with you on this topic as you are here indicating that you do not want to accept the change of language that I gave. ‘Coulda fooled me’ is your rejection of what I wrote.

My issue is not with God sending guilty people to hell (Hades and then Gehenna) as that is what the Bible teaches.

My issue is with Calvinism and its requirement that God eternally damns a large chunk of humanity from before the foundation of the world. They will never, ever be given the opportunity to respond to the Gospel and repent because of Calvinism’s theology of double-predestination. That is a theology I do not find in Scripture. It is a promotion of God’s injustice.

That is not the Gospel that I read in John 3:16; 3:26; Acts 16:30-31; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 3:9.

See also this assessment of John Piper’s views on double predestination:Double talk by a double predestinarian‘.

The Calvinist continued on the forum:

If God condemns them on judgement day, and God is eternal and has always known that would be what happens, it makes sense that God considered those people as condemned from eternity past. You can’t separate God’s knowledge from what actually happens. In fact, this charge of yours works equally against Arminianism, too, because even in Arminiansm, God elected the elect before the foundation of the world, which means that he didn’t elect everyone else, effectually condemning them from eternity past. The only way you, as an Arminian, can escape this dilemma is if you embrace Open Theism, and say that somehow God didn’t know who the elect or the condemned/non-elect would be.

The Arminian view is very different from Calvinistic double-predestination. Deterministic foreordination from before the foundation of the world is radically different from the scriptural position:

To those who are elect exiles in the dispersion … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood (1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV).

We know from both Romans 8:29-30 and 1 Peter 1:1-2 that God chose people in Christ for salvation whom he foreknew would accept Jesus as Saviour. These Scriptures leave no doubt that election is based on God’s foreknowledge.

Because Scripture repeatedly teaches that human beings are responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation, we know that this affirms the theology of election based on foreknowledge in Rom 8:29-30; 1 Pt 1:1-2.

I urged this fellow: Please don’t give me the line that because all human beings are hopelessly dead in sin that they cannot respond to God’s offer of salvation. I know that that is an incorrect perspective because Titus 2:11 tells us so: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (ESV, emphasis added).

In God’s foreknowledge, He knows what every human being will do with this restored ability and what does God do? He elects to salvation these people and this is in harmony with His knowledge (foreknowledge) of the choice these people will make.

Hebrew Bible (image courtesy Wikipedia)

3.1 A wrong understanding of Arminianism – again!

This Calvinist wrote:

In Arminianism, God elects the elect before the foundation of the world. That means even in Arminianism, some people are born into this world as non-elect and are therefore headed to hell from the moment of their birth. Do you agree? If you disagree, then that means you don’t truly believe that God elected the elect (even conditionally) from before the foundation of the world. How do you escape this dilemma?[9]

My reply was:[10]

This is your misrepresentation of Arminian soteriology. It is what you THINK this Arminian’s theology is. But you are wrong about my view.

The facts are that all human beings are damned (Rom 6:23). God has provided his grace unto salvation to all human beings (Tit 2:11). Salvation of every human being was made available to all human beings (1 John 2:2), i.e. salvation has been purchased all human beings have been made able to be saved.

However, there cannot be any automatic system by which all are saved through Christ’s death. That would lead to the unbiblical doctrine of universalism.

The gift of salvation is only possible for those who hear the Gospel of the Saviour and receive Him by faith (Eph 2:8-9).

I find that Norm Geisler summarises God’s position nicely as it has been revealed in Scripture as to what Jesus did for all human beings through his blood sacrifice on the cross:

The salvation of everyone was not immediately applied; it was simply purchased. All persons were made savable, but not all persons were automatically saved. The gift was made possible by the Savior, but it must be received by the sinner (Eph. 2:8-9; cf. John 1:12). In short, the salvation of all sinners from God’s eternal wrath is possible, but only those who accept Christ’s payment for their sins will actually be saved from it (Geisler 2003:405, emphasis in original).

The Calvinistic opponent online misunderstood the Arminian perspective. His claim was that Arminians do not like the God who hates. I hope I’ve demonstrated in this article that the God who hates is one with the God who loves and it was my poor writing content that led the Calvinist to pick up one of my wrong wordings of the God who hates sin and the wrongdoer.

‘By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace, whereby from all eternity he chose in Christ Jesus for Himself and for salvation, all those whom he foreknew would respond positively to prevenient grace’ (Thiessen 1949:156). God in his foreknowledge (before the foundation of the world) knows who these elect people are. But their election is effected when they believe in Jesus in space and time as a response to the Gospel proclamation.

I suggested that my online Calvinistic opponent gain a better understanding of Arminianism. But I’m not holding my breath.
He stated: ‘If you disagree, then that means you don’t truly believe that God elected the elect (even conditionally) from before the foundation of the world. How do you escape this dilemma?’

I don’t have to escape a dilemma. The Calvinist does because he was promoting an incorrect view of Arminianism. His view could be overcome quite easily by becoming an accurate student of Arminianism, instead of inventing what he did in his post – a straw man fallacy. Again!

However, I need to be fair. My statement about God’s hate was not as accurate as it should have been and he was responding to that incorrect exposition. I have corrected that in my response to him online and in this article.

4. How a discussion ends

When a Calvinist doesn’t understand Arminian theology (but thinks he does), this is how this conversation petered out.

He asked:

‘Did election happen before the foundation of the world? Yes or no?…
In other words, why do you Arminians quote verses about God electing based on “foreknowledge”, if you don’t believe election happened “before” a person believed? [11]

My reply was predictable:[12] Straw man fallacy again.

When will you quit using your illogical fallacies? It’s time that you read the works of James Arminius so that you understood the content of his theology.

You have here again demonstrated that your understanding of Arminian election is false.

If you continue with false views of Arminian theology, I’ll simply reply: straw man fallacy because that’s what you are regularly doing in your responses to me.

If I understood Calvinism as poorly as you understand Arminianism, you’d be complaining big time about my views. It’s time for you to have accurate knowledge of Arminianism by studying Arminius himself.

A good starter for you could be Roger E Olson 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.
You have been loading up with lots of Arminian myths that you are feeding to me. It doesn’t work with me.

He asked: ‘However, by these new words, you seem to have changed beliefs, and now believe that election actually happens in time. You seem to no longer believe that God, before the foundation of the world, elected all who He foresees will believe, to instead believing that God elects those who believe at the moment of their belief’.[13]

My response should have been expected: Don’t you understand the timelessness of God?[14]

Calvo response to me again: ‘It’s because I can’t pin down your beliefs, you are always saying two different things and contradicting yourself’.[15] Surely this was an expected response?[16]

You don’t seem to get it that its because your beliefs about Arminianism are false – your presenting straw man fallacies – that leads to your seeing my statements as contradictions. They don’t agree with your understanding of Arminianism.
Seems to me that you don’t know Arminian theology very well at all and there is no point in continuing the discussion any further.

Why? When he has a contorted understanding of Arminianism, there is no point in discussing Arminian theology as he continues to impose his Calvinism on it. We are a country mile from agreeing on election.

How does God set about saving people from sin?

5. Steps to save people from sin

One of the finest, brief theological summaries I have read to determine how God saves people from sin is by Henry Thiessen (the 1949 edition). His is an Arminian perspective with sound exposition.


Henry C Thiessen (image courtesy Wheaton College)

Thiessen admitted that Christians agree that God has decreed to save human beings but they are not agreed on how God does that. While he does not mention this clash, he is particularly referring to the Arminian vs Calvinistic controversy over the how of receiving eternal salvation.

These steps to salvation, according to Thiessen (1949:154-158), include:

  • The freedom of human beings;
  • Prevenient grace;
  • God’s foreknowledge;
  • God’s gracious election;
  • Special or saving grace.

Let’s examine these briefly:

5.1 Freedom of human beings[17]

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacobus Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

The Works of James Arminius (

1. All Christians agree that God decreed to save human beings but the difference comes in HOW he does this.

2. God takes the initiative in salvation and this is not based on His arbitrary will but on His wise and holy counsel. We see this through God’s dealing with Adam and Eve after the fall (Gen. 3:8-9). See Scriptures general teaching in Rom. 2:4; Titus 2:11. The free will in salvation is implied in exhortations 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) and repent (1 Kings 8:47; Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and to believe (2 Chron. 20:20; Isa. 43:10; John 6:29.; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil. 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

3. God has a very high regard for freedom and He has made human beings capable of choosing whether or not to obey and serve God.

4. Freedom has two forms in Scripture:

  1. The ability to carry out the dictates of one’s nature;
  2. The ability to act contrary to one’s nature.

5. Before they sinned, men and angels had freedom in both of these senses.

6. Following the fall, the human beings lost the ability not to sin (see Gen. 5:5; Job 13:10; Jer. 13:23; 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:5-8). They are now free only in the sense that they can do as their fallen nature suggests.

7. Then there’s the classic from the OT in two different versions with a similar compelling message, ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’. So human beings have the God-given ability to choose which God or gods they will serve:

Joshua 24:14-16 (ESV):

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. [15] And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” [16] Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods,

Joshua 24:15-16 (KJV):

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY WHOM YE WILL SERVE; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. [16] And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;

Notice the options (choices) given in this Scripture:

  • Serve the Lord;
  • Choose whom you will serve;
  • You can choose the gods which your fathers chose,
  • The gods of the Amorites;
  • Joshua and his house will serve the Lord;
  • The people could forsake the Lord to serve other gods.

Paul Cornford, minister of North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie, Qld., Australia, preached on 11 September 2016 on ‘Joshua 24: The Covenant at Shechem’. He stated of Joshua 24:15 that this verse does not teach there is a choice to serve God or the gods. Instead, ‘choose this day is a choice between false gods. It is not a choice to serve God. It is not a case of coming to the best God. Presbyterians are not into decisionism’.

I was in the service when he preached this sermon and this quote is based on the notes I took of the sermon. I take notes from every sermon I hear. From my dot points above, Paul Cornford has not preached a message consistent with the content of Josh 24:15-16. I conveyed this to him after the service. His Calvinism is so ingrained in his thinking that he cannot allow human choice anywhere in the process of responding in faith to God or other gods.

8. There are texts that presuppose a genuine human freedom, even a freedom to say yes or no to God. Even a Calvinist such as Don (D A) Carson admits this under 9 headings:

  1. People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands;
  2. People are said to obey, believe, and choose God;
  3. People sin and rebel against God;
  4. Their sins are judged by God;
  5. People are tested by God;
  6. People receive divine rewards;
  7. The elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative;
  8. Prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and
  9. God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Carson 1981: 18-22).

These headings by a Calvinist in trying to understand the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation provide a measure of human freedom in our communication with and response to God.
Simply stated, free will is theologically defined as the God-given ability for human beings to make a contrary choice.

BUT how can human beings become saved, redeemed, and cleansed from sin? Is it dependent on God’s unconditional election and irresistible grace of Calvinism or is there a better biblical alternative?

I am convinced there is a better explanation and part of that explanation involved God’s prevenient grace.

5.2 Prevenient grace has been provided.[18]

1. Prevenient grace means that God must take the initiative if human beings are to be saved. That God takes the initiative in salvation is seen as far back as how He dealt with Adam and Eve after the Fall into sin (see Gen 3:8-9). We see it also in other passages such as Isa 59:15-16; John 15:16.

a. Note Rom 2:4, ‘Not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance’ (ESV).

b. Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’.

2. We have, through this grace, ‘the blessings of life, health, friends, fruitful seasons, prosperity, the delay of punishment, the presence and influence of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Church, manifestations of the common grace of God’ (Thiessen 1949:155).

3. This common grace of God is not adequate for salvation, but it does reveal the goodness of God to sinful creatures.

4. The ‘common grace of God also restores to the sinner the ability to make a favorable response to God. . . God, in His grace, makes it possible for all men to be saved’ (Thiessen 1949:155).

5. The freeing of the human will in relation to salvation doesn’t mean that prevenient grace enables a person to change his bent of the will in favor of God. It doesn’t mean that he can finish with his sin and make himself acceptable to God.

6. ‘It does mean that he can make an initial response to God, as a result of which God can give him repentance and faith. He can say, ‘Turn thou me, and I shall be turned'” (Jer. 31:18-19; See also Lam. 5:21; Ps. 80:3, 19; 85:4) [Thiessen 1949:156].

7. Thiessen believed the biblical material says that a person ‘has had a measure of freedom restored to him…. He can in some measure act contrary to his fallen nature … if he will say this much, then God will turn him, grant him repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) and faith (Rom. 12:3; 2 Pt. 1:1). The common grace of God is now seen to be intended to induce man to make this response’ (Thiessen 1949:156).

Brian Abasciano explained the nature of prevenient grace:

God calls all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith as he draws all people toward faith in Jesus, pierces the darkness of their hearts and minds with the shining of his light, enlightens their minds, communicates his awesome power with the gospel that incites faith, woos them with his kindness, convicts them by his Spirit, opens their hearts to heed his gospel, and positions them to seek him as he is near to each one.

All of this is what is known in traditional theological language as God’s prevenient grace. The term “prevenient” simply means “preceding.” Thus, “prevenient grace” refers to God’s grace that precedes salvation, including that part of salvation known as regeneration, which is the beginning of eternal spiritual life granted to all who trust in Christ (John 1:12-13). Prevenient grace is also sometimes called enabling grace or pre-regenerating grace. This is God’s unmerited favor toward totally depraved people, who are unworthy of God’s blessing and unable to seek God or trust in him in and of themselves. Accordingly, Acts 18:27 indicates that we believe through grace, placing grace preveniently (i.e. logically prior) to faith as the means by which we believe. It is the grace that, among other things, frees our wills to believe in Christ and his gospel. As Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Abasciano 2013).

5.3 God’s foreknowledge

How do God’s foreknowledge and election work in providing salvation? Henry Thiessen’s helpful summary of God’s foreknowledge is:

If God could foreknow that man would sin without causing him to sin;  if he foreknew that the inhabitants of Keilah would betray David into the hands of Saul before they had had the chance to do so (1 Samuel 23:11-12);  if Jesus could know that the fate of Tyre and Sidon, and of Sodom and Gomorrah, would have been different had they had the manifestations of His works which were granted to Chorazin and Bethsaida and to Capernaum (Matthew 11:21-24);  if God could foreknow that the Jews would kill Christ without causing them to do so and before he had created man (Luke 22:22;  Acts 2:23;  4:27-28);  then He can also foreknow what man will do in response to prevenient grace, whether or not they will receive “the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).  The Scriptures teach that election is based on foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2) (Thiessen 1949:156).

Another way of putting this is summarised by Robert Picirilli (2000) in his article on foreknowledge, freedom and the future:

If God could foreknow that man would sin without causing him to sin;  if he foreknew that the inhabitants of Keilah would betray David into the hands of Saul before they had had the chance to do so (1 Samuel 23:11-12);  if Jesus could know that the fate of Tyre and Sidon, and of Sodom and Gomorrah, would have been different had they had the manifestations of His works which were granted to Chorazin and Bethsaida and to Capernaum (Matthew 11:21-24);  if God could foreknow that the Jews would kill Christ without causing them to do so and before he had created man (Luke 22:22;  Acts 2:23;  4:27-28);  then He can also foreknow what man will do in response to prevenient grace, whether or not they will receive “the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).  The Scriptures teach that election is based on foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2) (Thiessen 1949:156).

The Reformation Arminian (together with the classic Arminian, for that matter) affirms that the future is perfectly foreknown by God and yet

is, in both theory and practice, open and undetermined. That is, future free decisions, though certain, are not necessary. In other words, the person who makes a moral choice is free to make that choice or a different one.

This is a form of indeterminism—better, “self-determinism”—as compared to determinism or compatibilism. For his part, the Arminian is satisfied that this is required if one is to affirm the reality of both God’s omniscience (all-encompassing foreknowledge) and human freedom.[19]

It seems to me that two things need mentioning as potential obstacles to understanding the position I have set forth here. One is that some who discuss the issues often introduce unnecessary matters into the discussion. Among these are discussions of God’s relationship to time and of “possible worlds.”[20] I am quick to acknowledge the intellectual stimulation involved in speculation about such matters. But “speculation” is precisely the right word. The fact is that we cannot finally be sure enough about such matters to use them definitively in this discussion. Furthermore, we do not need to, as I have attempted to demonstrate. The issue discussed in this paper is much simpler than that: God’s knowledge of the future in no way determines the future.

The other “problem” is that people simply tell themselves, as though having grasped some great secret, that if God knows the future it cannot be any other way. This, I believe, is not intuition but the “sophism” that Watson spoke about (in the quotation cited above). One erects, perhaps unintentionally, the mental block that keeps him from seeing otherwise. No doubt such thinking is easy to fall into, and equally difficult to overcome. As I have attempted to show, the way out of this difficulty lies first in the simple realization that when we speak of “what will be” or that “God knows what will be,” we have already affirmed “what will be.” One needs only to follow that with a forthright and confident statement—repeated, if need be, until he “sees” it is so—that though God knows the way I will choose, I will be free to choose that way or another when the time comes. God also knows that.

For the Reformation Arminian, then, the final set of facts to hold is: (1) the future is certain and foreknown certainly by God; (2) this is in full harmony with the fact that human beings make free, moral choices for which they are held justly responsible. In short, certainty is not necessity and precludes neither freedom nor ability to act in more than one way. In the end, this view has the advantage of fully explaining both Scripture and human experience (Piricilli 2000:270-271)

How does this view of foreknowledge fit with God’s election of people to salvation?

5.4 Concerning gracious election:

Thiessen provided this concise understanding:

By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace, whereby from all eternity He chose in Christ Jesus for Himself and for salvation, all those whom He foreknew would respond positively to prevenient grace. Notice that it is a sovereign act in grace (Rom. 11:5): God was under no necessity or obligation to elect anyone. It took place in eternity (Eph 1:4), and is not something that occurs as human history develops. It is based on the merits of Christ (Eph. 1:4); we are accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). It was a choice of men for Himself (Ex. 19:4-6; Num. 8:17; Isa. 43:21; Rom. 11:4) and for salvation (2 Thess 2:13); and it is based on His foreknowledge of what men would do in response to His prevenient grace (2 Cor. 6:1, 2; Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:1, 2) (Thiessen 1949:156).

Keith Schooley explained a unique aspect of the Arminian perspective on election of people to salvation:

The Reformed view sees God essentially as electing individuals (say, Peter, Paul, and Mary) who together become corporately the people of God. Those who hold this view incorrectly assume that Arminians also focus on the individual, but merely get around God’s election by basing it on foreknowledge of the individual’s exercise of faith. Arminians, however, do not start with the individual. They start with the plan of salvation, centered on the sacrifice of Christ. The point of the election passages, says the Arminian, is the sovereignly and unconditionally determined criterion of election: faith in Christ for the atonement of one’s sins. That criterion becomes the defining characteristic of the people of God. God’s people are not the wealthy, or the intellectual, or the noble, or the strong, or even those physically descended from Abraham or those who strive the hardest to follow the Law. They are those who trust in Christ for their salvation. Period. Through the power of the Gospel we are enabled to believe; those who choose to do so become a part of that chosen people (which is what elektoi means). But God’s eternal decree is that He has chosen to choose those who believe, as opposed to any other group. That is unconditional and unchangeable (Schooley 2013).

Since I am an active advocate of the doctrines of Arminianism in relation to salvation – as promoting a more consistently biblical view of salvation than the Calvinistic alternative – I have found the following acronym to be an accurate outline of FACTS, the 5 major doctrines of Arminianism, in contrast with Calvinism’s TULIP.

6. An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism

by Brian Abasciano and Martin Glynn

Arminianism may be represented by the acronym FACTS:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ

This is the TULIP of Calvinism:

What is Calvinism and is it biblical? What are the five points of Calvinism?

Total depravity

Unconditional election

Limited atonement

Irresistible grace

Perseverance of the saints

7.   Recommended

See my further articles on election and predestination:

I recommend these other articles:

8.   Works consulted

Abasciano, B 2013. The FACTS of salvation, F: Freed to believe by God’s grace (online), November 6. Society of Evangelical Arminians. Available at: (Accessed 13 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977a The writings of James Arminius, vol 1 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977b The writings of James Arminius, vol 2 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Boettner, L 1932. The reformed doctrine of predestination. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Calvin, J 1960. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian religion, in two volumes, Tr by F L Battles, J T McNeill (ed). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Carson, D A 1981. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility: Biblical perspectives in tension. Atlanta: John Knox (New Foundations Theological Library).

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Houdmann, S M 2013. What is double predestination? (online) Available at: (Accessed 12 December 2013).

Picirilli, R E 2000. Foreknowledge, freedom, and the future (online). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 43/2, June. Available at:,%20Freedom,%20and%20the%20Future.pdf (Accessed 13 December 2013).

Plumer, W S 1867/1975. Psalms: A critical and expository commentary with doctrinal and practical remarks. Edinburgh/ Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Schooley, K 2013. One Arminian’s perspective on election, God’s foreknowledge, and free will (online), Society of Evangelical Arminians, 13 February. Available at: (Accessed 13 December 2013).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.[21]


[1] Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘Does God hate anyone?’ Skala#1, available at: (Accessed 12 December 2013)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #5.

[4] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘The effects of limited atonement’, OzSpen #21, available at: (Accessed 12 December 2013).

[5] ‘Does God hate anyone?’ Skala #7, available at: (Accessed 12 December 2013).

[6] Ibid., OzSpen #25.

[7] Ibid., Skala #27.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen #28.

[9] Ibid., Skala #30, emphasis in original.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen #31.

[11] Ibid., Skala #32.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen #33.

[13] Ibid., Skala #32.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen #33.

[15] Ibid., Skala #32.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen #33.

[17] This section is based on Thiessen (1949:155).

[18] This is based on Thiessen (1949:155-156).

[19] Almost any introductory philosophy text will provide a discussion of the difference between determinism, indeterminism, and compatibilism. See Emmett Barcalow, Open Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1992), chapter 5, for example. For “self-determinism” as the preferable term, see Richard Taylor, “Freedom and Determinism,” in Philosophy: The Basic Issues (ed. Klemke, Kline, and Hollinger; 2d ed.; New York: St. Martin’s, 1986) 115–125.

[20] For a recent example, see Brian Leftow, Time and Eternity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).

[21] This is in a revised edition (2006) by Eerdmans, but its Arminian emphasis has been Calvinised. I do not recommend the later edition is one wants Thiessen’s lucid exposition. Thiessen died on July 25, 1947, before the original publication of h is lectures, at the age of 64. See Thiessen and Determinism’s cold and chilling effects (Accessed 12 December 2013).


Copyright (c)  2013 Spencer D. Gear.   This document last updated at Date: 27 September 2016.

‘I will beat the hell out of God’

By Spencer D Gear



It is not unusual to read of or hear about someone who turns off or away from God after a traumatic experience.

A fellow who was hurting deeply started a new thread on Christian Forums that he called, ‘lost all faith in a god’. He wrote:

My world has crashed down like a ton of bricks these last few weeks after watching my 16 year old son die a slow painful death of cancer, he suffered so much and as i am a single parent dad i was the only one to be with him and i never left his side. my faith is smashed now as i think if there is an all loving god who saves people then why not save my son ? my son was the kindest kid in the world always thinking of others and even to the end was thinking about me.

there is just no sence (sic) to this and my feeling of anger is such that if there is a god then when its my turn to die i will beat the hell out of him and make him or her or it suffer like my son did i grew up to belive (sic) in being good kind and help others in this cruel world as it is today my son was so loved and yet this kind of thing happens to many people its just all so unfair to watch others live a good happy life never knowning (sic) what its like to suffer why on earth does this go on why carnt (sic) we just leave in a peaceful world without the suffering ? and when we die then just let us die of old age without suffering ? if god is all powerful and loving and kind then surely he would have to the power to grant that to us all ? hence my faith now is smashed as i dont have the answers and never will have.[1]

How does one respond to a hurting individual, especially when he is blaming God for his teenager’s painful death from cancer? I replied:[2]

I know you are hurting deeply and nothing I can say will ease that pain.

You say that you don’t mean to anger or upset anyone, but what did you say about my Lord God?

Please consider three points:

  1. When the Lord Almighty made the universe (see Genesis 1), did he consult with you and me as to how the world is to be run? And,
  2. When Adam and Eve fell into sin (Genesis 3), they did it for you and me. They were our representatives. If we had been there, we would have disobeyed God just as they did. And what happened?
  3. What was unleashed on your son were the consequences of sin entering into the world. I have lived with a rheumatic heart condition all of my life and have had 5 open-heart, mitral and aortic valve replacement surgeries, along with a tricuspid valve repair. I know the pain of 3 bouts of rheumatic fever as a child that left me with heart problems. I cannot begin to tell you about the excruciating pain I experienced with attacks of rheumatic fever at ages 6, 10 and 12. The pain was so bad that a hoop had to be placed over my knees and ankles to prevent a sheet from resting on them. My father dropped dead of a heart attack at age 57. My dear friend suffered a massive stroke recently and entered the presence of the Lord through death. I am not immune to pain in my life, but I am not blaspheming God like you did.

Why? It is my view of God that is based on biblical revelation. God has told us why your son could experience cancer and why I suffered attacks of rheumatic fever. It is a direct consequence of Adamic sin.

Besides, you and I spend so little time during our earthly journey when compared with eternity. Where will you be spending eternity with your current view of God? Why are you blaspheming him? Do you know God personally and do you have a relationship with him?

I then encouraged him to send me a private message on the Forum and asked if he had had any grief counselling to deal with his son’s death.

Sadly, he did not respond to what I wrote and did not engage much further with others on that Forum.

How do we explain evil in our world?

See my articles:

blue-arrow-small  Did God create evil?

blue-arrow-small Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

blue-arrow-small Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

blue-arrow-small September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

blue-arrow-small Sinful nature or sinful environment?


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘lost all faith in a god’, desypete #1, 3 June 2012, available at: (Accessed 4 June 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #11.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Hell in the Bible

Read the Bible

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Spencer D Gear

In this book by Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson (gen eds) 2007. Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Zondervan), you will read how people within the church, some of whom know Greek, are reinventing the doctrine of hell with alternatives such as universalism and annihilationism. I found it to be a commentary on how presuppositions impose on the Greek text (I read and have taught NT Greek) and the text is not allowed to speak for itself.

Morgan & Peterson begin with this story:

A business was opening a new store, and a friend of the owner sent flowers for the occasion. The flowers arrived at the new business site, and the owner read the card, inscribed, “Rest in Peace.”
The angry owner called the florist to complain. After he told the florist of the obvious mistake and how angry he was, the florist said, “Sir, I’m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry, you should imagine this: Somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note that reads, “Congratulations on your new location” (Introduction)

We are in a time when there are major attempts at scholarly and lay levels to redefine hell. Here are a few examples:

clip_image002[1] John Dominic Crossan, historical Jesus’ scholar of the Jesus Seminar: ‘‘What about heaven and hell, what about terminal rewards and punishments, what about eternity and the afterlife?… Let me be very blunt: I refuse to accept heaven from a God who could invent hell’. He continues, ‘The God of hell is a divinity to fear but not to love, to dread but not to worship, and it is morally necessary to say that loudly and clearly’. He is emphatic: ‘Hell is an obscenity…. For such a Supreme Being, Mrs Job had the only proper answer: Curse God, and die’ (Crossan 2000:201).

clip_image002[1] Layman: ‘I don’t believe God has condemned the majority of man to hell. Hell in the bible is described as eternal fire, bottomless pit, outer darkness, but for the most part simply as death’.[1]

clip_image002[1] John Stott, the late evangelical scholar, ‘In Evangelical Essentials, I described as “tentative” my suggestion that “eternal punishment” may mean the ultimate annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal conscious torment. I would prefer to call myself agnostic on this issue, as are a number of New Testament scholars I know. In my view, the biblical teaching is not plain enough to warrant dogmatism. There are awkward texts on both sides of the debate’ (McCloughry 2006).

clip_image002[3] Mormon view: ‘LDS[2] do not believe in Hell as a place. The reason why is that revelation through Latter-Day prophets have revealed that there exists three levels of glory and then Outer Darkness. Hope that helps’.[3]

clip_image002[4] Layman: ‘Personally, I don’t believe in traditional concepts of either heaven or hell. I believe God is in all and all are in God. We are from God, and to God we will return. What this means, whether we are conscious of it, and what it is like, I don’t know. I honestly think that how we live here and now is more important than how we will live in an afterlife. My philosophy is “God has that covered, so I’m gonna focus on being the best me I can be here and now”’.[4]

clip_image002[4] Liberal theologian, the late Paul Tillich: ‘”Heaven” and “hell” are symbols of ultimate meaning and unconditional significance’ (1968 III:327).

So there are samples of doubt about hell among liberal and evangelical people with some association with the Christian perspective on life.

We run into a problem when it comes to understanding ‘hell’, especially if we have been raised on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

The KJV translation of hell

We have a major problem with the King James Version and its translation of various Greek words with the same English word. I was preparing to provide teaching on this to expose the KJV translation weaknesses on this topic when I came across this article by J. Gibbons.

Gibbons has summarised this problem:

ALTHOUGH MANY translations of the Bible have been made into English (some good and some not as good), the King James Version (initially translated in 1611) is still widely used by many people (among them being this writer). When there are possible question marks about words that seem archaic, we try to supply parallel words that would be helpful in getting the meaning across. This term “hell” is one that needs our attention. The KJV scholars used the one word “hell” to represent several different words in the original Scriptures. This can be confusing unless one makes a background study as to which word is behind the word “hell” appearing in our KJV (or check out other translations). Consequently, some have misrepresented the Scriptures and have tried to teach that the grave is the only hell (and that there is no place of fire). What about this? What are the words in the original Scriptures, what do they mean, and why did the KJV translators represent these words by only one word in English? Following are gleanings, impressions and conclusions from our study on this.[5]

Greek words for the KJV’s ‘hell’ in the New Testament

Again, Gibbons provides the summary:

Three Words as “Hell”.

In the New Testament, the KJV translators used the word “hell” somewhat generically to represent three different Greek words. The Greek words are (1) gehenna, (2) hades and (3) tartaros (sic). Gehenna is found 12 times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22,29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Hades is found 11 times (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14) and tartaros (sic) 1 time (2 Peter 2:4).

Gehenna, Hell Proper.

(1) Gehenna had its origin in association with the valley of Hinnom, actually meaning this. In the Old Testament times, when Israel went into idolatry, human sacrifices took place in this valley next to Jerusalem in the worship of Molech as they would “burn their sons and daughters in the fire” (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31). The valley was looked upon as being polluted and unclean, and in New Testament times was used somewhat as a city dump with continual burning, we understand. It was with that backdrop the term gehenna was adopted and applied to the place of eternal punishment. Such is its coinage and use. This is hell in what the modern usage of the term “hell” conveys.

Hades, The Unseen World.

(2) We are told that Hades, in its etymology, properly means unseen. The basic stem of the word means seen, but it has the little a privative before it, thus making it signify unseen. All behind and beyond the veil of death is unseen. Thus, it is fittingly called Hades. At death the spirit enters into the unseen world of the dead. The word itself does not necessarily specify whether this state is bad or good. By itself it is generic, but it can be more specific, according to the context and other Scripture. Interestingly, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that in “hell” (Hades, KJV) the rich man lifted up his eyes being in torment. With his death, Jesus is said to have gone to Hades (Acts 2:27,31). (This is the word behind the KJV’s translation of “hell” here). Jesus had earlier said to the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Evidently, the story of the rich man and Lazarus unveils the situation as it was (and perhaps is). The good and the bad are partitioned by a great gulf, it would seem, one being in comfort and the other in discomfort. All of this anticipates the Day of Judgment when eternal heaven and hell will begin.

Tartarus, The Abyss.

(3) Tartarus is only referred to in one place in the New Testament, 2 Peter 2:4. It is found in the words “cast them down to hell” (to send into Tartarus). It is the bottomless abyss, the confinement place of the wicked, fallen angels.

The English Word “Hell”

But what is the actual and literal meaning of the English word “hell” used repeatedly in the KJV of the Bible? This may come as a surprise to many, but the English word “hell” back in 1611 meant about the same as hades, that being covered or unseen. The Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (John McClintock and James Strong) that first came out in 1867, says this of the term, “Hell, a term which originally corresponded more exactly to Hades, being derived from the Saxon helan, to cover, and signifying merely the covered, or invisible place—the habitation of those who have gone from the visible terrestrial region to the world of spirits. But it has been so long appropriated in common usage to the place of future punishment for the wicked, that its earlier meaning has been lost sight of.” This does not negate the teaching of a place of future punishment and fire as seen in the word Gehenna and the umbrella word, Hades. It just throws more light on the use of the word “hell” in the King James Version.[6]

I’m grateful for this excellent summary and refer you to Gibbons’ article.

These brief definitions

Here is a brief summary of the meaning of these Greek words.

  • Sheol. OT believers knew that Sheol was visible to God (Job 26:6) and that they were in the presence and protection of God at death (Psalm 139:8).
  • Hades (Morey 1984:81-87). It is the Greek equivalent of Sheol, although it translates other Hebrew words as well. We run into problems with the mistranslation by the KJV of Hades and Sheol. The post-resurrection teaching in the NT is that the believer goes to heaven at death (present with the Lord) to await the resurrection and the final eternal state. But for unbelievers they go to Hades, a temporary place of torment, awaiting their resurrection and the eternal punishment. Regarding 2 Peter 2:9, ‘the grammar of the text irrefutably establishes that the wicked are in torment while they await their final judgment. When the day of judgment arrives, Hades will be emptied of its inhabitants, and the wicked will stand before God for their final sentence (Rev. 20:13-15). Thus, we conclude that Hades will be emptied at the resurrection, and then the wicked will be cast into “hell” (Gehenna)’ (Morey 1984:87).
  • Valley of Hinnom. It is mentioned in Josh 15:8; 18:16 and Neh. 11:30. It was the place where idolatrous Jews gave human sacrifices to pagan deities. In Christ’s day it became Jerusalem’s garbage dump. So, this garbage dump became a Jewish picture of the ultimate fate of idol worshippers (Morey 1984:87).
  • Tartarus. This is used in 2 Peter 2:4 to refer to angels and where they were cast. He was using a word that in Greek literature meant a place of conscious torment in the netherworld. It did not mean non-existence, but referred to their being reserved in the place of mental anguish and terror until the day of judgment (Morey 1984:135).
  • Gehenna. It’s the Greek equivalent of the Valley of Hinnom, so Gehenna is an appropriate description of the final, eternal garbage dump where idolators go after the resurrection. The wicked would suffer there forever. Even Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon concluded that it means ‘the place of eternal punishment’. Coon and Mills define Gehenna as ‘the place of  eternal punishment’. So Gehenna is the final place of punishment, the ultimate place of torment for the wicked. It will be eternal, conscious torment (Morey 1984:87-90).


The Christian believers go to be with the Lord at death, ‘Away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5:8 ESV). They await the resurrection and the final state in heaven.

By contrast, all unbelievers at death go to Hades, a temporary place of torment, and await the resurrection, at which time they will be cast by God permanently into Gehenna, the place of eternal, conscious torment.

This is the biblical teaching on hell, in spite of others wanting to change it.

Other articles

See my other articles on this topic:

clip_image004[1] Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image004[1] What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image004[1] Hell & Judgment;

clip_image004[2] Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image004[1] Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image004[1] Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image004[5]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image004[6]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image004[7]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image004[1] What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image004[1] Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image004[10] Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image004[11] Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?


Crossan, J D 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

McCloughry, R. 2006, ‘Basic Stott as a precursor to my piece’, Kenyananalyst, 2 May, available at: (Accessed 10 June 2007).

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

Morgan, C & Peterson, R (gen eds) 2007. Hell under fire: Modern scholarship reinvents eternal punishment. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Tillich, P 1968. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1 vol. Welwyn, Herts: James Nisbet & Co Ltd.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Why is hell designed with fire?’ elman #18. Available at: (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[2] LDS = The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints = The Mormon Church.

[3] Christian Forums, Unorthodox Theology, ‘Why do some people think Hell isn’t real? Ran77#2. Available at: (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[4] Christian Forums, Faith groups, Whosoever will may come – liberal, ‘Liberal Hell’, Episcoboi#2. Available at: (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[5] J. Gibbons, ‘”Hell” in the King James Version’, available at: (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[6] Ibid.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 January 2017.

Shouldn’t we be punished for our own sins?



By Spencer D Gear

It is not uncommon to get this kind of interaction in person or on a Christian forum on the Internet:

Question is simple and I will use the Amalekite infants as an example [1 Sam 15:1-35 ESV]. Did they truely (sic) deserve to die considering they were only guilty by association? Granted some of the Amalekites deserved to die, but it seems rather cruel to kill off even the infants who were not responsible for anything. With that in mind, if infants are born with a sinful nature like all humans are, do they deserve to be thrown into hell like the rest of us according to the bible?[1]

Another replied:

The bible is not consistent. Ezekiel 18 indicates we are not responsible for our father’s sin or anyone’s sin but our own. No. Infants are not born guilty of anything and no body is thown (sic) into a place of torture by a loving God. The wages or consequences of sin is death–not life everlasting being tortured.[2]

My response was as follows:[3]

This is nothing more than your opinion. The Bible is very consistent, but our interpretations represent our major problems and your statement here is representative.
Yours is a rather short-sighted view.

Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch address this matter in Hard Sayings of the Bible (1996. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, pp. 177-179). I highly recommend this source as one of the finest in dealing with tough verses in Scripture. They address this issue when responding to,


InterVarsity Press

Deuteronomy 24:16: Should Children Be Punished for Their Parents’ Sins?

The principle governing Israelite courts was that human governments must not impute to children or grandchildren the guilt that their fathers or forebears accumulated. In Scripture each person stands before God as accountable for his or her own sin.

While this principle is acknowledged in Deuteronomy 24:16, there seem to be cases where it was not put in practice. For example, the child born to David and Bathsheba died because of their sin (2 Sam 12:14-18). And Saul’s seven grandchildren were put to death because of Saul’s sin (2 Sam 21:5-9). How are we to reconcile these contradictory sets of facts?

Some will also bring up the fact that the sins of the fathers have an ill effect on the children to the third and fourth generations (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9). Surely this is a direct contradiction of the principle in Deuteronomy 24:16.

But Deuteronomy 24:16 is dealing with normal criminal law. It explicitly forbids blaming the children for the sin and guilt earned by the parent. If the son deserves the death penalty, the father must not be put to death in his place, or vice versa. This point is repeated in a number of texts, such as 2 Kings 14:6, 2 Chronicles 25:4, Jeremiah 31:30 and Ezekiel 18:20.

The legal principle of dealing with each individual according to individual guilt is one side of the equation. The other side is that God has reserved for himself the right to render all final decisions. Not all situations can, or are, resolved in human courts. Some must await the verdict that God will give.

There is a third element that must be accounted for as well. This notion is difficult for Westerners to appreciate, since we place such a high premium on the individual. But Scripture warns us that there is such a thing as corporate responsibility. None of us functions in complete isolation from the society and neighborhood to which we are attached. Lines of affinity reach beyond our home and church groups to whole communities and eventually to our nation and the world in which we live.

There are three factors involved in communal responsibility in the Old Testament. First is unity. Often the whole group is treated as a single unit. In 1 Samuel 5:10-11, for example, the ark of God came to Ekron of the Philistines. Because the bubonic plague had broken out in the previous Philistine cities where the ark had been taken, the Ekronites cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” The whole group sensed that they would share in the guilt of what their leaders had done in capturing the ark of God.

Second, sometimes a single figure represents the whole group. Rather than someone who embodies the psychology of the group, this is a case of one, such as the suffering Servant of the Lord, standing in for many others.

The third factor is oscillation from the individual to the group, and vice versa. The classic example appears in Joshua 7:11, where the Lord affirms, “Israel has sinned,” even though Achan confesses, “I have sinned” (Josh 7:20).

Each situation must be evaluated to see whether it is a principle of a human court that is involved, a divine prerogative of final judgment or a case of corporate solidarity. We in the West still understand that one traitor can imperil a whole army, but we do not always understand how individual actions carry over into the divine arena or have widespread implications. Scripture works with all three simultaneously.

In the case of David and Bathsheba, it is clear that the loss of the baby was linked to the fact that David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, though Uriah remained determined to serve David faithfully in battle. This did not involve a human court but was a matter of divine prerogative.

The story about Saul’s seven grandchildren takes us into the area of national guilt. Saul violated a treaty made with the Gibeonites in the name of the Lord (Josh 9:3-15). The whole nation was bound by this treaty made in Joshua’s day. Thus when Saul, as head of the nation, committed this atrocity against the Gibeonites, it was an act against God and an act that involved the whole nation. A divinely initiated famine devastated the land until the demands of justice were met. When David inquired into the reason for the famine, God answered, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death” (2 Sam 21:1).

Saul and his sons had already fallen in the battle at Mount Gilboa, but his household shared in the stigma. Only God knew why the seven grandchildren shared in the guilt; it is not spelled out in the text. Apparently they had had some degree of complicity in the matter. Because only God knew, it was up to God, not a human court, to settle such cases.

As for the commandment that has the sins of the fathers visiting the children to the third and fourth generations, we can only observe that the text clearly teaches that this happens when the children repeat the motivating cause of their parents’ sin—that is, they too hate God. But when the children love God, the effect is lovingkindness for thousands of generations!

Both individual responsibility and group or communal responsibility are taught in Scripture. We must carefully define and distinguish these types of responsibility. But in no case should the principle of courts be to blame children for the wrongful deeds of their forebears. And if God demanded that principle as a basis for fairness in human governments, should we think he would do any less in the running of his own government?

No one will ever be denied eternal life because of what his or her forebears did or did not do. Each will live eternally or suffer everlasting judgment for his or her own actions (Ezek 18). Our standard of what constitutes fairness and justice, after all, is rooted in the character of God himself.

The graciousness of God and his swift move to forgive and to forget every sin that we call upon him to cleanse is seen in Exodus 34:6?7. The theme of these verses is essentially repeated in Numbers 14:18, 2 Chronicles 30:9, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 111:4, 116:5, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2 and Nahum 1:3.

But God’s grace is balanced by the last part of Exodus 34:7, which warns that “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished.” The reverse side of the same coin that declares God’s mercy and his love speaks of his justice and righteousness. For the wicked persons who by their actions tend to second their father’s previous motions by continuing to sin boldly against God as their fathers did, with no repentance, this text again warns that the chastisement of God will be felt down to the “third and fourth generation.” However, note carefully that the full formula includes the important qualifier “of those who hate me.” But wherever there is love, the effect is extended to thousands of generations!

In this connection, it is important to note that 2 Samuel 12:14 likewise declares about David’s sin with Bathsheba, “But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” While it true that David was thoroughly forgiven of his sin of adultery and complicity in murder (see Psalms 32 and 51), there were consequences to his sin that could not be halted, for they followed as inexorably as day follows night. To put it in another way, just because God knows that a mugger will accept him as Savior a number of years after a mugging, God does not, thereby, turn the molecular structure of the bat used in the mugging, and which is now descending on the head of an innocent victim, into limp spaghetti; it leaves permanent damage on the skull of its poor unsuspecting target. The case of David and Bathsheba is similar: the consequences of sin are as real as the creation of a new life that comes out of a sexual affair. This in turn gave occasion for the enemies of God to vaunt themselves and demonstrate even further contempt for God, his people, and their alleged different style of life. It was for this reason that God brought immediate judgment on David: “the son born to [him would] die.”


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do infants deserve hell since they are born in a sinful nature?’ Ultima4257 #1, available at: (accessed 22 September 2012).

[2] Ibid., Elman #2.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #14.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


Whytehouse designs

Paul on eternal punishment



By Spencer D Gear

It is not uncommon to hear statements from uninformed or agenda—promoting ‘Christians’ that the apostle Paul did not preach on eternal punishment or hell? Here are a few examples:

  • ‘It’s an overstatement to say that the christian church has been preaching the doctrine of hell for two millennia. Paul, for one, did not preach it’ (holo).[1]
  • ‘Why not enjoy the true freedom of believing the Scriptures over traditional teaching? Why not follow Paul in a pure Grace Gospel that has no place for, nor need of a religious hell?’[2]
  • ‘This is a very curious thing. Paul, the man specifically commissioned to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, who is universally credited as the most important figure ever to interpret and expound on the gospel, never says a thing about Ghenna or Hades’.[3]

My response to ‘holo’[4]

There is little need for Paul to write on hell as he has given us enough on the “wrath of God’”. The message on hell comes from others, including Jesus. However, what Paul did write on this topic agrees with the Gospels and the Book of Revelation. Pauline verses that demonstrate the wrath of God against unbelievers include:

Romans 1:18;

Ephesians 5:6;

Colossians 3:6.

James Rosscup wrote in ‘Paul’s Concept of Eternal Punishment’,

James E. Rosscup
Professor of Bible Exposition

Paul did not deal in as much detail with eternal punishment as did Jesus in the gospels and John in Revelation, but what he did write matches with their fuller descriptions in many points. This is to be expected because of Paul’s strong commitment to Jesus Christ. In Rom 2:6-10 he wrote about God’s anger in punishing the lost and the anguish they will suffer as a result. In Rom 9:22-23 he spoke of vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, a destruction that consists of an ongoing grief brought on as a consequence of God’s wrath. Second Thess 1:8-9 is a third passage that reflects his teaching on eternal punishment. There eternal destruction represents a different Greek expression, one that depicts a ruin that lost people continue to suffer forever as they are denied opportunity to be with Christ. Paul’s failure to use a number of other words in expressions that could have expressed annihilation of the unsaved is further indication of his harmony with Jesus and John in teaching an unending punishment that the unsaved will consciously experience.

Holo has a presuppositional agenda and he doesn’t want the teaching on eternal punishment to be in the NT. It is there and that’s an embarrassment to him. So what does he do? He attempts to deny that Paul taught it. But he is wrong. Paul supports Jesus in the teaching on eternal punishment.

Holo has four major issues that come out in some of his posts, including these:

(1) He does not know his Bible very well, including the Pauline epistles;

(2) He has a low view of the Scripture when he uses his improper interpretation of the Pauline epistles to arrive at a false conclusion about Paul not teaching on hell.

(3) He engages in a hermeneutic of eisegesis. He imposes his will on the texts instead of letting the texts speak for themselves (exegesis).

(4) We gain a meaning of what happens at death for believers and unbelievers from the totality of Scripture, not only from the Pauline epistles. Even if Paul’s epistles said nothing about eternal punishment or destruction, we don’t need it as it is taught throughout OT and NT, although more specifically in the NT.

Paul on hell

For an excellent chapter on the biblical basis for hell from the Pauline epistles, see Douglas J. Moo, ‘Paul on Hell[5]. His conclusion is:

As we noted at the outset of this essay, Paul never uses the Greek words that are normally translated as “hell,” nor does he teach as explicitly about the concept of hell as do some other New Testament writers. To some extent, then, our purpose has been a negative one: to show that Paul teaches nothing to contradict the picture of hell that emerges more clearly from other portions of the New Testament. But the evidence we do have from Paul suggests that he agrees with that larger New Testament witness in portraying hell as an unending state of punishment and exclusion from the presence of the Lord. Such a fate is entirely “just,” Paul repeatedly stresses (e.g., Rom. 1:18-2:11; 2 Thess. 1:8-9), because human beings have spurned God and merited his wrath and condemnation.

Paul, therefore, presents the judgment that comes on the wicked as the necessary response of a holy and entirely just God. For Paul, the doctrine of hell is a necessary corollary of the divine nature. Negatively, Paul never in his letters explicitly uses hell as a means of stimulating unbelievers to repent. But he does—a sobering consideration!—use it as a warning to believers to stimulate us to respond to the grace of God manifested in our lives (e.g., Rom. 8:12-13).[6]

Other articles

For more of my articles on hell and eternal punishment, see:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Philosophy & Ethics, ‘Why an eternal hell?’, holo #914, 23 August 2012. Available at: (Accessed 23 August 2012).

[2] Clyde L. Pilkington Jr 2004-2007, ‘Paul’s teaching on hell’. Available at: (Accessed 23 August 2012).

[3] ‘Paul, Hell & Universalism’, Running with the Lion, available at: (Accessed 23 August 2012).

[4] OzSpen, #922, 23 August 2012. Available at: (Accessed 23 August 2012).

[5] This is an updated reference, accessed 15 December 2014. Originally, the reference was, Douglas J Moo, ‘Paul on hell’, in C W Morgan & R A Peterson, R A (eds) 2007. Hell under Fire. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, ch 4. Available at: (Accessed 23 August 2012). Portions of this book are also available through Google Books.

[6] Moo 2007:109.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 April 2018.