Category Archives: Youth

What is heresy?


By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was blogging on Christianity Board on the topic, “Heresy?” where the person asked:

“Every denomination has some teaching or doctrine that we would not agree with.
How would you explain the difference between an incorrect teaching and
a heretical teaching…?
IOW,,,when does an incorrect teaching become heretical? Thanks.”[1]

In the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – hairesis is found occasionally as meaning free choice or voluntarily (e.g. Gen 49:5; Lev 22:18).[2]

Like hairesis in Josephus, [the word] denoted in the first instance the trends and parties within Judaism. But soon, when certain minim separated themselves from the orthodox Rabbinic tradition, it came to be used only of trends within Judaism opposed by the Rabbis. . . . The term thus stigmatised certain groups as “heretical.” This sense is found in Rabbinic writings belonging to the end of the 1st and early part of 2nd century A.D. . . . At the end of the 2nd century the term acquired a new meaning, being applied not so much to the members of a sect within Judaism as to the adherents of other faiths and esp. Christians and Gnostics.[3]

New Testament and heresy

For the Christian who takes the Bible seriously, heresy is based on the Greek noun, hairesis. The Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon gives the foundational meaning as “sect, party, school” (BAG, 1957, p. 23).

It was used to describe the “party of the Sadducees” in Acts 5:17; the Pharisees in Acts 26:5 were described as “the strictest sect of our religion.” In the secular literature of the first century, it meant “heretical sect.”

In a later sense they were called “a dissension, a faction” (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20). They also were called an “opinion, dogma . . . a way of thinking” (2 Pet 2:1).

clip_image004Schlier considers heresy must be understood ‘against the Hellenistic and Jewish background. The usage in Acts corresponds exactly to that of Josephus and the earlier Rabbis [Ac 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22]. . . . In these passages the term has the neutral flavour of “school.”’[4]

Schlier concludes:

“Against this background, it is impossible to solve the problem of the derivation of the special Christian sense of heresy. . . . The separation of non-orthodox groups, the heterdox parties, came to be designated heresy. . . . The basis of the Christian concept of hairesis is to be found in the new situation created by the introduction of the Christian ekklesia. Ekklesia and hairesis are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter. This may be clearly seen in Gal 5:10 where hairesis is reckoned among “he works of the flesh, along with [sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition]. Yet neither here nor else in the NT does hairesis have a technical sense. In 1 Cor. 11:18f we see even more clearly the impossibility of hairesis within Christianity.[5]

Heresy in the early church

In the age which followed NT hairesis, it

was still understood as an eschatologically threatening magnitude essentially opposed to the ekklesia. . . . Within Christianity hairesis always denotes hostile societies and there is always consciousness of an inner relationship between heretics and the secular philosophical schools or Jewish sects . . . which they also describe by the term hairesis. What the Church usually has in view is Gnosticism. As seen by the Church, the Gnostics form schools.[6]

So anything that was taught that was contrary to that for the early church – opposing Scripture – was called heresy.

So, this gives a wide field for relevance and challenge, especially in light of how denominations add to Scripture in topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, etc.


To sum up: A heresy in today’s understanding is a sect whose way of thinking is dogma that promotes theology contrary to biblical Christianity – an heretical sect. This includes infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper as Real Presence, Covenant Theology, Once-Saved-Always-Saved, and worship of Mary.

An example would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses today who do not believe Jesus is God and they reject human beings as having an immortal soul. Mormonism fits the same category as heresy.

From a Christian perspective, Islam is heretical as it does not promote the Trinitarian God. Islam rejects Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.


(Burning of heretics during Spanish Inquisition)

Works consulted

Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich, tr. & adapt. of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th and aug edn 1957. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edn licensed to Zondervan Publishing House for sale only in the United States of America).

Schlier, Heinrich 1964. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1. Ed by Gerhard Kittel, tr & ed Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] Christianity Board, “Heresy?” November 21, 2021. Available at: (Accessed 7 February 2022).

[2] Heinrich Schlier 1964. vol. 1, hairesis, p. 181

[3] Schlier, 182.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 182-193.

[6] Ibid., 183,

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 February 2022.


The youth God squad and healing

clip_image002Courtesy The Australian

By Spencer D Gear

The Australian newspaper (story from the Sunday Mail) reported on ‘Teen God squad Culture Shifters’ miracle cure claims’ (April 15, 2012). The account began:

CHILDREN as young as 13 claim they have instantly healed hundreds of people using the miracle powers of Jesus on Queensland streets.

The Pentecostal group Culture Shifters in Queensland says it has healed people suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis and is developing a large youth following.

Children from the group have been approaching people at random on the street, prompting alarm from parents and warnings from doctors for the sick to seek medical attention.

“Anyone who has a medical condition should always seek advice from their doctor,” Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Richard Kidd said.

Leaders, aged in their teens and 20s, claim they have also healed an entire football team’s injuries, given hearing to a deaf woman and brought sight to a girl’s blind eye.

What is the verification for this kind of healing? Have the football team’s injuries been checked by a medical practitioner to confirm that the healings are legitimate? What about the healed deaf woman and healed blind eye? How do we know they are valid healings?

The story went on to say that this 160-member group of Culture Shifters is from Christian Outreach Centre, Bridgeman Downs (a northern Brisbane suburb) and is led by Grant Shaw, 27, and his wife, Emma, 23.

It claimed these Culture Shifters were even talking to teens in busy places like the Chermside Shopping Centre.

Some live action

If you want to see these people in action, live, see the report on Today Tonight, ‘Teenage God squad’ (Yahoo!7 News). Viewing these images caused me some concern. It is typical of some of the scenes I have seen in Pentecostal and charismatic churches with people falling and lying spread out on the floor after ‘falling under the Spirit’.

My concerns

Here are some of my concerns:

  1. It is rare for the mass media to report in an accurate and sympathetic manner in most ordinary circumstances with the church. Viewing something as extreme as this is hardly going to attract balanced journalism, in my view.
  2. The mass media can give Christianity a bashing on too many occasions. See ‘Gay rights protest outside Court’s church’; ‘Sometimes. love, even if a gift from Jesus, is not good enough’; ‘Sunday nights with John Cleary: Bishop Shelby Spong’. Therefore, with the Culture Shifters (Teen God squad) there could be a possibility that the media have taken a true event and given some media spin to make it sound like the deluded fanatics are involved in this event.
  3. From the news item and the TV program, there is no way to know if the media are reporting accurately. However,
  4. As a former Assemblies of God minister and Bible college teacher, I can say that I’ve seen some fruit-loopy things happen in the name of being ‘slain in the Spirit’. I have to admit that some of what I’ve seen could have involved another spirit.
  5. I have known a very few people associated with various Christian Outreach Centres and have found them to be reasonable, committed evangelical Christians who love the Lord and are available for the Lord’s ministry through the gifts of the Spirit. They are sane people whose relationship with Jesus is sound.
  6. By the very nature of Pentecostal-charismatic churches, we can expect to see some extreme behaviour – depending on the extent to which the pastors and elders maintain the biblical requirement, ‘But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (1 Cor. 14:40 NIV). We have seen out-there behaviour associated with the alleged Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Pensacola Outpouring.
  7. However, charismatic manifestations have extended to other churches. An example locally to me is Burpengary Baptist Church (northern Brisbane).

What we need



Part of the problem, as I see it, is the need for verification of what they are doing in a very secular Australia. I do not find anywhere in Scripture where God promises physical healing to all who are prayed for. The secular media love to report failures. Is doing this on the streets risky and could it give false hope? Also, Today Tonight reported that it has not seen any certificates to verify the healings. This is a valid request.

I believe in the God who can heal, but we must never order him when to do this. He’s the sovereign Lord. What do secular people think when they are prayed for and nothing happens?

This raises another issue. It seems to me that the Scriptures teach that the ministry of healing is to be within the church and not taking it to the secular mainstream. The gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30) and praying for the sick, anointing with oil (James 5:14) are church ministries within the church. There are good reasons why the Lord has made it this way in a pastoral, caring environment where there also is further support.

Was healing ever an evangelistic tool after the Lord’s resurrection? I know some will turn to Mark 16:15-18 where proclaiming the Gospel is associated with ‘these signs will accompany those who believe’, including laying hands on the sick and they will recover (v. 18). However, Mark 16:9-20 is not in the earliest Greek manuscripts and some other early Greek NT witnesses that we have. It could have been an insertion that was not in the original documents. However, it does seem to indicate that this was an example of the continuing ministry of the church after the death of the apostles.

To address this textual issue, I commend, ‘Irony in the end: A textual and literary analysis of Mark 16:8’.




The gifts of the Spirit do continue into the 21st century. See my articles,

We need to take seriously the exhortation of Scripture to ‘weigh carefully’ the content of the gifts of the Spirit. The ‘weigh carefully’ message was particularly related to the gift of prophecy. See my article, ‘1 Corinthians 14:29: Weigh carefully’.

There is no way to know if the healing ministry of the teen God squad of the Culture Shifters is genuine without verification of the reality of healings. There is a danger that a wrong emphasis can be given to secular people when there is prayer for healing and no healing takes place. God’s gift of healing is sovereign and according to his will. See my article, ‘Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

Care must be taken to avoid Pentecostal extremes. However, the mass media are not likely to deliver a balanced view of what is happening. Extreme behaviour will attract the media, but balanced treatment can’t be expected from the secular journalists. They have a different agenda. When God heals, it is designed to bring glory and attraction to the Lord.

‘But all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40 ESV)


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.


Warning signs of suicide


For 24 hour telephone crisis support, phone Lifeline: 13 11 14

By Spencer D Gear

In my 34 years as a youth, family and general counsellor (retired in January 2011), among the most difficult counselling sessions I have had, have been with those parents who have come for counselling after the suicide death of one of their children. Before my retirement, I worked 17 years straight in youth, family, gambling and marriage counselling.

I urge all to do everything they can to recognise the warning signs of suicide and to intervene before this tragedy happens. This is one of the few times I broke confidentiality in counselling, when someone told me that there was a person thinking of suicide. I began all new counselling sessions with this statement: “What you say here, stays here. However, you need to know that I will break confidentiality under two circumstances: (1) If a person is speaking of suicide, and (2) If children are being abused or neglected. In my many years of professional counselling for counselling agencies, I had to do this on a few occasions.

So, what are the warning signs for someone thinking of suicide?

The San Francisco Suicide Prevention project has given these helpful warning signs of suicide risk.


Warning Signs

Recognize the Signs Of Possible Suicide Risk

While some people suicide without warning, here are some warning signs a person may be at risk of suicide.

  • Talk about Killing Themselves:
    This might seem obvious, but is often ignored. Some people that are considering suicide may talk about suicide or the methods they might use to kill themselves just before their attempt.
  • Talking About Dying:
    People who are suicidal often talk about death a lot. This could also come out in art, journaling or other ways of expression.
  • Saying Goodbye:
    People who are suicidal often say good-bye in strange ways. They might talk in terms of “not seeing me around anymore” or “no one would notice if I never came back”. They are hinting in the hopes that someone will stop them.
  • Tying Up Loose Ends:
    Suicidal people often give away personal possessions, make arrangements for the care of children or pets, make wills, or other acts as if they are preparing to end their life.
  • Become Violent:
    Some people become very violent or aggressive when they are suicidal. Watch for a sudden change in aggression.
  • Sudden Isolation:
    People who are considering suicide may suddenly isolate themselves from friends and family. When no one investigates, it can reinforce the idea that no one cares.
  • Sudden Changes in Behavior:
    When people are suicidal they may have sudden behavior changes in eating, sleeping, or activities previously enjoyed.
  • Lack of Sleep:
    Your brain needs sleep to function properly. People feeling depressed or in crisis, who are also not sleeping, are at increased risk.
  • Drug and Alcohol Use:
    Substance use and depression are a nasty combination. Many substances like alcohol are depressants and will make a person feel much worse. Sometimes people try to self-medicate their depression away through substance use, but that won’t work. Also drugs and alcohol can lower inhibitions, increasing the risk of sudden violence.
  • Fear of Losing Control:
    People who are suicidal can talk about their fears of losing control of their bodies or emotions.
  • Very Low Self Esteem:
    People feeling suicidal express being a burden, feeling worthless, having shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”.
  • No Hope for the Future:
    People feeling suicidal often say that things will never get better and that nothing will ever change.

The risk of suicide may sometimes be higher for a very depressed person once the depression lifts because the person may have more energy to carry out their planned act.

Australian Suicide Prevention

These are the warning signs provided by this organisation:

Warning signs

The vast majority of people who commit suicide have indeed talked to somebody about it beforehand.   Also, it is generally agreed that being forced to promise you will not tell other people what you have been told in confidence does not apply when somebody’s life is in danger, so do talk to a professional if you are in this dilemma about a friend.

Also, the statement made by some people that those who talk about suicide would never do it is totally wrong!

Here are some warning signs:


Talking, writing or joking about death:

This usually indicates hopelessness and perhaps significant depression, both of which are important warning signs.  Similarly, even if not talking about death, people who talk about life being pointless and having no meaning are also at risk.

Talking about people who have died from suicide:

Every suicide brings with it the risk of “copycat suicide” by those close to the person who died, especially other family members (please keep this in mind if you are thinking of suicide!).   Copycat suicide is particularly a risk when a famous person dies from suicide, especially if media reports describe how the suicide was carried out, or make the action seem justified or glamorous.  Unfortunately, every suicide really means the illness won again.

Withdrawing or avoiding contact with other people:

It is not normal for someone who was usually friendly to avoid contact with family and/or friends.   Not making or responding to telephone calls or SMS messages indicate something is wrong.   This is usually a significant sign of depression

Giving away personal possessions:

Why would anyone, especially a person still leading an active life, suddenly give away possessions they used and enjoyed?    This is considered a particularly significant warning sign in young people.

Saying goodbye in a meaningful way:

This may be significant, especially if the person’s behavior has changed in other ways.

Making arrangements for after their death:

Pointing out where important papers or belongings are kept, or suddenly making a Will with unusual haste may be significant.

Risk-taking behaviour:

Unusual behaviour for the person, such as driving dangerously, or generally behaving recklessly, may be significant.

Deliberate self-harm or a suicide attempt:

These events indicate great distress and suffering, and there is very risk the person will repeat the situation (perhaps with a more drastic outcome), if the stresses affecting them have not changed or if the illness affecting them has not been treated.   Statistically, suicide risk is highest in those who have already attempted suicide.

Discharge from a psychiatric unit:

The early days and weeks following discharge from a hospital for treatment of a psychiatric problem, are known to be one of the highest risk periods for suicide.

Evidence of depression:

Feeling hopeless about the future and having trouble sleeping, are considered the most serious indicators of suicide risk in someone who has depression.   For more information on depression, go to at the bottom of the Home Page of this site.

Sudden calmness:

A person who has been very distressed, especially if they have had thoughts of suicide, may suddenly become calm and appear resigned to accepting whatever is happening.  This may mean the person involved has decided to stop resisting the urge to suicide, and is calmly accepting that suicide is inevitable, and no longer able to be resisted.

“Terminal malignant alienation”:

This jargon phrase refers to a distressed person alienating all of those around them, often appearing extremely angry and grossly unappreciative of the help they are getting.   While the normal human temptation in response to such behaviour is to lash out verbally in return, this may be the last ling the distressed person has with support.  Instead, try to see their unreasonable behaviour and unreasonable irritability as symptoms of what they are suffering, not as the personality of the person involved.   Be patient, and the normal person will eventually return, feel bad about the irritability and actually be very appreciative of what you have done!

Life is precious. I urge you to do all you can to take action to prevent suicide.

For crisis telephone support, phone Lifeline’s 24-hour-a-day  crisis number: 13 11 14.


Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.


Whytehouse Designs

Kids killing kids! Why?

File:Chuck Colson.jpg

(Chuck Colson, Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear

  • Chuck Colson’s answer (in part) to why kids kill kids is: “The human heart is desperately wicked.”
  • Youth for Christ (Melbourne, Aust., in part): It “is far more than a simple reflection of our inherent violent nature.  What rubbish!”
  • Spencer Gear’s response: “Where is Youth for Christ going?”

The Chuck Colson article by this name appeared in New Life newspaper on July 4, 2002, p. 5.  The Breakpoint article for June 18, 2002, “Kids killing kids: Lessons in worldview“. This is the Chuck Colson article that received the criticism from Youth for Christ, Melbourne, Australia (“Kids that kill” — see below).
Part of Colson’s answer was that

  •  “Many continue to insist that violence is caused by some social or economic factors.”
  • “There is a place where the secular worldview and the biblical worldview come into sharp conflict.”
  • “The “biblical worldview includes, original sin, the fall, and human depravity.”
  • “The human heart is desperately wicked, the scripture tells us.  So when we see kids killing kids, we have to point out the gruesome truth: Sin is in us.  Because if a society fails to understand this, it simply perpetuates the horrors.”

Kids that kill: Youth for Christ response to Chuck Colson

by Youth for Christ, Melbourne, Australia [1]

The Youth for Christ letter is as follows:

Upon reading Breakpoint with Chuck Colson in the 4 July [2002] edition [of New Life], I was horrified at the way he used the tragic loss of life to do little more than reflect “human depravity”.  In his brief article, he failed to see the responsibility each of us has to interact with our young people in ways which enhance their experience rather than cause them to react this way.

[Note: This “Viewpoint” letter by Youth for Christ (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), “Kids that kill” (New Life, 18 July 2002, p. 4), is in response to Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint article, “Kids killing kids: Lessons in worldview“.]

This complex issue of violence amongst our young people is far more than a simple reflection of our inherent violent nature.  What rubbish!  If sin is in us and this is the reason our young people hurt themselves, each other and the communities they live in, we should all at Youth for Christ pack our bags and go home!

We have never before lived in an age when we have so much information about our young people and their behaviours and it is a well-known fact that young people’s behaviour is directly related to their experience of life.

If a young person has experienced some abuse or harm in their life, then the inclination for them to follow in this path and harm themselves and/or others is greatly enhanced.  (However, Christ’s love, power and the work of caring adults can reverse and heal the young person’s experience.)

When the Bellingham minister in Colson’s article states that the young person (the alleged killer) wasn’t receiving enough support, Colson responds by labelling him as “someone who’s lost all sense of an individual’s responsibility for his own behaviour”.  What is most appalling is that Colson offers no way of speaking into this situation.

Perhaps the greatest example of young people hurting young people is the school shootings which have occurred across the globe.  The recent school shooting in Germany left the country reeling in shock.  Worse than the Columbine tragedy of Denver where 17 people lost their lives.

For those of us working with young people, we are deeply grieved by this tragic loss of life and search for ways of preventing this from occurring in our “lucky country”.

We can now look to substantial research for insight and find information that sits flush with the truth of the gospel.

Recently, the United states Secret Service has completed research on all of the 41 school shooters (all male) involved in 37 incidents within the US.

Their research found that there is no single “profile” for these young people.  In other words, there can be little certainty in applying any sort of formula to young people that will tell us “this young person will be a killed and this one won’t”.  (Praise God, how would you like to be labelled a killer, when you haven’t committed any crime?)

Our local experience here in Australia has shown us that to classify a young person “at risk” or “high risk” can lead to them viewing themselves as “diseased”* or needing to create crisis so that they can access the government money put aside only for those young people at the highest risk

The Victorian Government is currently in the process of moving away from this problem orientated model to looking at young people more holistically.  They are developing a view that is not good enough to simply “treat” the young person.  They are slowly discovering the principles of community.

That said, there are two elements these young people who harmed others all had in common — depression and bullying.

None of us should be surprised to find that our most violent young people are those who have been deeply wounded by the words and actions of others.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue”, Proverbs 18:21.

Just as the scriptures talk about words being powerful, so this is apparent here.  As youth workers, leaders and community members, we are entrusted with the responsibility  to role model respect and love for each other.  Cutting remarks, especially in “jest”, are not tolerable in our interactions with young people or each other.

“Someday people are going to regret teasing me” said one young shooter.  “Reject, retard, loser,” said another**.

We cannot look to mental health issues to let us “off the hook” as a society and just call this small group of young people “mad”.

The research clearly stated that “they don’t snap”.  These attacks were neither spontaneous nor impulsive.  In almost all cases, the attacker developed the idea in advance, half considered the attack for at least two weeks and had a plan for at least two days.

So why are our young people hurting themselves and others?

Colson would say, because they are inherently evil, but our current knowledge and experience combined with God’s word tells us they do so because of their exposure to adults and peers who lack the ability to interact with them in meaningful and supportive ways.

There will always be the sinful nature, but we cannot allow our biblical knowledge to prevent us from acting to preserve and protect our young men and women.

I image (sic) the Bellingham minister was correct when he stated that the young person was not receiving enough support.

Perhaps if Christians in the community had taken note and acted on their faith this tragedy could have been avoided.

Listening tips can help boys to open up.

  •  Honour a boy’s need for “timed silence”, to choose when to talk.
  •   Find a safe place, a “shame-free zone”.
  •   Connect through activity or play.  Many boys express their deepest experience through “action talk”.
  •   Avoid teasing and shaming.
  •   Make brief statements and wait; do not lecture.
  •   Share your own experiences (if relevant).  It lets your boy know he is not alone with issues.
  •   Be quiet and really listen with complete attention.
  •   Convey how much you admire and care about and love the boy.
  •   Give boys regular, undivided attention and listening space.
  •   Don’t prematurely push him to be “independent”.
  •   Encourage the expression of a full and wide range of emotions.
  •   Let him know that real men do cry and speak.
  •   Express your love as openly as you might with a girl.
  •   When you see aggressive or angry behaviour, look for the pain behind it.***

At the time I wrote this article, Aus Care had replaced the Youth Guidance department in Youth for Christ Australia and was moving through a phase of redevelopment under the leadership of Mirian Meade. At that time, there were over 30 programs running in Youth for Christ centres around Australia that responded to the needs of vulnerable and hurting young people.  For more current information contact Youth for Christ, Australia, at the email: [email protected].

Where is Youth for Christ going?

The following letter was published in the “Viewpoint” section of New Life (Australia’s weekly Christian newspaper) on 8 August 2002, p. 4, under the heading, “Where is YFC going?”  [This is the New Life email contact]   My “Viewpoint” letter here, was in response to the “Viewpoint” letter by Youth for Christ (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), “Kids that kill” (New Life, 18 July 2002, p. 4).  The YFC letter is included above.

My letter reads:

Human depravity was debunked and psychological answers were elevated to messiah status by Youth for Christ (YFC) in its response to Chuck Colson’s view on what causes violence (“Kids that kill,” New Life 18 July, p. 4).

The YFC reply confirmed the very point that Chuck was making (“Kids killing kids: Lessons in worldview, New Life 4 July, 2002 p. 5). He called upon all Christians to examine all of life from a biblical worldview instead of a secular perspective.

This YFC article showed what happens when we put Scripture on the back burner and look to the secular world for answers to the core problems of youth violence (and so many other social ills). What did this YFC article do?

  • It brushed aside the core problem in all of us, “human depravity.” But Colson spoke about “original sin, the fall, and human depravity” that caused kids to be killing kids. This is “the gruesome truth: Sin is in us” (Colson). This hits the mark, biblically, but YFC seeks supposed better answers elsewhere!

Violence amongst young people is “far more than a simple reflection of our inherent violent nature. What rubbish!” (YFC). That was not Jesus’ view! According to Mark 7:21-23 (ESV), “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The YFC that I knew and supported in my youth and early adulthood knew that sin was the core problem and hence proclaimed the Gospel of Christ’s redemption with assurance and confidence. What has caused this shift?

When biblical truth is not the foundation and Scripture is not our sole authority, we are left in a sea of human opinions. That’s what was conveyed to me in the YFC response.

“It is a well-known fact that young people’s behaviour is directly related to their experience of life” (YFC). Who said so? I didn’t see any “facts” presented that confirmed this assertion. I do not doubt that abuse and violence in the home and elsewhere influence young people’s responses. However such evil actions in a youth’s experience of life, also demonstrates the original sin that Chuck was addressing.

“We can now look to substantial research for insight and find information that sits flush with the truth of the gospel” (YFC). I didn’t read any examples in the article of this “substantial research.” Human nature and the human mind are difficult areas to quantify empirically. But this statement did tell me of the drift of YFC in its youth work.

The YFC article asked a penetrating and excellent question: “So why are our young people hurting themselves and others?” The answer: Not Colson’s emphasis on what is “inherently evil.” The answer lies in an amalgamation of “current knowledge and experience combined with God’s word” that “tells us they do so because of their exposure to adults and peers who lack the ability to interact with them in meaningful and supportive ways.” I found it disturbing that an appeal was made to “God’s word” to give us this information, but not one biblical reference was given in support of this sociological view.

What on earth has happened to the Christ-centred Gospel-proclaiming perspective of YFC that causes this assessment: “There will always be the sinful nature, but we cannot allow our biblical knowledge to prevent us from acting to preserve and protect our young men and women.” Again, the biblical view of the cause of human problems (sinful nature) is used as a whipping post to “prevent us” from becoming involved with the murderous, rebellious, out-of-control youth of our society.

The Good News and active involvement with others go hand in hand, but Chuck Colson’s call to understand kids killing kids from original sin is right on target biblically. I don’t always agree with Chuck, but I am convinced he got it correct this time.

I am not an armchair theoretician. I do not write as an uninvolved interpreter. As the coordinator of a very busy youth counselling service that deals with at least 90% secular clientele, my counsellors and I are up to our arm-pits in dealing with the consequences of sinful life styles of out-of-control, abused and alienated youth and their sometimes abusive and kind parents.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23) is still the best solution to the youth crisis in our society. It would be remiss of me if I did not call upon evangelical Christians to get involved in working with difficult youth. The need is urgent!

Spencer Gear,
Bundaberg, Qld


* Trotter, Chris.  “Working with Involuntary Clients”.  Australia: Allen and Unwin, 1999.
** Much information for this article was taken from the secret service website:
***  “Tips” by Bill Dedman.


Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.



“The Meaning of Youth Suicide” [1]

By Spencer D Gear


Presley, mutton-chopped and fuller-faced, sings into a handheld microphone. A golden lei is draped around his neck, and he wears a high-collared white jumpsuit resplendent with red, blue, and gold bangles.

(Elvis Presley, courtesy Wikipedia)

Elvis Presley was being interviewed again by the same person who interviewed him as he began his musical career.

The interviewer asked:

“Elvis, when you started out in music, you said you wanted to be rich; you wanted to be famous; and you wanted to be happy. You sure are rich, and you’re very, very famous. Are you happy, Elvis?

Elvis replied:

No, I’m not happy. I’m as lonely as hell” and six weeks later he was dead.[3]

After he had won the Wimbledon tennis championship for the second time, Boris Becker surprised many when he admitted his deep struggle with suicide. [4]

These examples point to a core of the youth suicide problem that is rarely discussed. After 24 years as a marriage and family counsellor and the last 5 years specialising in youth counselling, I am seeing an increasing disillusionment among our youth.

There may be multiple causes of youth suicide and many solutions. Most often we try to address suicide in “personal, social and economic terms: unemployment, homelessness, family conflict and breakdown, educational pressures, problems in personal relationships, child abuse, psychiatric illness, drug addiction.” [5] Youth suicide is one of the hottest topics in the media at the moment.

I will continue to help people identify suicide symptoms and to reach out to try to prevent suicide. But there is a deepening crisis in our culture that will not be solved by governments providing more money for health, even mental health, and welfare services.

    Since 1991 [to 1997], more Australians have died by suicide than by motor vehicle accidents. [Over 2,000] deaths per year in Australia, or approximately 1.9 percent of all deaths are by suicide. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that an additional 60-100 attempts are made. For young males aged 15-24, 25 percent of all recorded deaths are by suicide: three times the rate of thirty years ago.
        No social class or age group is exempt from instances of suicide.  The rate for males in rural areas is known to be higher than for males in urban areas.  Suicide rates for males over the age of 75 are increasing. . .[6], [7]

As an aside, Family World Newsreported that “at least 21 doctors have committed suicide in NSW in the past five years” (prior to 1997). [8]

I believe that science writer and social analyst, Richard Eckersley, is getting to the core of the matter when he says that “modern western culture arguably fails to meet the most fundamental requirements of any culture, to provide a sense of belonging and purpose, and so a sense of meaning and self-worth, and a moral framework to guide our conduct.” [9] Eckersley “has studied the attitudes of children and teenagers for over a decade.” [10]

The youth suicide epidemic, as I see it, is being propelled by three factors. First, many young people are experiencing a


1. Brendan Nelson

In an excellent letter to the Weekend Australian, in January 1997 [11], former Australian Medical Association National President, Dr Brendan Nelson, who became the Federal Member for Bradfield in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, said that “the thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people… The price of our shallowness is being paid for by our children.”

2. John Smith

John Smith of Care and Communication Concern, who has spent most of his adult life working with street kids, especially in Melbourne, Australia, is a straight shooter in nailing the problem:

    Most sociologists in our society today are radically secular, so therefore anything that even begins to speak to the spiritual nature of the human being is

ipso facto

    non-existent. Therefore one must find a cause which is social, socio-economic, political, structural and all the rest. On the issue of youth suicide, for example, the politicians say that if the Government doesn’t fix up unemployment we are going to see much more suicide.

If you don’t accept that suicide is a mark of a loss of any sense and meaning of purpose and soul, which is all a bit ephemeral for academics that have to be able to show figures for causal relationships, then you have to invent something and you target unemployment, and if that doesn’t work you target something else, and if that doesn’t work you keep playing the game. [12] 3. How do kids see it?In 1990, the Sydney Morning Herald [13] surveyed one-hundred-and-twenty (120) 11-year-old Sydney school children and asked them to write down their perceptions of Australia’s future and how they thought Australia would fare in the next millennium. The Herald chose bright, normal, healthy youngsters, young enough, they thought, to be untarnished by cynicism. Here’s how the Heraldviewed the results:

Yes, we expected a little economic pessimism, some gloom about the environment and job prospects and perhaps even a continuing fear of nuclear war. But nothing prepared us for the

depth of the children’s fear of the future, their despair about the state of our planet and their bleak predictions for their own nation, Australia. [14]

In other cultures, children aged 11 would be told stories that would help them construct a coherent world view, a cultural framework, to help them understand who they are, values, what to believe in–a context that would facilitate a confident outlook on life. Not so here. I believe we are in a cultural environment where a generation of young people is suffering an upheaval of values that has catastrophic implications.

In a 1992 Ph.D. thesis that surveyed 650 NSW upper secondary school students, it was found that “many respondents experienced `a strong sense of negativity, helplessness, despondency and even anguish’ about the anticipated problems facing our society and the world. They expressed concerns and feelings about relentless, mechanistic changes in which human feelings, self-esteem and aspirations are too readily sacrificed.” [15]

Another survey of Sydney teenagers, conducted by Loud Advertising, found that the “average adolescent thought the world was `going down the gurgler.'” [16]

Australia’s ABC-TV’s youth program, “Attitude: showed 57% of 14-[to]-24-year-olds felt their world was worse than the world their parents grew up in, less than a quarter believed their world was better.” [17]

4. M. Berman

American historian and social critic, M. Berman, studied the problems that characterise life in Western industrial nation. This researcher came to the situation with the view that the problems were social and economic, but became convinced by the evidence that a whole dimension had been overlooked — the “fundamental issues facing any civilization or any individual are issues of meaning.” [18]  Berman concludes:

I began to feel… that something was wrong with our entire world view. Western life seems to be drifting toward increasing entropy, economic and technological chaos, ecological disaster, and ultimately psychic dismemberment and disintegration. . .Historically, our loss of meaning in an ultimate philosophical or religious sense–the split between fact and value which characterizes the modern age–is rooted in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.” [19]

5. Richard Eckersley points to the Public Health Movement, saying:

Once again the convulsions of rapid societal change are seriously harming human health and well-being, only this time the hazards are not infectious diseases such as cholera and typhus, but              profound social and spiritual alienation. [20]

He believes that you in the health professions “have a crucial role in changing the situation. They are in the front line of the issues [he has] discussed.” I agree. He states that

It is imperative they recognize the problems as more than problems of individual pathology or dysfunction and do more to confront the broader social, cultural and political implication of the deterioration in our well-being. [21] 6. Children in the Macquarie Primary School in Canberra published a collection of student poetry and other works in 1992, called The Spinning Tree. [22] The title poem reads:

We are based upon one tree, all my friends and me. The wind is blowing strong. I’m not lasting long, the dying tree is red, it’s spinning in my head. Time is going fast. I know I’ll never last.Another poem is called ZED St:

On the side of Z street, grey mould buildings on fire, children left on the bitumen cold, the trees as naked as a flower stripped of its beauty. Everyone is dying, everything is dying.On Z street, there’s a crystal ball in a fortune teller’s hold.

These primary school children are expressing their concern about their world. It is not pretty. Young people are fighting with meaning in our culture.

From my counselling experience in Bundaberg and District, I must agree with Brendan Nelson when he says “the price of our shallowness is being paid by our children… Life is one of despair, hopelessness and aggression directed against themselves and others.” [23]

Hugh Mackay, Australian social critiic, writes that “young people believe moral values are declining and, unless they are religious, find it hard to identify an accepted moral code within society.” [24]

My anecdotal evidence in my youth and family counselling office joins with the 1992 research by Zika and Chamberlain that shows the clear link between meaning in life and psychological well-being. [25]  I believe the lack of meaning in our Western culture, although difficult to quantify, is a core factor in youth suicide. Some youth are wanting to escape reality into altered states of consciousness, hence the increasing use of illicit drugs and alternative therapies of the New Age Movement.

I want to allow the parents of a young man who committed suicide to speak. Jon and Sue Stebbins of “The Compassionate Friends,” a self-help group for parents and siblings of young people who died, had an 18-year-old son who committed suicide. They say he was

A delightful, warm, intelligent and gentle person, sensitive and caring of others. He showed an intense awareness of issues and imperfections in the world; a keen sense of right and wrong; an aversion to violence, war, etc.; an awareness of environmental issues and a love of nature and animals; and a strong creative streak.The Stebbins note that “almost all parents of suicides describe similar characteristics and qualities in their children.” Of their own son, they note his “deep unhappiness and his lack of confidence about himself and a future.” A relationship break-up preceded his death by a few weeks. Their strongest feeling about their son’s life was “a deep concern for his inability to find a positive direction in life.” [26]

In the midst of this 300% increase in youth suicide in the last 30 years” [27], we have this promotion of euthanasia. As Brendan Nelson put it, “At the same time, well-meaning but misguided advocates of euthanasia project a subliminal message that death is a legitimate solution to what we think are insurmountable problems.” [28]

The medical profession, counsellors and ministers see this meaninglessness and despair more vividly than most. Chuck Colson says “the culture in which we live is nearly lost.” [29]

Many of our young people are where the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes was: “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” [30] Youth suicide is an example of cultural cancer in Western society.

Where does this lack of meaning lead to for our young people?

Second, youth suicide, I believe, is being propelled by:


I see it in youth who say, “Mum and Dad have split; my girlfriend just dumped me. My mates are never there when I want them. Who can I depend on?” I had a 15-year-old say to me the other day: “Mum sucks, school sucks, life sucks.”

Dr. Brendan Nelson saw it when he wrote, “We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other then themselves to believe in.” [31]

I agree with Eckersley. We are

Increasingly leaving people with only their own personal resources to deal with life. These flaws mean young people who are establishing their identities, values and beliefs, lack a social and spiritual context, a set of clear reference points, to help them make sense of life and their place in the world. They have no ideal to believe in, nothing to convince them to subordinate their own personal interests to a higher common goal. Our Culture offers little beyond self-interest to believe in and live for

. For most people and for societies that is not enough. [32]In the McCann-Erickson report of 1994 on 18-to 29-year olds, one young man, Paul, spoke for his generation when he said that “they have the belief that their actions will not change things.” [33]

Let me summarise. I believe this youth suicide pandemic has at its core, a lack of meaning or purpose for the young. This forces them back on themselves as the only reliable ones to believe in.

A third contributing factor is


Brendan Nelson says that “the mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago — `God, king and country’ — has been systematically dismantled… In recent years, it has become fashionable to marginalise churches, demean the importance of parenting, push kids to the zeniths of educational achievement and discount voluntary work as the domain of the `do gooder.'” [34]

Sydney psychiatrist, Dr Jean Lennane, in a penetrating article in The Weekend Australian, in January 1997, wrote that during the 1970s and 1980s “there has been a marked decline in formal religious observance and the support and comfort it previously offered.” This has coincided with a decline in the “ideals of public service and helping others and the flowering of `greed is good.'” [35]

There is moral confusion and moral doubt amongst the young. [36] What kind of framework for moral values does the humanistic ethic give? I sat in a group that was formulating what became the Human Relationships Education program in the state school system in Queensland in the late 1980s. When I asked what value system would be promoted, the leader said, “I must do what’s right for me.”

Yet, when youth want to shoot up illicit drugs, sexually abuse others, attempt suicide, we want to oppose such. However, what youth want to do is logically consistent with humanistic ethics. The problem is with the basis of such values. I well remember having to deal with a 14 year old who had sexually abused his 11- and 7-year-old sisters. He saw nothing wrong with it. And there isn’t if we follow humanistic ethics.

Solid values are being dismantled.


Brendan Nelson says, “Only a vacuum.” What would you expect under what Nelson calls, “the incessant materialist imagery of BMWs, mobile phones and fashionable clothing”? [37] Blaise Pascal associated the vacuum with content when he wrote, “There is a Godshaped vacuum in the heart of every man, and only God can fill it.” Or in the words of St Augustine, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” [38] Great thinkers have warned us through the centuries that a departure from God exposes human beings and “results in the death of meaning.” [39]

The crisis is deepening; the culture is decaying, even though it seemed gradual at first, it is now at a galloping pace. The quality of life will get worse. While our young people commit suicide in terrible proportions, the mass media seem to be giving us a deluge of sex, violence, and concocted values that push culture further into the mire.

There is such hypocrisy in our society. We have a strong anti-smoking campaign, but what about alcohol? Health ministers supporting a prescription trial of a dangerous narcotic, heroin. We oppose paedophilia, but there are few complaints about late night movies and sex, sex and more sex. What about the Channel 10 program in Australia, “Sex/Life” that left little to the imagination? I watched a little late night TV during the French Open Tennis Championships and there were the seductive ads for titillating sex contacts–phone for a sex sensation.

Look what we have done with guns following Port Arthur. The problem is not with guns, but people.

Watch popular TV shows such as “Neighbours”, “Home and Away”, “The Simpsons”, movies, etc., and see the disrespect towards one another that is modelled. Why should youth show respect for each other, parents, or anybody else when adults and others don’t do it on TV?

There’s such a lot of promotion about “safe sex”, but nowhere have I seen publicity about the failure rate of condoms. Sex is more than a physical act, but I don’t hear about that.

Then there are parents who cheat on the boss, flog his goods, cheat on taxes, take sickies when they want, but rebel when youth buck the system.

HYPOCRISY! HYPOCRISY! Our secular values are shot. Do we realise how deep in the cultural muck we really are?


Brendan Nelson, in my view, points in the right direction when he says, “Our national vision should be based on fundamental value that not only will we care for one another, but every person has a place in society and even if unemployed is expected to make a contribution… In the end it is not the economic indices… that will determine our destiny, but rather our beliefs, values and how we see ourselves in the world.” [40]

I believe we need to go further than that. Eckersley recognised it when he wrote that

The modern vision of the future is grim… This vision has emerged at a time when many people have lost a strong belief in anything that transcends the material world and that might sustain them in the face of its dangers and disappointments. [41]Young people are left with themselves. Our culture is losing belief in the Transcendent One. There is nothing left to rise above the materialistic. Western culture is now marked by “the erosion of religious and communal values and the elevation of individual, secular and material values.” [42]

Secular historians, Will and Ariel Durant, wrote: “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” [43]

I am calling for a return to the values stated at the beginning of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (9th July 1900), the Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia:

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 Consitution hereby established. [44]The Psalmist stated it this way: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9).

We have moved a long way from these foundational values. I believe the problem runs much deeper than the manifestation of youth suicide. If our culture is going to be turned around, it will mean a change of beliefs and values. I agree with Eckersley: “It will mean repudiating the moral priority given to the individual over the community; rights over responsibilities; the material over the spiritual; the present over the future; style over substance; the ephemeral over the enduring.” [45] The New Testament Book of Romans puts it this way:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. [46]As far back as 1969, Christian apologist, Francis Schaeffer, issued a solemn warning of where this was taking Western culture in his penetrating book, Death in the City. [47]

I don’t believe governments will lead the way back. It should be our spiritual leaders who are ringing the alarm bells. They seem to be strangely silent. Perhaps they are not seeing what you and I are seeing with disillusioned youth. We need “new John Bunyans to point out what occurs when [people] turn to Vanity Fair.” [48]


When Elvis Presley’s body was found the morning following his death, his half-brother told how Presley was found lying on the floor with a Bible and a book on the Shroud of Turin open beneath him. He had a longing for meaning, even beyond the grave. [49]

One of the most famous thinkers of this century must surely be philosopher and ardent atheist, Bertrand Russell. He was very wealthy, extremely successful, had many wives (9 of them, I believe). Karen Tate, his daughter from one of his unions, wrote this:

Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind and at the bottom of his heart there was an empty space that had been filled by God and he never found anything else to put in its place once he had thrown God out. [50]Ravi Zacharias was born in New Delhi, India, and is a leading lecturer and defender of the Christian faith on university campuses around the world. At one of his lectures, a woman sat in the front row taking frequent notes. Later in the week she and her family invited him to lunch at their home.

He learned of a terrible tragedy that had overtaken the family, a tragedy for which this woman could get no rest until she had some answers.

She told Ravi of her husband who was a professional man, with an exalted reputation as a pioneer in his field. His whole life exuded “contentment, success, and influence.” Then came “events of one fateful night” that she could not explain.

She heard an awful sound that woke her. Her husband was not beside her. She found him “doubled over at the kitchen table–dead–with a suicide note, “Some people die natural deaths. Others, unable to face life anymore, choose to cut it short.” Then followed a “heartfelt apology with a plea for forgiveness for this betrayal.”

Zacharias, even though he was a stranger to the family, felt “the terrible burden of this heartrending experience.” As he was told the story, the wife would say, “I cannot understand it. Why did he do it?” This was the “cry of a forsaken wife who now felt the greatest rejection of all.”

While Zacharias could not answer the “Why?” he told her, “For many in this high-paced world, despair is not a moment; it is a way of life.” [51]

For many of our youth, despair is not a moment; it is a way of life.

Extra notes:

1. The core etiology (cause) of what’s happening in our society came from Jesus Christ. He said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). But our secular society doesn’t want to hear this diagnosis because the cure is spiritual — a renewed heart and mind through an encounter with the living Christ.

2. Karl Menninger was a Freudian psychiatrist. His book, Whatever Became of Sin? gets to a fundamental issue that is ignored in our secular society.


1. The content of this paper was first given as a presentation to the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Forum on youth suicide at the Don Pancho resort, Bargara, via Bundaberg, Qld., Australia on 9 August, 1997.

3. Told by Michael Green in his address to the ARMA Conference (i.e. Anglican Renewal), Canberra, 26-30 August, 1991.

4. Alister McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t Need God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, 13, mentioned in Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, 56.

5. R. Eckersley, “Failing a generation: The impact of culture on health and well-being of youth,” Journal of Pediatric Child Health (1993) 29 Supplement 1, S16.

6. Andrew Kingsmill, “Suicide–the facts,” Family World News, July 1997, 3.

7. A graph comparing the increase in suicide when compared with deaths from motor vehicle accidents is found in ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Eckersley, 1993, S16.

10. Bill Muehlenberg, National Research Coordinator, Focus on the Family Australia, March 1997, “Submission on Suicide Prevention”, 3.

11. Letters to the editor, “Suicide the price of our shallowness,” Dr Brendan Nelson, Federal Liberal Party member for Bradfield, NSW, Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, 20.

12. Muehlenberg, 3.

13. P. Totaro, “Children of the apocalypse,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 1990, 29.

14. In Eckersley, 1993, S17, emphasis added.

15. F. Hutchinson, “Futures consciousness and the school,” Ph.D. thesis, 1992, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, in Richard Eckersley, “Values and Visions: Youth and the failure of modern Western culture,” Youth Studies Australia, Autumn 1995, 14.

16. Hutak and S. Borham, “Generation Who?” Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February, 1994, 11, in ibid.

17. AGB McNair 1993, ABC: Report on Attitudes of Youth, survey for ABC-TV’s Attitude program, in Eckersley, 1995, 14.

18. In ibid., S18.

19. M Berman, The Reenchantment of the World. Bantam Books, 1984, 1-2, in Eckersley, 1993, S. 18.

20. Eckersley, 1993, S19.

21. Ibid., S19.

22. Both of the following poems are quoted in Eckersley, 1995, 12.

23. Nelson, 1997, 20 (details above).

24. A 1989 study, in Eckersley, 1995, 16.

25. S. Zika and K. Chamberlain 1992, “On the relation between meaning in life and psychological well-being,” British Journal of Psychology, 83, 133-45, in Eckersley, 1995, 18.

26. J. & S. Stebbins, “The suicide experience: from a self-help group and bereavement perspective”, paper presented to Public Health Association of Australia National Conference, Public health significance of suicide: prevention strategies, 28 February to 1 March, 1994, in Eckersley, 1995, 20.

27. Lennane, 1997, 19.

28. Nelson, 1997, 20.

29. Charles W. Colson foreword to Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, x.

30. Ecclesiastes 2:17,

31. Nelson, 1997, 20.

32. Eckersley, 1995, 16.

33. McCann Erickson, Generation 2000, McCann Monitor, Sydney, 1994, in Eckersley, 1995, 18.

34. Nelson, 1997, 20.

35. Dr. Jean Lennane, “Youth Suicide: Why Us?” The Weekend Australian, 4-5 January 1997, 19.

36. Eckersley, 1995, 15, 16.

37. Nelson, 1997, 20.

38. In Ravi Zacharias, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism. Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1990, 89.

39. Zacharias, 1990, 80.

40. Nelson, 1997, 20.

41. Eckersley, 1995, 15.

42. Ibid., 15.

43. Will & Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968, 50-51, in Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1981, 45.

44. Geoffrey Sawer, The Australian Constitution. Canberra: An AGPS Press publication, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1988, 35.

45. Eckersley, 1995, 20.

46. Romans 1:21-23.

47. Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1969.

48. Ibid., 43.

49. Zacharias, 1994, 114.

50. Told by Michael Green in his address at the ARMA Conference (Anglican Renewal), Canberra, 26-30 August, 1991.

51. Told in Zacharias, 1994, 70-71, emphasis added.

Jesus Christ said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).


Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.


Whytehouse Designs

Sudden death of David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson Tribute

(courtesy World Challenge)

By Spencer D Gear

My friend and Christian colleague, Aeron Morgan, posted this information on his website: [1]

Today, Thursday 28 April 2011, here in Australia we have received the sad news of the sudden and tragic death of our dear Brother David Wilkerson, a beloved, humble and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. The following web-link will take you to a fuller report, put out so promptly by Charisma magazine, of the fatal accident.

This will be a tremendous shock and loss to our fellow believers at Times Square, but believe that God will graciously undertake for Pastor Carter Conlan as he now has the task of guiding the saints there through this hour of sorrow and immense loss. The added painful news is that Brother Wilkerson’s wife, Gwendolyn, was with him in the car and is in hospital with injuries which are reported to be critical.

I am sure that YOU will join the many thousands around the world in prayer for Sister Wilkerson and the family in their bereavement and that she will be fully recovered from her injuries. Pray also for the dear saints at Times Square Church, that God will comfort their saddened hearts, losing an outstanding champion for truth and holiness. We salute the memory of such a dedicated servant of Christ. We are the poorer for his passing, but we cannot question God’s goodness and wisdom, committing the things we don’t understand to HIM “who doeth all things well.” Many of us have been privileged to visit Times Square Church, tremendously impressed with what God has wrought there. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

The Pentecostal world in particular will miss such a needed voice for God in these days of compromise and worldliness, and that faithful prophetic call back to the “old paths” our brother was known for. May God visit us in this late hour prior to the coming of our Lord Jesus. David Wilkerson longed for such a move of God’s Holy Spirit, not only across his beloved America, but in the nations of our world at this troublesome time. Let’s be part of the remnant that will manifest something of the same godliness and passion as our dear brother, together bear something of the burden he shouldered for so long – for without question: IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD.

You can read further details on the Charisma magazine website, “David Wilkerson killed in car crash“. The Christian Broadcasting Network has also reported the tragedy in, “Rev. David Wilkerson killed in TX car crash”. Christianity Today reported the sad news in, “David Wilkerson killed in car crash“. Beliefnet reported that “Famed New York City street preacher, author David Wilkerson killed in car crash“.

This Associated Press (USA Today) news item, “Times Square church founder dies in Texas crash”, stated that David Wilkerson was not wearing a seat belt in the car that crashed, when the USA requires the wearing of seat belts:

Wilkerson was not wearing a seat-belt at the time of the crash, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. His wife, Gwendolyn, was also in the car and was wearing a seat-belt, Mange said. She was taken to a hospital, where she was in stable condition with cuts and bruises, Mange said.

I have a particular affinity with Teen Challenge as I was part of its training ministry in drug rehabilitation in Canberra, Australia, for a couple of years in the early 1990s and in the early 1970s I engaged in ministry from a Teen Challenge coffee shop with the needy on the streets of The Valley, Brisbane.

David Wilkerson will be remembered for his pioneering work in Christian drug rehabilitation that was described in his seminal publication, The Cross and the Switchblade. Its story became the film, The Cross and the Switchblade that starred Pat Boone as David Wilkerson.

Image may contain: one or more people, night, suit and close-up
(Courtesy David Wilkerson, Facebook)

Here is what he wrote in his very last blog, “David Wilkerson Today” of 27 April 2011, the very day he died:

To believe when all means fail is exceedingly pleasing to God and is most acceptable. Jesus said to Thomas, “You have believed because you have seen, but blessed are those that do believe and have not seen” (John 20:29).

Blessed are those who believe when there is no evidence of an answer to prayer—who trust beyond hope when all means have failed.

Someone has come to the place of hopelessness—the end of hope—the end of all means. A loved one is facing death and doctors give no hope. Death seems inevitable. Hope is gone. The miracle prayed for is not happening.

That is when Satan’s hordes come to attack your mind with fear, anger, overwhelming questions: “Where is your God now? You prayed until you had no tears left. You fasted. You stood on promises. You trusted.”

Blasphemous thoughts will be injected into your mind: “Prayer failed. Faith failed. Don’t quit on God—just do not trust him anymore. It doesn’t pay!”

Even questioning God’s existence will be injected into your mind. These have been the devices of Satan for centuries. Some of the godliest men and women who ever lived were under such demonic attacks.

To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain.”

Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world (my emphasis).

Australian Christian cultural apologist, Bill Muehlenberg, has written this fitting tribute to David Wilkerson, “David Wilkerson RIP”.

Messages from David Wilkerson

1.   A Call to Anguish, by David Wilkerson

23 August 2009

This message is a partially transcribed excerpt from an original message spoken by David Wilkerson.  The full message is titled: “A Call to Anguish.”  and can be downloaded from”

And I look at the whole religious scene today and all I see are the inventions and ministries of man and flesh.  It’s mostly powerless.  It has no impact on the world.  And I see more of the world coming into the church and impacting the church, rather than the church impacting the world.  I see the music taking over the house of God.  I see entertainment taking over the house of God.  An obsession with entertainment in God’s house.  A hatred of correction and a hatred of reproof.  Nobody wants to hear it any more.  Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God?

Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age.  You don’t hear it.  Anguish means extreme pain and distress.  The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful.  Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you.  Anguish.  Deep pain.  Deep sorrow.  The agony of God’s heart.

We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk but we’ve become so passive.  All true passion is born out of anguish.  All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish.  You search the scripture and you’ll find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation… He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His church and to His people.  And He would find a praying man and take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.  You find it in the book of Nehemiah.  Jerusalem is in ruins.  How is God going to deal with this?  How is God going to restore the ruin?  Now folks, look at me… Nehemiah was not a preacher, he was a career man.  But this was a praying man.

And God found a man who would not just have a flash of emotion.  Not just some great sudden burst of concern and then let it die.  He said: “No.  I broke down and I wept and I mourned and I fasted.  And then I began to pray night and day.  Why didn’t these other men… why didn’t they have an answer?  Why didn’t God use them in restoration?  Why didn’t they have a word?  Because there was no sign of anguish.  No weeping.  Not a word of prayer.  It’s all ruin.

Does it matter to you today? Does it matter to you at all that God’s spiritual Jerusalem, the church, is now married to the world?  That there is such a coldness sweeping the land?  Closer than that… does it matter about the Jerusalem that is in our own hearts?  The sign of ruin that’s slowly draining spiritual power and passion.  Blind to lukewarmness, blind to the mixture that’s creeping in.  That’s all the devil wants to do is to get the fight out of you and kill it.  So you won’t labor in prayers anymore, you won’t weep before God anymore.  You can sit and watch television and your family go to hell.

Let me ask  you… is what I just said convicting to you at all?  There is a great difference between anguish and concern. Concern is something that begins to interest you.  You take an interest in a project or a cause or a concern or a need.  And I want to tell you something.  I’ve learned over all my years… of 50 years of preaching.  If it is not born in anguish, if it had not been born of the Holy Spirit.  Where what you saw and heard of the ruin that drove you to your knees, took you down into a baptism of anguish where you began to pray and seek God.  I know now.  Oh my God do I know it.  Until I am in agony.  Until I have been anguished over it…  And all our projects, all our ministries, everything we do… Where are the Sunday school teachers that weep over kids they know are not hearing and are going to hell?

You see, a true prayer life begins at the place of anguish. You see, if you set your heart to pray, God’s going to come and start sharing His heart with you.  Your heart begins to cry out:  “Oh God, Your name is being blasphemed.  The Holy Spirit is being mocked.  The enemy is out trying to destroy the testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness and something has to be done.”

There is going to be no renewal, no revival, no awakening, until we are willing to let Him once again break us.  Folks, it’s getting late, and it’s getting serious.  Please don’t tell me… don’t tell me you’re  concerned when you’re spending  ours in front of internet or television.  Come on.  Lord, there are some that need to get to this alter and confess: “I am not what I was, I am not where I am supposed to be.  God I don’t have Your heart or Your burden.  I wanted it easy.  I just wanted to be happy.  But Lord, true joy comes out of anguish.”  There’s nothing of the flesh that will give you joy.  I don’t care how much money, I don’t care what kind of new house, there is absolutely nothing physical that can give you joy.  It’s only what is accomplished by the Holy Spirit when you obey and take on His heart.

Build the walls around your family. Build the walls around your own heart.  It will make you strong and impregnable against the enemy.  God, that’s what we desire.

This kind of statement gets near the heart of the passion of our late brother in Christ, David. May God so move upon us that His Holy Spirit so ignites our passion for the lost and unlovely that we will move in a ministry of compassion, but with the boldness of a Christ-infused passion.

2.   An Urgent Message

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to send out an urgent message to all on our mailing list, and to friends and to bishops we have met all over the world.


For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.

There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath. In Psalm 11 it is written,

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3).

God is judging the raging sins of America and the nations. He is destroying the secular foundations.

The prophet Jeremiah pleaded with wicked Israel, “God is fashioning a calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh, turn back each of you from your evil way, and reform your ways and deeds. But they will say, It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart” (Jeremiah 18:11-12).

In Psalm 11:6, David warns, “Upon the wicked he will rain snares (coals of fire)…fire…burning wind…will be the portion of their cup.” Why? David answered, “Because the Lord is righteous” (v. 7). This is a righteous judgment—just as in the judgments of Sodom and in Noah’s generation.

First, I give you a practical word I received for my own direction. If possible lay in store a thirty-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials. In major cities, grocery stores are emptied in an hour at the sign of an impending disaster.

As for our spiritual reaction, we have but two options. This is outlined in Psalm 11. We “flee like a bird to a mountain.” Or, as David says, “He fixed his eyes on the Lord on his throne in heaven—his eyes beholding, his eyelids testing the sons of men” (v. 4). “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1).

I will say to my soul: No need to run…no need to hide. This is God’s righteous work. I will behold our Lord on his throne, with his eye of tender, loving kindness watching over every step I take—trusting that he will deliver his people even through floods, fires, calamities, tests, trials of all kinds.

Note: I do not know when these things will come to pass, but I know it is not far off. I have unburdened my soul to you. Do with the message as you choose.

God bless and keep you,

In Christ,


The amazing thing about David Wilkerson and the people he inspired (I am one of them) was that he loved the unlovely and ministered at street level with them.

In the 1970s, I was on the streets of downtown Brisbane, running a coffee shop with some other workers, and ministering to the junkies and prostitutes. Why? David alerted me to the need and God moved upon my heart.

That’s an amazing statement he made on his blog, “David Wilkerson Today”, on the very day he entered the presence of the Lord.

Yes, like me, he was a frail man with failings. I wish he had not made that false prophesy about New York City in 2009. But have a guess what? Even with God’s Word before me in written form, I can make errors of interpretation as a fallible human being. The redeemed on this earth are not perfect. That time is still ahead of us in our elevation to glory.

Overall, I judge David Wilkerson to be a humble man of God with a vision that took effect in the lives of those who needed the Saviour.

3.  Message to the USA after September 11 attack

After the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City, David Wilkerson wrote, “The towers have fallen but we missed the message.

Part of that message reads:

Here Is the Message I Believe God Is Trumpeting in Our Calamities.

Deep in my spirit, I hear the Lord saying, “I’ve prospered you above all nations. Yet, for years you’ve persisted in worshipping idols of gold and silver. I’ve endured your shameless sensuality, your mockery of holy things, your shedding of innocent blood, your tireless efforts to remove me from your society. Now time is running out for you.

“I’ve sent you prophet after prophet, watchman after watchman. You’ve been warned again and again. Yet still you won’t open your eyes to your wicked ways. Now I’ve stricken you, in hopes of saving you. I want to heal your land, to destroy your enemies, to bring you back into my blessing. But you don’t have eyes to see it.”

If God wouldn’t spare other nations that have outlawed him, why would he spare America? He’ll judge us even as he judged Sodom, Rome, Greece and every other culture that has turned its back on him.

On “David Wilkerson Today”, David’s son, Gary Wilkerson, has written this tribute to his Dad:

Friday, April 29, 2011

by Gary Wilkerson

“David served the purposes of God in his generation, then he died” (Acts 13:36).
On Wednesday afternoon my father, David Wilkerson, passed away in a car accident. We grieve the loss of a beloved father, a faithful husband and a holy man of God. My mother, Gwen, his wife of 57 years, was in the car also, but we are told she will recover fully.

Dad’s 60-plus years of ministry have impacted the lives of those closest to him and extended to millions around the world. Today we feel a personal loss, but at the same time we rejoice knowing Dad lived life to the fullest, obeying God with devotion and loving Jesus radically.
He was known for his unlimited faith. He believed God could change the lives of gang members and transform the most desperate drug addicts. He believed that a dynamic church could be launched in the heart of Times Square, New York City. He believed he could be a man who loved his wife and children well. And he did.

Dad was not one for fanfare, acclaim or ceremony. He turned down invitations to meet with world leaders yet would give everything he owned to support a poor orphan or a widow in distress.

Like King David of old, Dad served God’s purposes in his generation. He preached with uncompromising passion and relentless grace. He wrote with amazing insight, clarity and conviction. He ran his race well and when his work was done, he was called home.

I don’t think my father would have retired well. I don’t think he was one to sit in a rocking chair and reminisce about times past. I believe that Jesus, knowing this, graciously called him home.

Dad’s last mission on earth was to be an advocate for the poorest of the poor—to provide relief and support for hungry children and widows and orphans. After founding Teen Challenge, World Challenge and Times Square Church, he sought to feed starving children in the most impoverished countries in the world. Today, Please Pass the Bread is saving the lives of thousands of children, through 56 outreaches in 8 countries.

Like King David of old, after having served God’s purpose, he died. I know if my father were able to encourage you with his words today, he would invite you to give your all to Jesus, to love God deeply and to give yourself away to the needs of others.

The works he began outlive him. We can all attest to his impacting us—not only in his preaching, writing and founding of world-changing ministries, but in his love, devotion, compassion and ability to stir our faith for greater works.

David Wilkerson, you have run the race with exceptional faithfulness to your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. You are now blessed to be in His presence. To those who mourn, there is this message of hope: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15 ESV). Life and death depend on the sovereignty of God. There is no sudden, accidental death with God. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).

For David’s wife, Gwen, and the family, they have this assurance from Jesus: “”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

(David Wilkerson photo, courtesy, ‘David Wilkerson Today


[1] Since uploading this article in 2013, my friend, the godly Aeron Morgan, has entered his rest in Paradise & the citation is no longer available online at his homepage.

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 April 2020.