les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Don Carson comments on Luke 12

JESUS TELLS HIS “FRIENDS” not to be afraid “of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4–5). The Gospel demands that we examine not only our loves, but our fears. We are to love God above all others; so also are we to fear him above all others. The reason is the same in both cases: he is God. He deserves our passionate adoration; he is not to be trifled with. His untrammeled holiness evokes our awe; it also evokes our fear. We should love him now, and we will love him without reserve in the new heaven and the new earth; we should fear him, for he has both the power and the right to exclude us from the new heaven and the new earth.

Again, how many of our decisions in life are shaped in part by what people think or, more precisely, by what we fear they will think? In short, we are often afraid of people—if not afraid of brutal attack, then afraid of condescension, afraid of rejection, afraid of being marginalized, afraid of being laughed at. There is very little possibility of overcoming such fear by merely trying to stop fearing. We need to fear something else more, something that will make the fear of people not only wrong but silly. If we absorb the words of these two verses, and fear God above all, the problem will largely be resolved. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to know this God and to think much about him: you will never fear God if he rarely crosses the horizon of your thought.

Lest anyone should think for a moment that the Christian’s connection with Almighty God is characterized by nothing but fear, we must observe that even in this chapter Jesus tells his followers, “Do not be afraid, little flock”—of people, or circumstances, or the future—“for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Although God is to be feared, the reason is not because he is the meanest dude of all. Far from it: his love and grace and holiness—all of his perfections—combine to provide the most glorious future possible for his own.


Alan said...

Thanks to the friend who submitted an anonymous comment engaging with this.
Could you please submit it again, this time with your name so that we can discuss openly.
This blog doesn't generally publish anonymous comments.
Thanks for your comprehension.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,

First let me apologize for my post this morning - it was rushed and anonymous because I had not proofed it. I can't even remember what I wrote!

However, I decided to take more time and write a more thorough response to this commentary since it is, in my view, very clearly in error.

Additionally, the crux of the error, while simple, is very damaging and misleading for anyone reading it. This is why I feel compelled to react.

The error is the assumption that it is God who is able to cast someone into hell.

The premise that it is God who has the ability to cast someone into hell does not align with any of the NT, is completely illogical, and not supported by the context of the Scriptures in Luke 12.

For example, looking at the next verse in Luke 12, we see that the person whom the disciples are instructed to fear is actually contrasted with God:

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

In the paraphrased context, Jesus is saying, "Hey! Don't fear these people, but fear this person, and certainly don't fear God because you're worth more than sparrows and He takes good care of them."

On a side note, one cannot attribute the words "respect," "awe," etc. to "fear" in this context because the passage is not talking about the greatness of God but about the ability of someone to commit the violent and destructive act of PROACTIVELY casting someone into HELL for eternity. This act and the very words used to describe it are contrary to God’s nature. Even if it were in his nature, at this point in time (after the coming of Jesus), it is illogical because Jesus came to save us and therefore abdicated his authority to cause us harm. To that point, God does NOT have such power.

Many Christians err in thinking that because God is all powerful that He has all authority and is able to do anything He wants. This is un-Biblical and would be exactly like the God of Islam and the gods of this world – capricious gods that no one can know or count on since they will not honor their promises. One who believes God is an unharnessed all-powerful God SHOULD fear Him, but we have a God who has set order in the universe and makes Himself subject to His covenants.

Simply put, God will never throw his children into hell. The fact that we are his children and grafted adopted into His family actually prohibits God from destroying us.

Furthermore, since Jesus is the exact representation of the unseen God and He never does anything except He sees His father do it first, we can know for sure that if God wanted to destroy men's souls or even had the ability to cast them into hell, Jesus would have done this or explicitly told his disciples that he had the authority to do so. He did not. He came to save the lost, heal the sick, and many times exemplifies a savior God and not a destructive god.

As Christians, we have a tendency to attribute human emotion and behavior to God – making him into a fickle God and denying God’s immutability and goodness…!

In fact, the person who has the power to throw us into hell is Satan. We are to fear Satan and his deception because he truly does have the power to cast us into hell and destroy us. He is the ruler of this age and this world – a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. These are the adjectives and the nature that align with “casting someone to hell.”

It is up to us if we allow him to do this to us. God won’t abandon us or do us harm but there IS one who will and whose reach extends beyond the physical realm. Satan is the prince of darkness and can destroy both the body and the soul if we give ourselves to him.

Dave Broussard said...

Hi Alan,

Now that we've begun a new year, I was revisiting this post since you had mentioned wanting to discuss this post. I thought I may have missed your comments?



Alan said...

Hi Dave

To be honest, when I said "we" I was hoping one or two of my august readership might like to discuss together, but as we now see such discussion has not been forthcoming. I guess it's not that kind of blog !

I can make my comments at some time, but it won't be this weekend, sadly.

Blessings !


Dave said...

No worries! It doesn't require a discussion - I just didn't want to miss anything. Thanks for responding!

Alan said...

Yes, I suppose I feel reluctant to engage in discussing this because I am so obviously outclassed !

Don Carson is probably the foremost evangelical theologian in the world today. I can think of no one who commands greater universal respect.

And the question is, is Don Carson "clearly in error".

At the moment in evangelicalism there's huge problems with the cult of personality. What do you expect in the century of Apple Computers and Michael Jackson ? We need to remind ourselves that there is no infallible pope out there. Anyone can make a mistake and all do.

At the same time "clearly in error" is a bit strong ! I prefer to reserve strong language for special occasions - such as my JW friends who are clearly in error.

I will say this. I am far from convinced that Satan can cast people into Hell. Hell is the place where Satan himself is cast for punishment (Rev 20) He doesn't torment anyone there. He himself is tormented. He doesn't reign there. He is imprisoned. It's worth noting in Rev 20 that Satan is judged before the nations.

I think we need always to distinguish between the love God has for his children - and yes, he will never cast them into Hell, having sent his Son to die for them - and the love God has for everyone in the world, from Auntie Ethel to Adolf Hitler. God can love and judge.

Jesus promises that he will return as judge. Matthew 25. That's basic Christian orthodoxy, established since the very beginning. There's nothing new in this.

I remarked to our congregations recently that sometimes our mental image of Jesus is not right. Instead of the Lion of Judah we think of the Kitten of Judah. Instead of Aslan we think of Pusskins.

He's very, very good, but not safe.

Dave said...

Hi Alan,

I see your point in this, however, if God's not casting into hell and Satan's not, who is?

I think that's the crux of the matter and one that has HUGE implications for any Christian (hence my comments)

Alan said...

Yes, that is, as I believe some say, the $64 question.

It seems to me that our answers to that question are different, and as you state, that isn't without its implications for our wider beliefs and practice

But at least we are agreed on the existence, the reality and the importance of the danger !