Monthly Archives: September 2015

An Evangelical Liberal

Many people in the Evangelical tradition struggle with the various doctrines and tenets of that particular denomination. It’s hard to ask the questions, hard to think straight, and hard to draw back from it if you feel you need to.

I believe in ‘Once Saved, Always Saved‘, but many Evangelicals do not. Or at least they claim that they are ‘saved’, but when it boils down to it, they believe that there are certain things they could conceivably do which could somehow cut them off irreversibly from God and render their salvation useless – which seems pretty pointless to me; wandering in and out of a [misunderstood] state of grace, whereas actually Grace is something you can’t really wander out of…. And some of them therefore believe that by asking the ‘wrong’ questions, you are somehow blaspheming, doubting God or otherwise negating your salvation. But let me tell you that it is perfectly safe to question the things you believe in because your relationship with God is guaranteed by Holy Spirit (Eph 1:14)

Here is a blog post, then, from Harvey, a man who has honestly faced up to his questions and ‘doubts’ (not necessarily doubts in God, but doubts about the tenets of Evangelicalism) and come out the other side. His blog is entitled The Evangelical Liberal. And his story could have been copied more or less word for word from mine, our journeys have been so similar.

Click here to read Harvey’s blog post. And, while you’re there, take a look at his other stuff too. There is so much freedom there….

Supermarine Spitfire

This entry is part 2 of 22 in the series Beautiful Destroyers


The Supermarine Spitfire is, I think, the most beautiful military aeroplane ever built. The wing shape, the fuselage shape, the proportions and the clean, sleek lines… the sound she makes – the Spitfire has to be the most aesthetically pleasing military aeroplane in history. And by all accounts she is also a real delight to fly – a real pilot’s aeroplane – light and responsive, powerful and agile, with lovely handling and few vices. I have flown several different aircraft types, but I’ve yet to fly one of these …  well, I can dream, can’t I?! 🙂

The Spitfire is probably also the most famous fighter aircraft ever too. Most everyone has heard of the Spit!


Above picture is a Mark IIa

Designed in 1934 by Reginald Mitchell, the Spitfire’s technology was extremely advanced. I won’t bore you with the techy details but the Spitfire, along with the more numerous and slightly older Hawker Hurricane, was Britain’s mainstay during the Battle of Britain in July – September 1940. Here’s the painting ‘Achtung – Spitfire!‘ by aviation artist Roy Grinnell, used on the cover of the 1995 boardgame of the same name:


The Spit was the UK’s main front-line fighter aircraft for the whole of the Second World War. Also, the design was extremely flexible, and because of this the Spitfire was produced in many different versions throughout the War – fighter, fighter-bomber, trainer, reconnaissance and others. The picture below shows the Mark IX, here being flown by the late and legendary display pilot Ray Hanna in 2005.

Spit IXe Ray Hanna

And another couple of shots of the Mark IX, showing off the wing planform rather nicely:

Spitfire IX planform

Spitfire MkIX

…I mean, doesn’t that picture so capture this gorgeous aeroplane? And make you want to go fly one too?

This is the Mark IA, the mainstay during the Battle of Britain:

Spitfire BBMF in Kingcome's colours

And finally, the version produced more than any other – the Mark V:



Beautiful Destroyers

This entry is part 1 of 22 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

There is a certain irony in this: some of the most beautiful aeroplanes ever built were made with the express purpose of breaking things belonging to other people.

In other words, combat aircraft.

Of course, some of these aeroplanes have been built to break things belonging to other people, which are in themselves trying to break things belonging to the owners of the aeroplanes. For example, interceptor aircraft which are designed to shoot down bombers before they break something serious.

But, dark though the purpose of these aircraft may be, still, they are beautiful.

In this series, stretching over several posts, I will be showcasing some of these aeroplanes which I consider to be particularly beautiful, majestic and/or otherwise impressive. I’m going to post pictures of the aircraft, and in most cases a description which may be short,  long or somewhere in between. And they’re not all going to be military aircraft, either.

And don’t worry: I will also be posting on matters spiritual too!

I hope you enjoy this series!

Don Francisco’s ‘Prodigal Song’

Continuing the theme of the Prodigal Son – if you have felt the touch of the Spirit of God calling you to Father God, then perhaps this is the song to sing. Don Francisco’s gentle ‘Prodigal Song’:

Here I am, just a poor man
Made poorer still by the knowledge of the riches I have squandered
Oh I’ve wandered – I stand convicted
Even knowing that the deepest of my wounds were mostly self-inflicted
Where did my heart go?
Where have I been?
You opened my eyes to the darkness and lies
And I shut them again

And I want to go home to my Father
I wanna be part of where my heart says I belong
I want to wash my weary soul in livin’ water
I’ve been away way too long – I wanna go home

Out on the boundaries of my freedom
I was looking for fences that would keep me in and I found there were none
Only your sweet love, Lord
Fool that I’ve been
You broke the chains of my heartache and pain
And I forged them again

And I want to go home to my Father
I wanna be part of where my heart says I belong
I want to wash my weary soul in livin’ water
I’ve been away way too long – I want to go home.

Lord Jesus, Lord, please help me, I’m so full of regret
It’s so hard to forgive myself, it’s harder to forget.
I need you to hold me and heal me
To mould me and steel me
By the power of your Word to be the son You’ve called me to be.

And I want to go home to my Father
I wanna be part of where my heart says I belong.
I want to wash my weary soul in livin’ water
I’ve been away way too long – I want to go home.
I’ve been away way too long – I want to go home.

Keith Green’s ‘Prodigal Son Suite’

The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-22 is one of the most moving parables told by Jesus. Although many people see the story as the tale of a young man who goes wildly astray and has to come grovelling back to his father, in actuality the tale is about the welcoming, affirming, unfailing love of the Father. Jesus uses the parable to illustrate the longing of the Father to have His son back by His side again. The young man slides so far away from his Father only so that Jesus can illustrate that God longs for fellowship even with the most hopeless case.

It has been set to drama and to music. But this version is the best.

I present here the moving story song called ‘The Prodigal Son Suite’, by the late Keith Green, which contains probably the finest fast piano toccata in all of modern Christian music. I love playing this song on a grand piano – but it’s nothing like how Keith plays it!

Let this song minister God’s love to you, soak it up, live it and breathe it. Let it change you.

And if you’re interested, someone has even done a video play of the story too, to the same music:

And finally here are the lyrics:

I was dung hoeing out in the fields for the day
I was thinking of going, I had to leave right away
My life was just fading, and oh I felt so alone
The nearest young maiden was a full day’s ride from home

My father was reading the holy books in his room
My heart was just bleeding, I knew I had to go soon
He smiled and pointed to an old wooden chair
I wanted to hold him, but then I just wouldn’t dare

I said, Father, there’s so much to know
There’s a world of things to see
And I’m ready to go and make a life for myself
If you’ll give me what is mine
I will go, if I can have your blessing
But if you won’t bless my journey, I’m gonna leave anyway

Son, I’ve always tried my best for you
And if you must be leaving home, then go with the blessing of God

Not too many days later I was well on my way
I met a travelling stranger who seemed to have much to say
He told me tales of the city and all the women he’d had
I asked him wasn’t that sinful
He said, no, it isn’t that bad
And then a few days later, on an old city road
We were drowning in laughter, and we had women to hold
And this went on quite a long time, my father gave me a lot
But when my pockets were empty, my friends all left me to rot

Then a famine hit and drained the land
Everywhere I looked I saw starvation, and a job was so hard to find
I wandered through the city streets, competing for the food of common beggars
Until then I’d never known hunger, but now I wasn’t too proud

I finally found some employment, feeding pigs on a farm
I wasn’t treated to kindly though, I had to sleep in the barn
I had to eat with the swine
The bread I ate was like stone
It didn’t take too much time until I was dreaming of home

Oh, the servants there are better fed
If I could only have what my father gives them
I would truly need nothing more
Oh, I will go and say to him
I’m no longer worthy to be in your family
Will you take me as your servant, and let me live with them?

It didn’t take too long to pack my things
I left with only what I wore
As I prayed that I still had a home

I was near home in sight of the house
My father just stared, dropped open his mouth
He ran up the road, and fell to my feet, and cried, and cried
Father I’ve sinned, heaven the shame
I’m no longer worthy to wear your name
I’ve learned that my home is right where you are
Oh father, take me in

Bring the best robe, put it on my son!
Shoes for his feet, hurry, put them on!
This is my son who I thought had died
Prepare a feast for my son’s alive!

I’ve prayed and prayed, never heard a sound
My son was lost, oh thank you God he’s found!
My son was dead and he’s now alive!
Prepare a feast for my son’s alive!
My son was dead
My son was lost
My son’s returned in the hands of God!

Wrestling with God

Wrestling with God. Hmm, an interesting concept, that the Creator of everything should even deign to look at ‘insignificant’ humans, never mind stoop to the level of wrestling with them. And what would be the point? Isn’t He God, the unbending, unchanging Ruler of the Universe? What possible chance would a mere mortal have of ‘winning’ against God?

Well, Genesis 32:24-30 tells the story of Jacob, the man who wrestled with God. He refused to let go of God until He received a blessing:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”


But you know what, it’s not only ok, but it’s positively encouraged to wrestle with God over life’s great issues, and faith’s big questions. The Bible is full of it. ‘Why, God, why?’ is the theme of many of the Psalms, where men express such raw emotion – not only love, adoration and praise, but also hatred, sorrow, viciousness, pain, suffering and revenge. It’s honest, and God likes it when we are honest with Him about our feelings.  One of the hidden messages of the Psalms is that it is ok to feel like that, it’s ok to approach God with your pain as well as with your joy. Wrestle with God about life’s big issues – He can handle it. Don’t be afraid that you might be blaspheming or something. That kind of assertion comes from those who themselves do not wrestle with God; those who do not understand how approachable He is. Don’t be afraid of being angry with God about things you see happening – suffering, injustice, or anything else for that matter. This is wrestling with God, and He does indeed stoop down to allow this to do this; indeed, he expects us to do so!

And so you see there is indeed a point to wrestling with God. You might just get some answers to your questions. Or you might not. You will almost certainly gain better understanding. You definitely get the chance to let off some steam! And you may well change things. God listens. He might even change His mind. Also, God acts on your behalf! And in fact I’d say that always, when you wrestle with God, you will change in some way – an opinion, an attitude, a belief – indeed, Jacob had a limp for the rest of his life…. you see, when you get to see things more from God’s point of view, you can’t help but change.

Wrestling with God can involve simply praying (through gritted teeth if necessary!); it can involve study of the Bible and/or other literature; listening to music; watching a sunset; working with the poor; debate and discussion with other people (believers and unbelievers alike)….this is all healthy stuff! And it’s right and honest to question; in that way, your faith stands on firm foundations.

My recent post about Hell (actually it was more about not teaching the concept to kids, but there we are) stirred up much strong and indeed heated debate between myself and five of my friends; most of the discussion was conducted on Facebook. You see, we are all six of us strong Men of God with strongly held opinions, who know what we believe and why we believe it.

Sometimes, though, as we have seen, we do indeed need to wrestle with God on hard topics such as Hell, and when that happens, our strongly held opinions come to the fore.

Because of this, we then engaged in strong, vigorous debate about the actual nature of things. And, interestingly, this is precisely the Rabbinic method of debate – discussion about strongly held beliefs, not all of which are compatible, to arrive at a deeper truth. This is the method Jesus and St.Paul used in a) their education and b) their ministries. Folks, we are in good company!

When engaged in such debate, I would put out four points worth bearing in mind.

Firstly, we should each pray for each other that the Spirit of Truth guide us in our studies, so that we arrive at the conclusions He wants us to get to.

Secondly, remember that this is the path of integrity, in that we do not bury our honest doubts, but instead wrestle with God and with each other over them (remember that part of the verses above, ‘You have wrestled with God and with humans‘).

Thirdly, we need to remember, of course, that we are talking in some ways about things that we cannot understand as mere mortals – see here for more ideas on this!

Finally, and interestingly, in order to wrestle with God you have to get close to Him. There are few activities that bring two people into closer proximity than does wrestling! It’s one of the closest contact sports there are. Continue reading Wrestling with God

Great Awakening!

In 1993, Hosanna! Music did a song by Dave Bankhead and Ray Goudie called ‘Great Awakening’. 22 years ago, this Great Awakening was longed for by most Christians in my circles, but it simply didn’t happen. But it is happening now, beginning with God speaking to the hearts of His people about His true nature and His love for the broken, hurting and outcasts. People like me and others I know are being changed by God to be able to see and accommodate this new wave of His Spirit.

Here’s the song – ‘Great Awakening’, by Dave Bankhead and Ray Goudie:

All down the ages, God has caused to happen many ‘Great Moves of God’, where the Christian faith undergoes great upheaval which results in huge blessings, healings, miracles and so on. These events happen periodically in God’s good timing, and many believers today feel that we are long overdue such a blessing. I have friends who pray constantly for such a move of God to happen in our time.

And I personally believe that there is another such move coming. Usually what happens is that God brings new revelation and blessing, but what He does and how He does it is completely unexpected – or nearly so. I believe that He reveals His plans in advance to those who are ready and willing to listen – ready and willing, because the move He brings is going to shake the foundations of what was previously thought to be known about God, and many will reject it as a move of the enemy. This is what happened in Jesus’s time – Jesus Himself was the new move of God, and the religious people of the day rejected Him – and even in modern times, it is no different, and it will be no different in that respect the next time either.

People who are so entrenched in procedure – based religious systems will either rail against the move of God, or they may even miss it entirely. Some will of course decry it as being ‘of the devil’, as if he has any say in what God does! (Remember that the devil is not the equal and opposite of God, he is a created being too just like we are, and as such is subject to the rule of God).

But the new thing is coming. Those who can feel it can see the stirring of the first few blades of grass moving in the wind of the Spirit. And you can guarantee that it will be nothing like most people expect. It will not be like the great revivals of the past. Because of the communications capability we have on the Internet, this one will be bigger than any before. There will be healings, miracles, people being raised from the dead, huge salvation, people being brought into the Kingdom – not a kingdom of rules and regulations, but of freedom and power. The powerless will be made powerful and mighty in God. They will realise anew, and indeed some for the first time, just what Jesus has done for us, and they will also realise the loving, calling nature of God as He seeks to draw all people to Him in His love.

This time, the emphasis will be on how much God actually likes us. In the past, there has been too much emphasis on the ‘angry god’ who is distant, cold, and just waiting for us to put a foot wrong so that he can judge us, condemn us, ‘smite’ us (whatever that means) and generally be horrible. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, that’s not the God I know. The God I know is the one exemplified by Jesus in His life and works. He’s loving, kindly, caring, tolerant, forgiving, healing – he’s friendly! People all over the world are even now being shown by Holy Spirit what is going to happen, and they are being primed, trained and set up to work alongside the Master, His Hands on theirs, as their attitudes change towards God’s intended direction for them and for the Awakening.

Maybe this looks prophetic; well maybe it is. Maybe God is showing us what He’s going to do, and it’s exciting stuff!

The harshness of modern-day religion and religious practices will be missing from the new revival, but it will of course try to resist it and brand it a ‘work of the enemy’ as we have already seen. It will be like nothing we have ever seen before. The main resistance, as in Jesus’s day, will be from those whose power structures, either in terms of money, prestige, reputation or control are threatened by the move of the Spirit. Those working in existing Christian practices may have to change the way they do things – but don’t worry, this is healthy if it’s of God.

I know there will be many people reading this that love Jesus and may well be frightened by this prospect. Maybe it will look like heresy; how do I know this is ‘safe’; how do I know it’s the Spirit that’s doing this and not a counterfeit? I would say that you need to rest in God. You need to lean right back into His arms and hear what He’s saying. You know His promises: He will never let go of you; underneath are His everlasting arms; His Spirit will lead you into all Truth. God will not lead you against your conscience, but He might just re-educate your conscience with His ideas. Please be open to that. Your process of being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind’ never actually stops; you don’t ‘arrive’ at a place when the transformation is complete, not this side of the veil anyway. So, be open to God’s Spirit breathing His changes and His life into your spirit.

And we need to flow with the Spirit. In a previous post on this blog, ‘Learning the Lessons of History‘, I said that in order to allow the ‘next revival’ to continue, we must be careful to allow the Spirit to flow things along, not to make rules and frameworks in order to try to ‘preserve’ the blessing. That warning still stands – let the Spirit do what He wills!

So, get ready for the Great Awakening. It’s coming. And it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

See also my post on Don Francisco’s song ‘Vision of the Valley‘ for more on the kind of people that God will use in the upcoming Great Awakening.

The other thing is that you will most likely not hear about this on the standard news media. They tend to report only the bad news! But let’s wait and see….

“The Bible is Very Clear….”

Is it just me, or does anyone else get tired of people saying ‘The Bible is very clear on [whatever]’?

Much of the time, it actually, really, isn’t. That’s part of the beauty of it. And that’s why we have discussions on it. If it were that clear, everything would be set in stone, we would know exactly what our boundaries are, and we would have a clear set of ‘rules’ to follow and life would be hunky-dory.

And boring and predictable and staid too – no variety, you would know what was going to happen in every circumstance, you would know what everyone is supposed to believe on every issue, there would be no discussions or interesting arguments. It makes me wonder if those who hold to legalism are in actual fact coming from a place of insecurity, where they want everything clearly laid out with no nonsense and no room for uncertainty.

What a convenient world to live in.

But it would bore the stuffing out of me.

Surely our security should be found in God’s Character, and not in a set of rules and predictability. He has promised that He forgives us. He has promised to keep us. He has promised to look after us. (And that doesn’t clash with bad things that happen in life/death either because even then He holds us. That’s what being ‘saved’ is all about).

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Bible; it leads me to Jesus, I love hearing God speak to me through it, and much of it is indeed clear. But parts of it are not. However what is clear is that God is Good – all the time! He has your best interests at heart. Look at Jesus and His way of dealing with people, and you see God. So isn’t it time we put out faith in Him, in His goodness, rather than in a set of secure (and actually that’s an illusion!) rules of behaviour – and just trust Him?

This is why legalism, as a tool of faith, simply does not work. Either we trust God with everything – our righteousness, our salvation, our sanctification – our lives – or we don’t trust Him at all. Most Christians will pay lip-service to the assertion that ‘…it is by Grace we have been saved … so that none can boast’ (Eph 2:8), but then go and try harder – in whatever way – to please God. This is the path to bondage, rather than freedom. This is the path to ever-tightening strictures on what you feel you can and can’t do, right up to the point where guilt prevents you from doing anything at all – including what God wants.

Over-dependence on adherence to the Rules as found in the ‘very clear’ Bible suppresses the Life of the Spirit. Note that I did not say that the Bible suppresses the Spirit; it does not. But the incorrect interpretation, and over-zealous application, of the Bible as a set of Rules, is what does suppress that Life. It’s our fault, not God’s!

How does that work? Well, because the Bible is indeed not clear on so many things, sometimes the Holy Spirit might ask you to do something, or develop an attitude within you, that you feel may be ‘against the Scripture’. This means that you will not follow the Spirit’s prompting and instead go the ‘safe’, legalistic path. And then miss out so much of what God wanted for you. This is why the letter of the Law is death, but the Spirit brings Life (2Cor 3:6). Choosing the path of freedom, the path of Life in the Spirit, allows you to experience God’s freedom – the ‘glorious freedom of the Children of God’ (Rom 8:21) – in a way that those still under Law cannot really appreciate nor, sadly, enjoy.

So then, Legalism, at its core, is founded in insecurity. It shows a deep lack of trust in God and His promises. Like with forgiveness…If you try to justify yourself by following rules, then why did Jesus die? You can’t do it! And it’s time to stop trying, and time to move into freedom!

Here is a great blog post, from a young lady whom I feel has a healthy balance between Law and Freedom. Click the image below to go to the article.


Teaching about Hell?

I recently read a really interesting article on the drawbacks of the practice of teaching children about Hell; the article is here. And of course it got me thinking…so I thought I’d share my ‘take’ on it.

Many young children are taught the doctrine of ‘Hell’ in Sunday School from an early age. Personally, I believe it is wrong to begin a child’s spiritual education at that level of ‘bad news’. If the idea is to frighten a child into ‘belief’ in order to avoid said Hell, then that’s no way to bring a child into the love of God. The child will grow up with the primary concept of god as an ogre who spends most of his time being angry about most things, and being pretty pissed with everyone for most of the time. A god of punishment and wrath, rather than healing and mercy. A god who enjoys watching people burn in unquenchable flame. Who would want to love a god like that?

Well, you see, that’s not the God I know. My God is loving, caring, gentle, accepting, forgiving, longsuffering….look at Jesus and you look at what God is really like. Also, look at the Fruit of the Spirit; how is a believer showing the Fruit of the Spirit going to be a better, or more loving, person, than God, no matter how much Fruit he displays? God surely cannot show less of the lovely nature of these Fruits than the people He dwells in? No, God is good, by everything that makes sense and everything that logic dictates about His nature as revealed by Jesus and the nature He intends His people to exhibit. Nothing else makes any sense.

Personally I think that giving kids the doctrines of Hell early in life is getting it back to front. I’d far rather children were brought up knowing the Love of God right from square one, and maybe, just maybe, learn about all that nasty stuff later in life. Much later. Or maybe even not at all. If the doctrine of Hell is a false doctrine, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then it’s better not to be taught it at all.

And basing a salvation doctrine on Bad News rather than Good News is completely wrong. Jesus came to preach the Kingdom of God; He only spoke (apparently) of Hell in passing, it certainly was not a central tenet of His teaching. So why, then, are children subjected to this teaching at an early age? My own somewhat cynical mindset suspects that perhaps it’s yet another control issue, perhaps to keep unruly youngsters in line? Sick.

Why not simply tell the kids how much God loves them, teach them how to live His Kingdom, teach them how to heal the sick, how to worship, how to love God. This is the correct foundation we should teach in Sunday Schools. Make it real, make it interesting, make it supernatural! In this way, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of service and supernatural ministry demonstrating the Kingdom just like Jesus did.  In fact, the childlike spirit is vitally important in developing the ability to live a Kingdom lifestyle. Here’s my article on becoming like little children; see how the concepts fit together.

Many believers have struggled – and continue to struggle – with the idea of Hell. Supposedly, it’s a place of never-ending torment where the ‘lost’ spend eternity. Personally, I too struggle with that concept. In fact, the idea of Hell does not fit with the person of the Jesus I know. I’m currently reading a book on just that concept, called The Lie of Hell, by Roger Harper, a well-known Anglican writer and minister. There is an excellent review of the book on my friend David Matthew’s site, and here’s the link to it. The review also contains a deeper review of the salient points, and I strongly recommend it.

In fact, it’s not only children who are damaged by the doctrine of Hell. To try to ‘scare’ anyone – child or adult – into the Kingdom is to miss the point of Jesus’s teaching. Jesus came to tell us how much God loves us; He came to show us the Kingdom of God and to demonstrate its presence by His miracles. The concept of Hell is not a central teaching of Christ at all, and should not be taught as such. The very first teaching that needs to be reinforced in believers is that of God’s Love, not His wrath. Hell, if it is taught at all, needs to be taught as a ‘some people believe this, and here’s the arguments for both sides’ kind of thing, not as a cast-iron certain doctrine. Again, it’s so far better to train new disciples in the positive things, the things of the Kingdom – reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, fruitfulness – than it is negative things like Hell.

I really hope all this makes sense to you. If not, please ask for clarification, or maybe come back to it once you’ve chewed it over in your mind.

Scripture says, in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things“. I don’t think that Hell falls into any of these categories, do you?

Edit: In case the original article ever disappears from the Internet, here it is in full, copied and pasted:

Teaching Children About Hell



I was a morbidly fearful child. I was also a highly literate child, having learned to read before school years. My mother tongue is Mandarin, and the storybooks I consumed were Chinese folk stories. Some of them were harmless tales of developing moral character, but many recounted ancient Chinese myths of hell. In Chinese folk religion, hell consists of eighteen levels, each containing a specific type of torture reserved for corresponding sins. It is not a stretch to say that the images of hell I saw in picture books as a young girl impact me to this day. I was terrified.

Fast forward to my school-age years, when my parents sent me to a Christian school started by western missionaries, where I learned of the Jesus who could save me from hell. It was a no-brainer for me. I believed swiftly because I was deathly afraid of hell.

I have told this testimony many, many times throughout my growing up years in the Christian world. It was the ice-breaker to my testimony, the chuckle-inducing anecdote to begin a speech: “I accepted Jesus because I didn’t want to go to hell!” People would smile and nod with approval at my child-like faith. How did nobody tell me it was not funny?

Certainly, as I grew in cognitive and spiritual development, I learned there was more to the Christian life than an escape from hell, but once you begin a relationship with God based on fear it takes years to unlearn the image of the punitive God to be able to receive the heart of the gospel of grace. It was true for me.

Aside from universalists, most Christian traditions contain the doctrine of judgment, although the particulars of how that judgment is carried out varies along a spectrum. Whether it is actual physical torture for all eternity or some sort of separation from God, whether there’s purgatory or a second chance post mortem, there exists a form of judgment within the systems of Christian faith.

Good parenting sensibilities tell us we shouldn’t shy away from difficult truths, and although we try to be age-appropriate, we are obligated to share even the most unpalatable aspect of the Christian faith with our kids.

The problem is: children don’t yet have the emotional maturity and logical capability to process a belief in eternal punishment. Their budding minds can’t reason through the theological necessity of judgment in a loving God. So they panic and retreat into fear. In order to coax them out of their distress we comfort them: it’s okay, Jesus will save you, just believe in Jesus.

And so it begins, even as kids develop and eventually learn the nuances of Christian life, they are bearing the invisible baggage of fear that had them grasping for Jesus. The genesis of a relationship with a good and loving God is a child’s nightmare.

If we are really honest with ourselves, we plant fear into our children’s hearts because we have not yet uprooted fear from our own. We want our children saved because we are so afraid of what would happen if they are not.

Before we can raise our children un-fundamentalist, we must excavate the nasty enemy of fear from deep within our hearts and boot it for good. Despite strong Christian traditions on the doctrines of heaven and hell, the afterlife remains an unknown mystery. To tell children you know for sure what will happen is to to be dishonest, and to act, well, as a fundamentalist.


It is bad religion to scare children into conversion and to dictate their morality from the basis of fear.A strong desire for our children to know God and follow God need not and should not come from a fear for their eternal destination. Spiritual security for our kids doesn’t mean an assurance they will escape the fates of fiery doom, it means providing security rooted in the love of God. Just as we do all we can to provide for the physical and emotional needs of our children, so we must give them this safe spiritual environment.

God loves you without condition. God will never leave your side. God delights in you. God is like the mother hen gathering chicks. God is like the forgiving father welcoming his prodigal son. God is like a warm fire on a cold night, bringing you comfort. God cares beyond what you can imagine.

God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. 

This doesn’t guarantee the child will grow to believe in God. It doesn’t mean the hard conversations about suffering, judgment and injustice won’t be had when the child is old enough to tackle these issues. It does mean, however, that should they choose to live a life of faith, of belief in God, that it would not have come from a place of fear. Hopefully, it will mean they were compelled by the truths and love they witnessed in the lives of their parents, community, and the acts of God in the world.

When I was a young convert, having believed I was safe from hell because of a belief in Jesus, I remained terrified—because my parents had not yet become Christians. I spent agonizing hours praying desperately for them, willing there to not be an accident that took their lives before they converted. I wish I knew then what I know now, that the weight of the eternal damnation of my loved ones was far too heavy for my young, frail shoulders to carry. I wish I knew and believed God loves everyone, that we don’t know for sure what will happen after death, that choosing to love trumps fear.

I will not repeat this mistake with my children. I will not be afraid for their salvation. I am choosing to channel my childhood fears into a fierce force of love for them, in the best ways I know how.

And may they know that I have only ever been able to love them the way I do because the God who loves them so, also loves me.

– Cindy Brandt