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Why hell is a necessary option, though Kevin Borden preaching hellfire is not


Brenden Theatre
10th Street Plaza, Modesto

July 21.  Many Modestans may be familiar with Kevin Borden, Modesto’s hellfire street preacher.  This real estate agent went to court (video) for his right to shout hellfire at the patrons of Brenden Theatre while holding up signs which say “TURN TO JESUS OR BURN IN HELL” and “JESUS HATES SIN”. 

He is still going strong, “Until the Nets are Full!” he wrote as a closing to a reply via e-mail this morning.  “Please know that my heart is that all people would be saved and that God would receive all the glory.  Praise the Lord He sent His only begotten Son that we might know Him, the true and living God!  WOW!!!  Paul charges Timothy in the following verse to preach the Word!  This is why I stand out in public places and proclaim the truth.”  He asked that some verses from the bible be considered when writing this article, quoting from 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Romans 1:16-18, John 3:16-20, John 3:36, John 14:23-24, Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:3, James 4:5-10, Matthew 10:27-28, Luke 13:3-5, Jude 1:20-23, Acts 3:19-21 and Acts 3:26.  None of these verses prescribe the sort of hellfire-shouting Kevin Borden practices.  One includes Jesus saying “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  Most of these verses are about proclaiming the Gospel, and confront only those who understand but reject the Gospel—those like the Pharisees, who preferred their idea of moral superiority over God’s free acceptance.  Kevin Borden shouts to everyone, indiscriminately. 

Though not all Christians take this approach, many do believe in hell, though perhaps not in literal hellfire, which some take to be symbolic (word study).  It is important here to acknowledge that no sane person would ever choose eternal hellfire--it is absurd to say that people willfully choose that.  But all of that is just a metaphor for complete, eternal separation from God--that is a choice many people do deliberately make when they set something else up in place of God, in place of unconditional acceptance.  That isn't to say we don't continue to struggle against conditional love after accepting God's grace, it is saying that people who reject God, never accept grace (if this triggers your "what about irresistible grace?" reflex, read Norman Geisler's "Chosen But Free")**.  However, many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, wonder how it is that a loving God can allow people to choose hell, and, likewise, how we who believe in hell can say we love people who we think may be choosing hell.

Every choice requires at least two options, because if there is only one option, there is no choice.  Even if you think there is only one option, you really have two options:  you can choose the option you are thinking of, or you can choose the option of rejecting it.  Love, treating the Other as self, is a choice that requires at least two options, though there are often multiple alternatives.  The ultimate alternative to choosing love is choosing hell, beginning in this life.  As C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “Hell begins with a grumbling mood.”

God is love, he is the reason love, treating the Other as self, is moral truth, rather than a made up opinion.  He is the loving being who always loves.  Though his love is unconditional, a relationship with him can only happen if we choose it.  So, while it may seem unloving for him to allow people to choose hell, it is impossible for him to force people into heaven, into a relationship with him.  It would not be a real relationship.  It would still be hell.  No one goes to hell who doesn’t choose it.

When we understand that hell has to be an option in order for a relationship with God to be a choice, then we understand what Jesus’ sacrifice really meant, what it was all for.  We understand that he died for his enemies to demonstrate that He loves us, accepts us, no matter what—by taking on (symbolically) the death  (separation from life, true living—God) caused by our rejection of love and settling for lesser pleasures.  It wasn’t some magical thing—it was a demonstration of acceptance.  No greater love (John 15:13).  This motivates us to love our friends and enemies likewise, with unconditional acceptance, as long as they will receive it freely.  And when we fail—it reassures us that his love is still the same.

Street preacher Kevin Borden chooses to shout about hellfire, rather than emphasizing God’s free acceptance, though he does shout about that, too.  The real point of avoiding hell is not fear of fire, though, it is fear of missing out on love, true living through a relationship with God.  Jesus didn’t shout hellfire, he bled forgiveness.  Hell is the option that makes forgiveness a real choice.  So if Kevin is out there shouting when you go see Inception this weekend, remember, that's not how Jesus draws us in (John 12:32).  He told street preachers like that to find a closet (Matthew 6:5-6, Luke 18:9-14).

**Thanks to Todd Terzo for suggesting I clarify this part of the article, though he may or may not agree with Geisler on irresistible grace--not sure.

For more info: 
Is your church or other group teaching apologetics?
Do you have an apologetics question?
Would you like to share the reasons you believe?
     E-mail Maryann

Comments

  • Staks - Philly Atheist Examiner 3 years ago

    You're not thinking Omnisciently.

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    Are you claiming to know what I would be thinking, if I 'were' thinking omnisciently? And what is that?

  • Johan 3 years ago

    Your argument would not work in a Calvinist environment, since Calvinists (and others of the Reformed branch) believe that salvation is not up to our choice or our free will but God's choice (I'm of course referring to the doctrine of predestination).

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    That would be an extreme Calvinist interpretation. A moderate Calvinist interpretation, as can be found in the book "Chosen but Free" by Normal Geisler, would recognize that free will and predestination do not conflict. Every moment, past and future, is as predestined as this present moment, in which we are freely choosing. We are freely choosing there, as well. So our free choices are predestined, but we choose them. Of course we couldn't freely choose God's grace if it wasn't already available before we choose it :) We are definitely saved by grace.

  • Johan 3 years ago

    It certainly sounds oxymoronic to me that you could freely choose something that has already been predestined for you. That appears to be as "free" as the Ford slogan "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black".

    In addition, you must have heard about the 5 points of Calvinism (the TULIP). One of the points is called "irresistible grace", which is in plain terms an offer that the appointed believer-to-be can not resist. Calvinism teaches that noone becomes a believer without first being approached by God - and those that are approached are irresistibly transformed from unwilling to willing. Maybe this doctrine is part of what you call "extreme" Calvinism but it is nonetheless quite common.

  • Kevin 3 years ago

    "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Mat 6:5-6) This verse is talking about praying in the closet not preaching. So you think this verse teaches that preachers should preach in the closet?

  • Scott Campbell 3 years ago

    Fellow Christians , beware of Wolves in sheep clothing , that finger of judgment and condemnation from these people is pointed at you also . This is a cult of onlyism that preaches from the flesh and destroys lives and families all in the name of Jesus Christ , we lost our son , daughter in-law and had our grandchildren ripped out of our lives due to this cult. Be warned and warn others, the truth is in scripture Tim 2 2 14-15 Tim 1 3 1-10 Tim 2 3 1-9

  • Kevin 3 years ago

    "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (Joh 3:18-20)
    Just wanted to add the context of the verse you quoted. You must of forgot to add it.

  • Truthseeker 3 years ago

    Jesus talks about the subject of HELL more than any topic. 10 out of 10 die and all will stand before the judgment seat of God. Where will we spend eternity?

    Street Preaching is not new. It’s was done by the prophets, by JESUS, his disciples, the apostles,Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Whitfield, Wesley,etc. The common theme was they raised their voices to be heard, they pointed to God for Salvation, God’s intolerance of sin, warned of coming judgment for unrepentent. They were mocked by ungodly & scorned by “religious” people. These men obeyed God’s call to preach. They didn’t talk about love as much as they showed it my their selfless compassion for fellow man’s souls by telling them the truth. Jesus commanded His people to preach the gospel to every creature,to proclaim it on the rooftops. Paul ask, How can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone Preaching to them? And

  • Truthseeker 3 years ago

    All over America, God is moving the hearts of God-fearing people, born again by His Spirit, calling them out of their comfortable churches into the streets to share gospel to sinners, bringing hope to the hopeless & broken-hearted, pleading with the backslidden. It’s refreshing to hear Christians not afraid to talk about sin, right living & judgment. USA is spiritually sinking and now isn’t the time to be cowardly. Check this website on street preaching at www.wayofthemaster.com. Here’s a radio show w/ daily witnessing testimonies: wretchedradio.com. A powerful witnessing book by Mark Cahill, “One thing you can’t do in heaven”

    Christians are called to be pray & encourage those out in the trenches sowing seed. Some might not like their style, but who are we to judge? Are we out there? I should be. Paul said, praise God -Jesus is being preached. I’ve heard these brothers preach, the message was biblical & I’ve seen how God brought conviction on hearts and drew men to himself.

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    Johan, yes I am familar w/ it. Common=/=true.

    No, truthseeker, Jesus did not talk about hell more than any other topic. False.

    Kevin--yes, those who reject the Gospel, settle for the alternative. But the Gospel comes first--not the alternative being shouted at them. Your sort of street preaching is equivalent to the sort of praying Jesus was addressing. You think Jesus was shouting pridefully just to shout when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount? Do you think he egged them on?

  • Kevin 3 years ago

    Maryann, This is what He told us to do: "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:27-28) Thayer Definition for Preach:
    1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald
    1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald
    1b) always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed
    2) to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done
    3) used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian teachers.

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    Kevin, I didn't hear "shout hellfire" in the definition, brother.

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    Kevin,

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23.

    Without love, everything you say is a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal--1 Corinthians 13.

  • Zak 3 years ago

    Kevin,

    I've heard you several times, and you came onto my campus at CSUS last year. I would ask you when is the season for loving people instead of confronting them angrily? Ecclesiastes teaches us that:

    To everything there is a season, and
    a time to every purpose under heaven:

    A time to be born, and
    a time to die;
    a time to plant, and
    a time to pluck up
    that which is planted;

    A time to kill, and
    a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and
    a time to build up;

    A time to weep, and
    a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and
    a time to dance;

    A time to cast away stones, and
    a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and
    a time to refrain from embracing;

    A time to get, and
    a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and
    a time to cast away;

    A time to rend, and
    a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and
    a time to speak;

    A time to love, and
    a time to hate;
    a time of war; and
    a time of peace.

    Kevin, your actions are grossl

  • Zak 3 years ago

    Correcting the last line: Grossly mistaken... Where is the love???

    Jesus modeled this "balance" for us, and showed us that there is a time for turning over tables in the temple and correcting wrongs: being indignant. But also that there was a time to draw people in using love and understanding: grace and forgiveness. A time to teach, and for peace. He offered this to sinners that were unsaved, without yelling and reproach, but with compassion and understanding of people's suffering under the weight of their sin.

    Why cast stones when you can forgive? Judge and you will also be judged. I cannot do what you do because it is not the model that Jesus provided. If it was, I would do it as well.

    Grace and forgiveness lead people to Christ... Their need for a savior to rescue them. Then hearts change and sin becomes antiquated as it stifles people's ability to grow into God's plan for their lives to live in his grace, also helping others do the same. This is the path Jesus taught us.

  • Maryann 3 years ago

    Kevin, not sure which church you go to, but you are welcome to come check out Redeemer: www.theredeemerchurch.com/map-and-directions The most recent sermon audio is at the bottom right of the page. We're in Galatians.

  • Harold Shuckhart 3 years ago

    What I love about Christianity is what I love about buffet lunches - everybody gets to choose what they like best and reject the things they don't like. On one end is Fred Phelps and on the other end is Carlton Pearson.

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