According to Darren Wilson, founder and CEO of WP Films and a Christian filmmaker, preaching God’s wrath and judgment is the wrong way to preach the gospel to sinners. Wilson, an Evangelical, certainly believes Hell awaits all those who reject Jesus and his awesome offer of salvation, but the best way to reach sinners is to preach up the God of love. In a Charisma article, Wilson described his God is love gospel this way:
Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus wants to change you, make you into the person you were always intended to be. To focus on what’s coming is to miss the point entirely. Jesus isn’t fire insurance for some future event. He is now. He is present in your circumstances and your life right here.
Forget all that judgment, wrath, and Hell stuff. No need to fear God, sinners. Jesus l-o-v-e-s you and has a wonderful plan for your life. The problem, of course, with this kind of gospel, is that the Bible says a hell of a lot about the gospel that Wilson wants Evangelicals to stop preaching. Wilson wants to preach the love gospel, and once people are saved then they can be told about all the bad stuff they missed. No need to mention the bad stuff before it is necessary to do so. Is it any wonder that many people who buy what Wilson is selling, a year or two down the road, after learning all the harmful, bat-shit-crazy stuff Evangelicals believe, abandon Christianity and return to the “world”? Wilson’s love gospel is like the man who goes to great lengths to woo a woman. His pull-out-all-the-stops love eventually leads to the woman marrying him. Five years later, the woman is sick. She goes to the doctor, has some blood tests done, only to find out she has HIV. She thinks, how did I contract HIV? The only man I have had sex with is my wonderful, loving husband. When she tells her husband about her diagnosis, he replies, yeah, I should have told you beforehand, I am HIV positive.
Wilson, along with other love gospel preachers, is being deceitful when he withholds the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Jesus and his disciples, along with the Apostle Paul, certainly had plenty to say about Hell, the Lake of Fire, and God’s past, present, and future judgment and wrath. Wilson, much like many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who reduce salvation to repeating a prayer, wants to scale down the gospel to a teaspoon or two of Jesus sugar. Remember, Wilson still believes in the reality of Hell. In the aforementioned Charisma article, Wilson recounts a conversation he had with a street preacher:
We were in Nashville for a showing at Rocketown, and I was sitting in the green room waiting for showtime when some friends came in and told me there were picketers outside. Well that sounded exciting! I’ve never had picketers before, so I decided to go meet them.
I walked outside and immediately heard them on the other side of the building. They were on their blowhorn and were shouting at everyone standing in line waiting go get in. They had signs announcing the fires of hell as well as pictures of aborted fetuses (there must be a picketer kit available, so you can have all your bases covered no matter what you’re picketing), and they were just causing all kinds of angst for the people still in line. So I walked up to the guy on the blowhorn and extended my hand.
“Hi, I’m Darren.”
He looked at me, then down at my hand, then back at me. His smile was not friendly. And he wouldn’t shake my hand.
“I know who you are. You’re lying to people.”
I was genuinely curious about this accusation, so I took the bait.
“How am I lying to them?” I asked.
“You’re not telling them that unless they turn from their sins they’re going to burn in hell.”
And right there, we found our impasse. Keep in mind the gulf between us isn’t found in our theology—I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus is the only way to the Father, and if you don’t follow Him you will spend eternity apart from Him, which, fires or not, will be a true hell. No, where we parted ways was in which approach we were choosing to introduce people to Jesus. He wanted to talk about consequences. I prefer to talk about acceptance. He wanted me to start using fear as a ministry tool, whereas I much prefer to use love.
Wilson is like the car salesman who tries to sell you a brand-new car by talking about how pretty the car is without mentioning the fact that the automobile doesn’t have an engine. The car sure looks nice, but it won’t get you where you need to go. As I mentioned in the post, Alternative Viewpoints on Hell: Evangelicals Attempt to Give the Vengeful God a Makeover, many Evangelicals reinterpret the hard things of the Bible so they will be viewed in a better light by unbelievers. Who wants to be known as the neighbor who thinks everyone on his block is facing eternal torture in the Lake of Fire unless they eat the right flavor of Evangelical ice cream? Unlike the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists in the neighborhood who delight in telling people they are headed for H-E-L-L, the Wilsons of Christianity want to be viewed as nice, loving human beings. Personally, I prefer being told the truth, and that truth — as recorded in the very Bible Wilson considers an inspired, inerrant, infallible text — is that most human beings will spend eternity being tortured by the thrice-holy God in the Lake of Fire. I suspect most of the readers of this blog value truth. And I am fairly certain that Wilson does too. I suspect that when the Jesus loves you shtick doesn’t work, it’s time to go all Paul Harvey on sinners and tell them the rest of the story. If the carrot won’t work, it’s time to hit sinners with a Buford Pusser’s club-sized stick and let them know what awaits if they don’t repent and believe in Jesus.
It matters not which gospel is preached. Wilson’s gospel is certainly a feel-good gospel that avoids the harsh reality that the Bible says a lot more about wrath, judgment, and Hell than it does love and Heaven. But, it is a gospel of omission; a gospel that doesn’t warn people of the consequences of not believing in Jesus and following the teachings of the Christian Bible. The gospel of street preachers warns of the judgment and Hell that awaits all those who aren’t like them, ignoring that the Bible also speaks of a schizophrenic God of love, kindness, and mercy. Either way, for atheists, agnostics, Satanists, pagans, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintoists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, their end is the same — Hell and the Lake of Fire. And it is for this reason that all the theological minutia of Christianity is meaningless. All that matters is what happens to non-Christians after they die. Smile and tell me Jesus loves me or screw up your face and scream at me about my sins, it matters not. All I want to know is this: if Bruce, the atheist dies today what would happen to him? Where would he spend eternity? Your answers will tell me everything I need to know about you and your religion.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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