Saturday, February 21, 2004

I’m currently enrolled in a class at seminary on evangelism. Everyone in the class has to do a presentation. Now, my seminary is fairly conservative, but I was still shocked by a presentation this past week.

A former funeral director entitled his presentation, “My Shameful Silence.” He told stories of how he stood by silently as people falsely believed their loved ones were now at peace, but all the while he knew “the truth” - that they were really burning in hell and how ashamed he was that by his silence he allowed them to continue in their wrong thinking.

Two stories in particular stood out. The first was a woman who told him of her father holding on to a pole at his bedside saying, “No, no, no!”. She explained that her dad was a vet and he was dreaming of defending his country while holding up its flag. “But I knew better, I knew the truth—that the flames of hell were nipping at his toes, but instead I just smiled and nodded.” (If he could go back now, what would he say to that woman?)

The other was how the Roman Catholics are read the passage in Romans about being baptized in Christ and therefore being raised with Him. “So salvation is presented as an absolute lock because you were baptized as an infant, and so the deception continues.” Others chimed in later on the topic of Roman Catholics, “Yeah, you can almost hear the enemy whispering in their ear, ‘You’re okay, you’ve been baptized, you’ve done good works.’” Many classmates nodded in agreement. It was all I could do to not ask, “And should we whisper in the other ear, ‘But you haven’t done this (prayed a prayer?)'." We criticize the RC’s for putting their faith in their baptism, which presumably is a work of God, while we are smugly confident in our “decision” or profession of faith, all the while claiming, “not by works!”. Am I crazy or what?

And so this guy concluded by telling how he will begin full-time pastoral ministry in July and it will be a ministry of “truth telling.” Is it just me, or do you have a hard time picturing this "truth" as anything other than a bludgeon?

I really do wonder what he would say to the woman whose father he believed to be experiencing the flames of hell. Does the gospel have any hope to offer her? Or is it simply, “Sorry, you’re dad is rotting in hell, but Jesus loves you so you better pray this prayer.”? It seems to me that we have a Savior who has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. I’m not talking about offering people false assurance, but I am talking about offering hope. We ought to preach what we are certain of, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But we should not take hope from people when the gospel leaves room for it.


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