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John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) site has loads of great material on it, not just the sermons I use for my Forbidden Bible Verses columns.

I have spent some free time reading his and his elders’ perspectives from their series on Hell.

One post — ‘The Severity of Hell’ — featured comments from an atheist and an open theist. Open theists believe that God is not omniscient, that He can never be sure what will happen in the world. One of my favourite R Scott Clark post titles from Heidelblog expressed this perfectly: ‘Open theist dies. Was God surprised?’

Anyway, the atheist claimed to be a Christian who was questioning God. He did not sound very Christian in the slightest. However, it is worth noting that he began each of his complaints against the Almighty with ‘I think’, ‘From what I can gather’, ‘I have found’ and so on. He then went on to lambast the Christian commenters by telling them they were not nice people, they couldn’t obey the Commandments and so on. How he could judge that in his anger, particularly from the lengthy — and most gracious — replies they gave him in humility as self-confessed sinners, I do not know. This man’s issue was that he made his earthly atheistic father into his personal god. How that will turn out when the father dies is anyone’s guess. This is why people have nervous breakdowns and suffer depression when a close parent dies. (I have differentiated that from ‘spouse’.) Our fathers — as wonderful as they are — are not God. And vice versa.

As for the open theist — also an annihilationist (unbiblical, by the way) — one of MacArthur’s churchmen had this response (see Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 9:15 AM). Emphases in the original. I have left out the man in question’s name by referring to him as X in order not to give him the oxygen of publicity. Note the progression of the ‘argument’. Is it any wonder some of us have so little time for this type of thing?

I want to draw out a lesson from [X]’s comment. Now I understand how these comment threads work. Some (hopefully not most!) people probably don’t give a second thought to how they word their comment(s). Maybe [X] falls into that category. But either way, “As a man thinks in his heart” applies here, and there’s a lesson to be learned from what he said and how he said it:

Notice the progression of [X]’s comment.

Curiosity “I’m curious about the amount of anguish Christ went through on the cross.”

Question “Was it infinite?”

Suspicion “Is that even possible?”

Doubt “How could Christ pay an infinite price on the cross?”

Ridicule“This is actually a very hard and old question.”

Error “If you say well, Christ was God on the cross and God can do the infinite sacrifice then we get into lots of other problems.”

Peace Claim & Exit “God Bless”

This is the conclusion — and may all of us who write for the faith take it in:

Here’s the lesson folks, and I say this in all seriousness:

Beware of those who follow that pattern of thinking when talking about the Bible and discussing historic, protestant, evangelical beliefs. Beware of their influence, and be mindful of devoting all your time to answering their questions and addressing their objections, while other sheep–hungry sheep who are eager to receive the teachings of Scripture–go malnourished.

There is a difference between someone earnestly asking a question and a quasi-doubter using the above ‘set-up’ argumentation.

An earnest convert will search for answers which are aplenty on the Internet; there are many ancient Christian classics as well as more recent orthodox documents on any and every subject.

A mischief maker will discount this — as did this open theist — and ask, ‘What do you think about —?’ or ‘Where can I find —?’ It’s a lazy, half-hearted approach that serves no one, especially the aforementioned ‘hungry sheep’.

What makes it even worse is the faux bonhomie of using ‘God bless’ as a signoff in such circumstances.

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