God Hates Phelps?

Culture

1394988620000-homophobeIt is strange as a Christian to read of the death of a man with the title “pastor” and have a high degree of confidence that he is now in hell. The Bible is very clear that while salvation is by grace alone through faith in the works of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and that it is not given to anyone because of their good deeds in this life; the Bible is also very clear that people who have been saved by this free grace are in fact personally changed by that salvation, and that the fruit of their salvation flows out in their everyday lives. Fred Phelps has spent decades putting the rotten fruit of his fallen heart on display for all of the world to see, as he has spread as much hate and pain as he was able in his 84 years of life. Even worse, he has grossly misrepresented the God of heaven to an entire generation of spectators. Yet here as always, God will not be mocked. Although we must always make the caveat that only God knows the ultimate realities of the heart, the title of “pastor” is no barrier to my saying that if I think anyone went to hell when they died, I think this is true of Fred Phelps.

What should be the reaction of the Christian? These moments are difficult to navigate, but here are six thoughts to help guide us along.

1. We should condemn the mission, message, and methods of the Westboro Baptist Church without hesitation

It is quite true that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Biblical Christians must not flinch on this fact, no matter how far the pendulum of our culture’s value system continues to swing away from us. But there is simply no precedent for the sort of hateful, vile things that Westboro has done. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He could be very frank with them, but he was the sort of man that they were actually drawn too. It wasn’t the sinners who stirred up the crowd against him; it was actually the religious hypocrites. If Jesus came now, I believe it would actually be groups like Westboro that would be shouting, “crucify Him!” When you add to this the fact that this group picketed Military funerals for some convoluted connection to policies in support of the homosexual agenda, bringing great pain upon innocent grieving families, the filthy value system of these people is on full display. Christians must condemn such evil without a hint of hesitation.

2. We should not allow ourselves to be wrongfully identified with hate speech we do not own

There is always an attempt to hang such shameful distortions of the faith around the necks of all Christians. We must not allow this. Taking a principled stand for Biblical truth does not make you a bigot. The Bible is not hate speech. We must contend for a faithful and firm witness against a hostile culture that is seasoned with love, respect, and charity. We are not Fred Phelps, and we must object when we are made out to be for simply believing and proclaiming Biblical truth.

3.    We should not give in to a morbid rejoicing over a man’s death

The point of this post is not to break out into a sort of sanctified version of “ding, dong the witch is dead.” God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither should we. It is a chilling thing to consider the awful reality of a man like Phelps being called to account before the Judge of all the earth. The culture will make this a cause of celebration. Obscene jokes will be made. Christians must not impugn our witness by taking part in such morbid rejoicing.

4. We should be thankful to God for providentially removing a man who persisted in great evil

The above point does not mean that we cannot be thankful for God’s providence in this matter. Although I would have vastly preferred that this pitiful and angry man be granted repentance, God has seen fit to remove his evil presence from the world by means of his death. I trust God that He has done rightly, and I do not hesitate to say I am thankful that Mr. Phelp’s mouth is now silenced. True, I suspect that his followers will persist in carrying out his mission, but I am hopeful that this marks the beginning of the end of the Westboro Baptist Church.

5. We should stand on Biblical truth, being a faithful witness against sin in all its spectrum of expression

The temptation to give up Biblical ground on the issue of homosexuality is great. The cultural pressure is already massive, and coercive tactics may not be far ahead. Brothers and sisters, we must not cave to this pressure. We must stand with the Word of God, even if all others stand against us for it. When read in proportion and balance, the Bible’s doctrine on this matter is already equipped to give a faithful answer to its critics. Our job is to stand strong and declare that witness. This means condemning sin in all its spectrum of expression, including homosexuality, while constantly pleading grace and pointing all who will listen to the redeeming love of Jesus Christ.

6. This is a moment for the gospel to transcend current events

Mr. Phelps was not just the enemy of gays and military families; he was the enemy of true Christians as well. Christians are called to hate sin, but also to love our enemies. How are we to grapple with this complex reality, this strange place we find ourselves in condemning his message, mission, and methods while standing firm against the sin of homosexuality? In ourselves, we are insufficient to the task. Yet it is moments like this that the transcendent brilliance of the gospel can break in. Yes, God hates Phelps in that Phelps is a sinner. God’s Holy character allows Him to do nothing else. But this is true of every single one of us. We are all sinners and are justly under the Holy hatred of God. Yet the unexpected and shocking scandal of Christianity is that God himself became a man in the person of Jesus Christ; that the Holy One came and suffered for the sins of men. This is why the love of God exceeds all earthly loves. There is no saga ever conceived which holds a candle to the blazing flame of God’s self-sacrificing love for sinners. Some of those he died for were bigots. Some were gay. Some were religious hypocrites. All stood in equal desperate need of his grace. He is our only hope, now and forevermore.

So in a sense, yes, God hates Phelps. And it’s temping to get out some markers and make a sign to that effect. But maybe the better thing is to be a faithful witness to the fact that God has hatred against all the sins of men under the sun, without distinction, whether it be homosexuality or adultery; bigotry or racism. Sins which often get a pass in Christian circles such as pride, gossip, and hypocricy are no less deserving of hell than anything perpetrated by Westboro or the Gay Lobby. But our plight is not hopeless. To the merchants of hate in Kansas and to the most resistant Homosexual; the call goes out from our Savior without distinction and without prejudice: Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 (By: Nicolas Alford)

Image Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

Read more at The Gospel Coalition, Christian Post, and Christianity Today.

12 thoughts on “God Hates Phelps?

  1. ” If Jesus came now, I believe it would be groups like Westboro that would be shouting, “crucify Him,” not the Gay Lobby”. – I believe you are mistaken, sir. In the words of Ravi Zacharias, this is not an ‘either/or’ but a ‘both/and’…

    1. Yes, Jack, you may be right about that. It certainly isn’t a very nuanced statement on my side, and wasn’t intended to be anything more than a supporting argument for the larger point being made about how Jesus spent time with sinners and interacted with them (think John 4, woman at the well) rather than just shouting obscene slogans.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Thanks for writing this article.

    Great points and good balanced biblical thoughts for Xians…

    Athough I second the point made by Jack in the comments: In fact, if Jesus had returned anytime before July 4, 2006 – I’d have personally driven the first nail through his hands into the cross.

    There is no one who does good, no not one.

    1. Thanks Michael, I really appreciate your comments. I hope that in the context of the whole article, it is clear that I’m not for a second excusing the activities or manifold sins of the Gay Lobby. The text that was in my mind while I was typing that paragraph was Luke 15, where the Pharisees and scribes are upset that Jesus is spending time receiving and eating with sinners and tax collectors- prompting Jesus to tell three parables about how He was actually the one seeking out the sinners, not the other way around. This is a pattern in the Gospels, and it was indeed the Pharisees, not the “sinners” (to use the language of the text) who got the ball rolling on the crucifixion.

      The line in the post was intended to make us think along those lines and about the implications for the methodology and spirit of Westboro. That’s all. Maybe if it proves to be too confusing I’ll edit it.

      BTW, I’m responding not just to you, but to others who may be reading and having a similar reaction. That’s why this is wordy. I’m sure you already knew about Luke 15 🙂

      Thanks again for the kind words. It is so true that every one of us would have been lining up to have a turn with the hammer unless grace arrested us. We can thank God for that mercy, and pray that he would shower it on sinners again and again, no matter what their particular sins may be.

      1. Nicolas – Yes, I got your point actually in your reply to Jack, and I appreciate your gracious and humble reply.

        As a NOVICE writer who probably knows less than I think I do…it would be my opinion that already too much time and focus has been spent on a tiny part of a really great article.

        My opinion: remove the stumbling block with some edit like: “If Jesus came now, I believe it would be groups like Westboro that would be shouting, “Crucify Him!” (and end it there).

        That way, people see your great content and don’t fumble over a tiny point where your true heart is seemingly easily misunderstood.

        And I agree with your Luke 15 analogy, too. It’s worthy of a separate (followup) blog post.

        1. The crowd hath spoken, an edit is done. You’re right, I don’t want to lose people in the first point unnecessarily. I’ll keep these comments up as an acknowledgment of the helpful feedback from Jack and Michael that resulted in the edit.

          Thanks for the assist, brothers.

  3. The author of this article have express more his feeling of hatred for Fred Phelps, rather than a biblically truthful balance article. When we are not at one extreme we go to the other. I get the feeling why most Christians hate Fred Phelps, is because he went against their patriotic feelings, he picketed Military funerals. Other than picketed Military funerals the author didn’t do a good job on giving evidence for his “justified” anger against Fred Phelps. Its my understanding that they don’t picket during the funeral but before. And they let the people know that because of their sins they are bringing God’s wrath, and curse on the military resulting in increase deaths, and God’s wrath on America as well. That I can’t argue against because I believe its biblical. And love is telling the truth (preaching the word) in season, and out of season.

    Fred Phelps, did wrong things such as saying certain people has gone to hell, he didn’t know if they repented before dying, also his King James Bible Onlyism was very wrong, and his hyper-Calvinism (condemning all Arminians as unsaved) was very wrong. But he did more that was biblical, his strong condemnation of sodomy, and lesbianism, and the enabling of such. His speaking on the wrath of God falling on America and the nations because of their sins, His preaching of the doctrines of grace (Calvinism), his community charity works and projects (which he was engaged in but many don’t want to speak of), his not begging for money to do his religious work which can’t be said of many Christians, he thanked God for and in everything which the bible tells us to do, and so on.

    Lets be fair and truthful in our judgment, and not go from one extreme to another. Mr. Phelps, was wrong in certain areas (and so are we all) but he did many things that was biblical. And when many cowered he stood up, and the world (and many Christians too) hated him for that.

    1. I hope you are joking, Greg. Xians disagree with Fred Phelps because he did not preach the gospel, not because of patriotism.

    2. Mr. Gill,

      I respectfully disagree with your comment. I think you missed the point of the article. Nicolas wrote nothing of the issue of patriotism. The assertion you make does not grab hold of his greatest concern. He wants us to see that even when we have biblical truth concerning an issue we must employ biblical means propelled by the fruit of the Spirit to engage the lost culture around us. Thank you Nicolas for the article.

      Brandon

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