Why Christians Don’t Like Jesus

As the Red Letter Christian movement came to be known, I realized it would never be accepted.  This is because many Christians don’t really like the God that is revealed in Jesus Christ.  They want the God that is in the black letters.  He is the God that legitimated war and many Christians feel more comfortable with war than they do with a God who tells them to love their enemies and to overcome evil with good.

Many Christians believe in retribution.  They want a God who tells them that there should be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and they become furious when anyone suggests another kind of God who asks them to be merciful and forgiving.  The God of grace is not to their liking.  Instead, they want a God who punishes people tit for tat, and even beyond that, they want a God who will provide infinite punishment for limited sin.

The God revealed in Jesus Christ is far too generous.  He gives His all in love for others, and expects us to do the same.  Such a God is too demanding for most Christians.  They want one that only requires a tithe.  They sing about total self-giving, but in the end they would like to sing, “One-tenth to Jesus I surrender, one-tenth to Him I gladly give—I surrender one-tenth, I surrender one-tenth.”  Ultimately, they want a God who declares as an abomination all of those who offend their social mores.  They don’t like the God who touches lepers, embraces Samaritans, declares women equals, and has the audacity to say to gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals, “Whosoever will may come.”  They don’t like the God that is revealed in those red letters of the Bible because Him embraces those whom they want to reject.  They prefer the God of the black letters so evident in the Hebrew Bible, the God who declares certain races unclean and would render women who are menstruating as unacceptable in the house of worship.

They want a God who, when they march off to war, will be on their side and they reject the God revealed in the red letters who warns that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

When we stumbled upon calling ourselves Red Letter Christians, we should have expected the reaction that we got because most Christians feel more comfortable with a God that is like most of us—vengeful, judgmental, and ready to mete out torture to those who do not conform to expectations—torture that goes on forever and ever.  The God revealed in fullness in the Jesus we find in the red letters is not to their liking at all.

Brave New Films

The Bible says that God created us in His own image.  Unfortunately, George Bernard Shaw was correct when he said, “We have decided to return the favor.”  There is no doubt that most Christians want a God in their own image, but that’s not the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ.  He is not an American who would carry within his psyche all the traits of judgment and prejudices so evident among those who want nothing to do with the God who breaks loose in the Sermon on the Mount.  He is not the God of Jonathan Edwards, who preached “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.”  Instead, the God of the red letters is the God that we find in the Beatitudes.


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Tony Campolo

Tony CampoloTony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.View all posts by Tony Campolo →

  • Jdomaille78

    Wow Tony. Are you advocating the Thomas Jefferson Bible here? The black letters put the red letters in their proper context. You wouldn’t read the last few Chapters of Huckleberry Finn and expect to understand the whole book would you? That’s English 101. Seems like your beating up on a straw man to me. Which is funny since beating people up, real or imaginary, seems to be something you’re against…

    • Mss6259

      Actually it’s the red letters that put the black letters in proper context….

      • Jdomaille78

        Actually, I am not going to put one part of the Bible in competition with the other. If that’s how you want to say it, fine.

  • Rcarr

    Great point. I’d add, for some, it’s easier to reject the God of the black letters. I’ve seen a lot of kids raised in the church, decide they want to reject God, and point to what an awful God He must be if He’s like that God in the OT. Some even say, look at all the bad things David did. If he’s a man after God’s own heart, that’s not the kind of God I want to follow.

  • I get the vibe that’s being pushed in idea of the post, but isn’t the “Red Letter God of the N.T.” the same God in the “Black Letter O.T.”? It seems it would be easy to interpret the direction of the post toward Marcionism. I don’t think that is the intent, but it seems leading that way.

  • “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

    ~ Anne Lamott

    • Jdomaille78

      “You can safely assume you’re not a Christian when it turns out that you hate anyone without repentance, or pretend you’ve never hated anyone, or pretend it’s loving to convince people that hell is empty which will end up meaning hell is full because you refuse to warn people about hell and judgment.”

      – Me

      • Jennifer A. Nolan

        Are you SURE hell isn’t empty, Jdomaille78?? Because, you are not the Lord, I am not Him, either, and so neither of us is in a position to declare the state of the spirit world. We will find out about that when we do, not beforehand. I say: let the Lamb be the Judge!

        • Anonymous

          Jennifer, this response is really NOT germane to your current post, I apologize.
          I wonder if you, and all the rest of us Red Letter Christians know the Jefferson Bible?
          Jefferson took the time to go through the Gospels and clipped out ONLY the wrods of the Christ, Jesus – his version of Red Letter Gospel. The rest of Scripture took/takes a back-seat to the Words of the Most High incarnate.
          I also rely on the writings of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin when I want clarity on the practical application of the Gospels in my daily life. Many of the early Apostolic and post-Apostolic Fathers of the Church are wonderfully radical, too.
          We have a grand tradition, which seems to have been forgotten, except by a handful of us. Fall back on that – you cannot go wrong.

          • Brian

            uh…….Jefferson did not believe Jesus was the Most High incarnate. He stripped the New Testament of the miraculous, you might want to study the Jefferson Bible a bit more.

      • Jurgen

        Hell. is not place you can go to. So it is empty. There is not place where people go to after death to burn for eternity. this catholic doctrine must DIE! Sheol means grave/pit/etc. Yes, it seems strange perhaps to understand this at first. I encourage some research.. and you will seeon find the truth. I did. I recommend it :-)

        • Tina

          Sheol is a pit/grave yes, but Gehenna would be where those flames are at. 😉

  • Christopher

    Don’t for one second think that you are the only Christians that prefer peace, hope, acceptance and equality. I respectfully remind you that Elijah made the same error…”I’m the only one left”. To which God replied “there are 7000 whose knees have not bowed to Baal”.


    More and more, these posts are sounding like “we know Jesus better than other so-called Christians”. You sound like the “holiness” mystics I know who think that they know Jesus better than other so-called Cristians because they do the wrong things.

    Why do you have to sound the “we have a better revelation than other Christians” thing **all** the time. This is all I hear from everybody and it’s driving me up the wall!

    Honestly, people are criticised for not spending enough time on their knees (too busy being Martha), and there are those who are criticised for spending too much time on their knees (too busy being Mary).

    There are those who are criticised for being too soft (they don’t know the Old Testament exists), and those who are criticised for being too hard (the red letters don’t exist).

    There are those who are criticised for wearing a tie (too traditional) and those who are criticised for wearing a t-shirt (disrespectful).

    There are those who are criticised for only ever quoting from the Bible (not socially aware or culturally relevant) and there are those who are criticised for only ever quoting from non-Christians (want to be hip and trendy and Ghandi rocks)

    The key here is criticism – there’s WAY TOO MUCH criticism of other Christians going on here (I know, I’m criticising but hoping that the double negative cancels out ;).

    Anybody can knock down, but why not try building up the people you think are useless – you may find they’re Ok after all.

    I can’t walk on my hands, so why should I hate my hands for not carrying my body anywhere?
    I can’t pick things up with my elbows, so why criticise them for never picking anything up?
    My ears can’t see, so why criticise them for not seeing?
    My feet can’t hear, so why criticise them for not hearing?

    My body can walk, pick up, see and hear, but not all of my body does all of these things.

    We all need to be corrected and reproved from time to time, but all I get here is “Christians are rubbish unless they’re us!” and that bothers me greatly.

    “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”, “I am of Red Letter Christians” — Really, you do a great work that Jesus really wants people to do, but posts about how much better you are than others really, really sucks.

    • The Truth stings. Doesn’t it?

      • RCOPEH

        Yeah, you got that right. That’s why it should be mixed with grace.

        Truth without grace is just facts. Jesus could have come and given a bunch of facts and left it there, but being more than just a fact-giver, He was able to show compassion; compassion toward sinners and compassion toward each of his disciples, no matter their talents, abilities or weaknesses;

        He didn’t rail against John and say “be more forceful John! Don’t be so soft! Don’t be such a wimp, leaning on me like that you great big girls’ blouse. Look at Peter! You should be more like him! He’s pushy like a real man!”.

        Neither did He rail against Peter saying “You muscle brained moron! Why can’t you be like John! If you want to prove you like me, be more like John! He’s much more touchy-feely and that’s what you should be like”.

        Get my drift?

        • Precisely. I think the premise of this whole article and what Campolo is saying here is that GRACE is what is lacking in the Evangelical church. Too many Evangelicals are too focused on Truth and not enough grace. They focus on the black letters of the Bible (usually Truth-oriented) and rarely focus on the red letters of the Bible (usually grace-oriented). It’s about relationships and people; getting your hand dirty in the trenches of life and meeting people where they are rather than pulling and dragging them into our camp.

        • Andy J. Funk

          This is true, but what about the things Jesus said of the Pharisees? You are quick to mention how Jesus did not rail against the Apostles, which by the way, he did. To Peter: “get behind me satan”. Jesus constantly was hard on the Pharisees and just how they were completely missing the point of the meaning of the kingdom of God, and how people are to be included into it. We MUST be gracious, no doubt. But let’s not take a Pharisaical approach either, by building walls around God’s favour and his coming kingdom, being gatekeepers to determine who makes it in…more importantly who is kept out. 

          • Ryan G

            with all due respect, Andy, Jesus did not rail at Peter as at the Pharisees. Jesus’ imperative “Get behind me, Satan!” was to Peter for his fervor that Jesus shouldn’t knowingly go to his death. If Gethsemane was any indication, it was clear that Jesus was horribly anguished with temptation by the enemy to not fulfill the will he knew he had to submit to, hence his tearful surrender to his Father, “Not my will but Thine be done.” Peter, in his ignorance of Jesus’ mission, was mistakenly tempting Jesus to not follow through with the most important sacrifice and in that moment was the tempting voice of the Enemy to Christ. This is quite different to the criticism of the religious elite who, as you aptly put, were the “gatekeepers”.   

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      With all due sympathy, RCOPEH, Campolo is as hard on “black-letter Ctristians” (my coinage) as he is because of all the damage done, not only to the Gospel message, but to human beings and much that is precious in Creation, by those who march behind “Jesus” but choose to ignore His own words. I have no doubt there is much to treasure in the Epistles and the Old Testament — but those are not the words of Christ. Hear and obey those words, and you can call yourself a true Christian; otherwise, you’re sailing under another country’s flag.

      • Rev Al

        Verging on heresy there Jennifer. What happened to ‘ALL of scripture is God-breathed’?! Human beings shall not live on bread alone but on EVERY word that comes from the mouth of God (Red Letter words). Selective faith is defective faith!

        • I’d urge you to be careful with your accusation of heresy, Al.  Jennifer did not counsel ignoring the other parts of scripture, she said that there is something unique and important about the words of Christ himself.  I think she’s right.

          Nowhere in the Bible, does any author claim that every word written in the Bible comes from the mouth of God.  That itself is an extra-Biblical assertion.  They are profitable, they are wise, but they are not all God-sourced.  2 Tim. 3:16 does not say what most Christians claim it says.  For more detail, if you’re interested, I refer you to this post on Biblical interpretation.

          By pointing to the primacy of the words of Jesus, Jennifer, and Tony, and the rest are restoring a desperately-needed balance to the Christian focus.

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          “Verging on heresy there, Jennifer.” Thank you for the warning, but I will stick to my position. “It has been said of old time…but I say unto you…” These words came from the lips of our Lord Himself, more than once. Incidentally, your warning of heresy sounds like thought policing. It may seem that way to some, but Jesus did not call on us to police each others’ thoughts.

          From: Disqus
          To: jennifernolan48@yahoo.com
          Sent: Friday, November 25, 2011 5:00 AM
          Subject: [redletterchristians] Re: Why Christians Don’t Like Jesus

          Disqus generic email template

          Rev Al (unregistered) wrote, in response to Jennifer A. Nolan:
          Verging on heresy there Jennifer. What happened to ‘ALL of scripture is God-breathed’?! Human beings shall not live on bread alone but on EVERY word that comes from the mouth of God (Red Letter words). Selective faith is defective faith! Link to comment

        • Matthew Z

          we are to filter all of scripture, both old and new THROUGH the teachings of Jesus. I fail to see where she is even close to heresy. Many churches do this by supporting war abroad, and using selected scriptures to back up THEIR views and desires. I’m not accusing you of this, but just saying the true heresy is in the abuse of the scriptures, and not the elevation of the words of Jesus.

    • LadyInMaine

      Finally, a voice of reason. Amen RCOPEH!

  • Wow, bad form to trash Jonathan Edwards. Besides misunderstanding his famous sermon, most young believers nowadays don’t know who that guy is, let alone the sermon.

    But the sermon does show God’s mercy, and while he does quote the OT (oh no!) Edwards is emphasizing our responsibility to respond to God’s offered mercy.

    • Edwards is not someone I would send a lost sinner to hear a sermon. It seems Edwards was very much a hail and brimstone type of preacher. I prefer sending someone to the red-letter of Christ in the New Testament.

      • Jdomaille78

        That’s because your judging him from one sermon. He wrote others, and did other things, including missionary work to Native Americans. People are more complicated than the straw men we make of them. But the straw men are easier to argue with…

        • Anyone and everyone who knows a thing or two about Jonathan Edwards knows that his style of preaching often incorporated hail and brimstone, condemnation, sin, and hell. That was his signature trademark.

          • Jdomaille78

            I bet salvation looks pretty beautiful in contrast to that stuff doesn’t it? I bet Jesus looks pretty good next to that doesn’t he? And that’s the whole point. Jesus died to save us. From what?

          • Jesus died for our sins and reconciled us to a holy God, not to save us from Hell. Paul clearly lays out the Gospel in 1 Corinthians.

            “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

            (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

            Unfortunately, many Evangelicals mistakenly believe that Christ died to strictly save us from hell. That is not the case. Hell was merely the punishment for our sins, of which Christ’s substitutionary atonement paid the price for. But, hell should never be the centralized focus for believing in Jesus Christ as Paul states in the above Gospel.

          • “Hell was merely the punishment for our sins, of which Christ’s substitutionary atonement paid the price for. But, hell should never be the centralized focus for believing in Jesus Christ as Paul states in the above Gospel.”

            So you do believe in Hell. Of course it’s more of a”byproduct,” and salvation is more than just the afterlife. Maybe the Christians you know/hang out with focus on hell, but the ones I associate with talk more about God’s salvation for the here and now as well as the afterlife.

      • Of course send them to Jesus’ words. Send them there before Edwards, Campolo, Bell, Piper, Dill, Gaudreau, or whoever you fancy. Doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to find in all of these guys writing beneficial for the Christian life (including “Sinners…”)

        WTF with the ‘red letters’ by the way? My Bible has Jesus’ words printed in black. I go to the black letters – which incidentally includes all of scripture.

  • Like others have pointed out, the God of the “Hebrew Bible” in black letters is the same God who spoke in “Red Letters”. You make some good points but unfortunately they are going to be missed by those who need to hear them because of your insistence on trying to separate God into “OT God” and “NT God”. Going too far in one direction or the other demonstrates a mistaken understanding of God. The same God who said “Whosoever will” is the same God who will said that those who do not believe in the Son of God are already condemned. If you only look at half of God it really doesn’t matter which half you look at because it is equally wrong.

  • Bliamkratky

    Certainly God teaches and speaks using the black letters too. I have had the privilege of hearing Mr. Campolo speak on numerous occasions. I have watched his ministry for many, many years. I am comfortable in stating that Mr. Campolo lends equal weight to ALL letters in God’s Word. I also know that he loves those to whom he writes, even those who are members of The Body of Christ. Mr. Campolo knows more than most that the “red letters” are a fairly modern development, a fruit of printing technology gone “wonderful.” RLC is a metaphor. I am sure he can out quote just about any kid on the block using any and all the letters of the Bible. Beyond AWANA or Navigator memorization, he understands Scripture and the whole Gospel intimately.

    What I see in his little post, and in his RLC efforts, is a brave attempt to swing the pendulum in the U.S. branch of Christ’s body back to center. That he oft times seems way to one side is because he senses that followers of Christ are being lead too, too far to the other. My guess is that he is more central, that much of the Church is far away from plumb.

    I have been raised in a fundamentalist tradition. I remain and worship in that tradition. I have been taught grace by the best of them. As we focus on the words of Paul many of us begin to embrace a self righteousness, develop critical hearts, and only give polite lip service to the forgiving and humble acceptance of others. For some reason we want kings and judges. Many of us seize the mantel of judge. We want hard fast, black and white rules, and we demand of others they follow; as we do. We tend to huddle and protect ourselves from all that is uncomfortable. Tax collectors, prostitutes, AIDS victims, gays and lesbians, thieves, murderers, at-risk youth…they all really, really bug us.

    This was not true of our Jesus. Mr. Campolo calls us to first and foremost try to follow Him, be like Him, to really hear Jesus first and foremost. When we do…it changes EVERYTHING. In our hearts we know this. In our rational intellects we chafe. We are driven to order the world around us the way we see fit.

    Mr. Campolo is trying to point out to us, again, this fearful threat to our true mission, our freedom. “Jesus gave it all, ALL to Him I owe…” and joyfully so! We should not view Jesus through Paul’s eyes, but we must view Paul through the eyes of his savior and ours. Jesus inspired every word Paul or any other biblical author penned. When we embrace this truth we acknowledge that Jesus was the greatest of all teachers. Clearly Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul were flawed. With much thankfulness we know that our Jesus was not so. He shows us through His Old Testament, His New Testament, His red letters and black, that we are all broken and need fixing, that we are all loved unto and beyond death, that it all ended and began at the cross, that by following and desiring to be more like Jesus of Nazareth, we no longer will be kicking against the goads. The world will then hear us better.

    Mr. Campolo wants the world to hear Jesus through us more clearly.

    • Anonymous

      this is well said friend

  • Catherine Irvine33

    i love the red letter Jesus this my Jesusxx

  • Jdomaille78

    Not that I like the idea of people going to hell, but Jesus seemed to have a lot to say about it: There is nothing in Jesus’ words to suggest that hell is not a real place – quite the opposite:

    This then is how Jesus spoke of hell. Jesus said that…

    hell and fire go together as “hell fire” Matt 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47
    hell is a place of “fire” Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41
    hell is the “furnace of fire” Matt 13:42, 50

    hell is “the fire that never shall be quenched” Mark 9:43, 45
    hell is the place where “the fire is not quenched” Mark 9:44, 46, 48
    hell is a place of “everlasting fire” Matt 18:8, 25:41

    hell is “damnation” Matt 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47
    hell is the “damnation of hell” Matt 23:33
    hell is the place of “eternal damnation” Mark 3:29
    hell is the “resurrection of damnation” John 5:29

    in hell “their worm dieth not” Mark 9:44, 46, 48

    in hell there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth” Matt 13:42, 50
    in hell there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30

    hell is a “place of torment” Luke 16:28
    hell will have various “torments” Luke 16:23 (note that “torments” is in the plural)
    hell is the place where the damned will be “tormented in this flame” Luke 16:24

    hell is a place of “outer darkness” Matt 8:12, 22:13

    hell will be “everlasting punishment” Matt 25:46

    And yet, in the name of “love,” some Christians would actually abdicate their responsibility to warn people about hell, and instead pretend it’s not real. But at least we wed the poor and so on, as if the two are juxtaposed…

    • Jdomaille78

      *fed the poor

    • Jdomaille78

      *fed the poor

    • Ironically, not a single mention of sinners going to hell. Nope. It’s only been within the past 200 years that hell has become the centralized focus of evangelism. “Repent now or you’re going to hell!”

      Not once did Jesus condemn a sinner to hell. The only folks He did condemn were the self-righteous and legalistic religious leaders of His day. And, even to those who profess Christ, Jesus says to them, “depart from me, I never knew you.” I’d be more concerned about your own salvation than condemning or “forewarning” others about hell. My goodness. What did Christ do? He reconciled us to a holy God. That, is what we should be preaching. That is Good News!

      • RCOPEH

        Exactly, so why waste time criticising other Christians?

        You know you’re on the road to divisiveness when you start using the word ‘they’ a lot in sweeping negative statements, and there were a lot of those in this piece.

        There’s a place for people in the church who are not like you and me. This article suggested there isn’t.

        After reading Acts 6, the first few verses, who would accuse the disciples of neglecting widows so that their hoity-toity hignhnesses don’t have to dirty their hands looking after them?

        We have different outlooks, functions and methods but we’re all washed in the same blood if Jesus is the One in whom we trust.

        Some people see only that Jesus showed wonderful compassion to the woman caught in adultery when He (being without sin) could have stoned her (according to law); but He didn’t. Others see only that He told her to go and sin no more and that this was somehow a condition of His letting her off the hook (they believe grace must be earned). Most, however, see both grace and truth here but find different emphasis at different times in their experience. There’s no need to criticise and humble those who don’t see what you see when you see it and how you see it.

        • Rev Dr Michael DD

          Important Truths that all mankind should know.

          What happens after Death?
          By Dr Leslie R Stone

          When souls leave their earthly bodies, they enter the spirit world. As each spirit arrives in the spirit world, they are taken to a temporary place and are then helped by more advanced spirits who guide them and inform them that they have left their earthly bodies forever. These newborn spirits are also shown how to overcome the confusion and terror that may be theirs with the help and encouragement of these spirit helpers. Reference 1.

          Some of the newly born spirits, when they come into the spirit world meet their guardian angels and also many of those whom they loved on earth. For a certain length of time they are very happy and rejoice because of the uniting with those they loved so much when on earth. They all have a wonderful time together.

          This meeting place, where loved ones wait to meet the new arrivals and welcome them into their new home in the spirit world with great joy and gladness, could be compared to our Grand Central Station in New York, Chicago, or any other large city where trains come in from all over the country on many tracks. This joyful meeting helps to overcome the anxiety, and often fright that may be theirs upon first entering the spirit world. But the love and protection of these spirit helpers consoles them.

          After a while, the spirit is told that there is a law, which is that all spirits have to go to a plane corresponding to their soul condition. That means its purity or lack of purity. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so (is) he.” Prov 23-7. This means, of course, his soul condition. Does he love things that are righteous and pure and holy, or does he love things that are evil and depraved? Reference 2.

          When the spirit is conducted to its plane, according to its soul condition, the spirit finds itself in a place or environment that is in exact harmony with that condition.

          Those spirits who find themselves in darkness and suffering because of evils done on earth, find that etched in their memories are every act and deed and thought that they had when on earth. When the conscience becomes awakened, as it does to all spirits sooner or later, then comes the scourging of conscience, remorse and regrets. Until these spirits are willing to receive the help and instructions of spirits from a higher plane, they will continue in their deplorable condition. Reference 3.

          Conscience then becomes the judge and executioner, and causes the suffering – not an angry God inflicting this condition, as some of the orthodox churches teach. Conscience gradually becomes awakened and, with it, the remorse and regret because of its evil life on earth that causes the darkness and suffering. Now, you can readily see that the evil spirits, in order to make progress, must get rid of these evil creations that are the result of their own wills. Until their consciences are satisfied by getting into harmony with the laws that have been violated, these spirits will continue to suffer. Reference 4.

          When these spirits get rid of these sinful desires and memories of those things they had forgotten to forget, suffering will cease. As the soul progresses, these memories become fainter and fainter until such memories and sinful desires will be removed sooner or later, and conscience ceases to cause suffering. Then these spirits can claim they have been forgiven and will find themselves in a beautiful place. Forgiveness is, in effect, forgetfulness.

          First, it must be understood that when a mortal passes into the spirit world it has the same beliefs that it had on earth, and does not come into all knowledge, as some think. To obtain knowledge, the spirit must receive knowledge of Truths from a spirit who has progressed to a higher sphere.

          There are many planes in each spirit sphere, but there are only seven spheres. The lower planes that exist in the first sphere, which is in contact with the earth plane, are called the hells. There are many hells as well as many heavens. To make progress into higher spheres, or heavens, the soul must be qualified to go higher, as in different grades of school.

          Many spirits are stagnating in their plane or sphere because they are not willing to give up their erroneous beliefs from earth that retard their progress. But, if a spirit after it passes into the spirit world is in the soul condition of sufficient purity, it passes into the second sphere, which contains considerable light, and the spirits in this sphere have a good deal of happiness.

          Because in the second sphere there are spirits who still have their orthodox beliefs much the same as they had on earth, the spirit does not come into all the knowledge, as some think. To obtain greater knowledge the spirit must receive this knowledge of truths from a spirit who has progressed to a higher plane or sphere.

          There are two ways whereby the soul can make progress into the higher spheres or heavens – because there are two different purifying processes. Each purifying process leads to different heavens. There is the Kingdom of God (or Biblical Heavens), wherein the perfect natural man exists. There is also the grander and more glorious kingdom, or Celestial Kingdom, where only those can enter who have received the New Birth, which is obtained by the inflowing of the Divine Love that comes from God by His Holy Spirit. Divine Love is the very essence and substance of the Father, while the natural love as taught by Moses – love to God and love to your fellow man – is not.

          Love to God and love to your fellow man as taught by Moses and other teachers and reformers, is a beautiful love when lived up to, and leads to the Kingdom of the Perfect Natural Man but not to the Divine Kingdom of the Celestial Heavens, where Jesus dwells. Jesus was the first to obtain the Divine Love. Since he has been in the Celestial Heavens he has obtained it in such great abundance that he is nearer to the Fountainhead of the Father, and has a greater glory and beauty than any other Celestial Spirit. Because of this greater abundance of the Divine Love in his soul, it gives to him far greater wisdom and knowledge and soul perception of the Great Soul of God and His attributes. It makes him the greatest authority in all the Celestial Heavens of the Father’s plans for the salvation of His children.

          Moses taught the Ten Commandments, and many other teachers and leaders taught the moral precepts before Jesus came to earth. Jesus was the first man to teach of a greater Love than the mere exercise of the natural love. This Divine Love is no part of the natural love, neither is it that love developed into its purest state. It is a separate and distinct quality of love.

          A spirit who had reached the Kingdom of the Perfect Natural man wrote through Mr. James E. Padgett that “although he was a very bright spirit, his glory was like a pale moonbeam compared to the glorious sun at midday.” This fact is very convincing that these Celestials have obtained in their souls a quality of love that is of the Divine Essence, or Divine Love, which causes that greater glory and beauty that shines through their spirit body countenances, that the natural perfect man has not.

          Spirits who have progressed to the Kingdom of Perfect Natural man, which is the highest sphere of those who develop their natural love and become free from sin and error, find themselves in a condition of stagnation, for they have found the limit of their purifying process that they have passed through. Of course, they are beautiful and glorious spirits, and wonderfully happy in investigating laws both material and spiritual, for there is always something new coming up for them to study. The purifying process they have passed through is the result of good deeds and good thoughts, their natural love to God and their fellowman, renunciation of their sins that are not in harmony with God’s laws of harmony, and helping spirits who are in a lower sphere than themselves. When these spirits reach the condition whereby their souls become free from the perversions of their natural love, they have then reached the sixth sphere, the Kingdom of the Perfect Natural Man, but are still in a condition of stagnation, and become anxious for higher Truth as the soul longing increases.

          After a while, these spirits referred to find their souls becoming hungry for something they know not what, and then the Celestials, who often visit the spheres, are able to instruct them in what their souls are really hungry for, even though they have no idea of what it is. Then these spirits will often listen to the Celestials and take their advice, and seek with all the earnest, sincere longings of their souls for the inflowing of the Divine Love. When this Love comes into the soul, it transforms the soul into the Divine Nature, and eventually the Love comes into the soul in such abundance that the Celestial Heavens will be reached.

          The Celestial Heavens follow the seventh sphere. The spirit who makes its progress from the lower spheres by earnest and sincere prayers for the Divine Love finds that as the Divine Love enters into the soul in sufficient abundance it is then qualified to enter the sphere above. After it reaches this sphere and seeks for more of the Divine Love, and more of the Love comes into the soul in sufficient degree, the spirit rises into the next sphere that is higher, and as the Love increases in the soul, the spirit progresses from sphere to sphere, until it reaches the seventh sphere. After it reaches the seventh sphere, the spirit possesses the Divine Love in almost, but not quite sufficient abundance to enter the Celestial Heavens, which are immediately above the seventh sphere.

          • Norman Johnson

            And you know this because….?

          • Mmbrsmith

            God is love. His son the ‘Messiah’, ‘the Christo’ our ‘Savior’, came to point ‘the way’ as he walked the way. Simple, loving truth. I cannot wrap my mind around this spheres of levels idea. i live in the presence of God and will continue to do so when i see Him, the great ‘I AM’ face to face. i will jump through heavenly rainbow hoops if He likes, but he already knows my heart, why the drama of spheres. It is so tiring. Heaven is rest for our souls. God just wants us all to join the wedding feast. We believers are the bride of Christ and it is going be a party.

        • Criticizing is a bit harsh. Forewarning is more like it. At Judgment Day Jesus will say “depart from me, I never knew you”. Who did He say this to? Believers, those who thought they were doing the will of God. The warning is to Christians not to lost sinners.

          • Jdomaille78

            So the answer is to not believe then? Do you think I’m better off if I don’t believe in Jesus? If being a Christian puts me in danger of hellfire being a non-Christian means eternal safety, what would you choose? You are posting tons of non sequiturs. You are right to say, as you have said in other posts, we should be concerned about OURSELVES going to hell. But you’re wrong if you mean ONLY ourselves. I think what it boils down to for a lot of people here is they don’t want to look like idiots by talking about eternal realities. Jesus is turned into mere ethos, and of course there is ethos, but whole point is none of us meet the requirements of that ethos, which is why we need Jesus in the first place.

          • Believe in Jesus and share with others about the Good News of Jesus Christ. But, never should we make hail and fiery brimstone the focus of our message. What is the Good News? The Good News is that Christ died on the cross and has reconciled us to a holy God. Escaping hell is certainly a fringe benefit of having faith in Christ, but is not the sole reason.

          • Jdomaille78

            I think I finally got you. Fair enough. I agree. BUT, to me, it would seem hypocritical to care about temporal suffering in this world MORE than eternal suffering. Christians should care about all suffering but ESPECIALLY eternal suffering. So someone should say there is something at stake. Why would I care that Jesus died to save me if there is nothing to be saved from? In that case I would treat him like any other philosopher: “Jesus said some really good stuff.”

          • Hey, Jdomaille78, you focus primarily on eternal suffering, you’re going to lose a lot of people. As an agnostic, I have to say that Hell is a major non-starter with me. The idea that God would create a reality in which those that don’t worship him or accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior would be tormented forever is quite frankly, sick. And every time I hear it, I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why?”  “Why would you worship such a God?”

            Focus on the grace and magnininity of Jesus Christ…now you’re talking!  That’s something worth worshipping.

          • Yes, but not preaching fire and brimestone is not preaching the full counsel and truth of what Christ taught. The warning that many will call Him Lord Lord and He will tell them to depart is truth that you cannot leave out. And contrary to popular opinion, Christ taught much about eternal torment as well. Because if you dont teach that as well, youre not teaching the entirety of Christ teachings. Christ message was not a popular one during His days on earth and neither is His true gospel today. It is not a feel good message. It is one that even His closest disciples took very long to grasp and comprehend. So what makes anyone think they can comprehend Christ gospel better than another when the very disciples differed at times in His presence. The gospel is not just a feel good message, it is one of Repentance, Being Born Again, and being Obedient to His Word

      • Jdomaille78

        It IS good news. If you believe it. And I think the NT refutes the idea that “It’s only been within the past 200 years that hell has become the centralized focus of evangelism.”

        “Ironically, not a single mention of sinners going to hell.” Really? So the people that go to hell are NOT sinners, and the people that get in ARE? Is there a person in the world who is NOT a sinner? I’m only aware of one person like that: Jesus.

        • Please show me where Jesus condemns a sinner to hell as a form of evangelism and then I’ll start preaching it.

          • Jdomaille78

            Please tell me who is not a sinner besides Jesus. Please tell me why you believe if believing brings you closer to hell than not believing. Please read the entire Bible.

          • The burden is on you since YOU have implied that Jesus used Hell as a means of evangelism. I eagerly await your response.

          • Jdomaille78

            Fair enough. Directly from Jesus, and I’ll inject my thoughts in parentheses and CAPS:

            John 3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (ETERNAL LIFE AS OPPOSED TO WHAT?). 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO PERISH?). 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (SAVED FROM WHAT?). 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CONDEMNED?). 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

            So how would you answer my questions Greg?

          • Great passage, but this does not show Jesus condemning anyone to hell. Nor does he once use the terms: hell, fire, damnation, lake of fire, hail, brimstone, etc. And another observation is that He is talking to a religious leader and not a lost sinner. There is a distinction between the two throughout the Gospels. The ONLY people Jesus did condemn and rant against were the Pharisees (of which Nicodemus was) and the Sadducees. So, this does not show Jesus condemning anyone to hell nor does Jesus use the doctrine of hell to bring/scare someone to salvation. Nice try, but poor hermeneutics.

          • RCOPEH

            He is indeed talking TO a religious leader. But who is he talking ABOUT?

            You are correct; Jesus only mentioned Hell to the religious people, and sure we have something important to learn from that, but why must you (and this article suggests Tony Campolo also) portray people who believe in Hell as people who like the idea of Hell? Do you really think that people who believe in Hell are thrilled with it?

            Do you really think people have a sense of satisfaction at the death of an unbeliever, feeling all self righteous inside saying “He’s in Hell now! Serves him right! Mwahahahahaha!”? Really? Do you REALLY think that?

            In my opinion, any Christian who believes there’s a Hell will weep at the thought of it and does not delight in the effect of it.

            Jesus here does not say (for example); “that whatever religious leader believes in him may have eternal life”. He does actually say “that WHOEVER believes in him may have eternal life”.

            I was in a place once where I thought that people who didn’t do as I thought right were not ‘proper’ Christians. I was in that pleace where I could sit in a church service and condemn people for saying things the wrong way, for singing songs that were ‘doctrinally wrong’ or praying prayers that had faults. That was me, but God released me from that outlook of constant criticism of others and through the ministry of the likes of Tony Campolo and my wondeful wife-to-be, I learned to appreciate not only the work of other people but actually the other people! I remember the day the burden was lifted – it was amazing!

            But it sounds like you’re in that place and while it may not feel bad to you right now, trust me, you don’t want to stay there. Don’t spend more time thinking about how you’re glad you’re not a ‘hell believing nut-job’ and just enjoy your faith and the faith of those who are different to you yet bought by the same blood.

            I don’t know why you’re not addressing the specific points people are raising here, but I’m looking forward to seeing you in heaven where we will both know as we are known, we will both be fully sanctified and we will both be able to enjoy true fellowship. I will be happy to see you there but I suspect you’ll be surprised to see me there :)

            Yet, much as I have loved Tony Campolo’s ministry over many, many years, this post of his and some of the points made in these comments have made me think that if Red Letter Christianity is about being sectarian and divisive and dismissive and rude, then that’s not something I want to be part of. I’ve done the whole “I’m right and you’re wrong” thing and any movement that declares non-followers as wrong and misguided and even evil sounds too much like a cult to me (even though I know RLC is not a cult).

            The post was so offensive, it countained half-truths and dismissed people as though their experience of Jesus in their lives was nothing at all (I take your point that truth stings, but so do lies).

            Greg, do you really dismiss people’s experience of the Jesus you worship if they don’t live the same lifestyle as you or if they believe in a part of the Bible you don’t like? Don’t you ever think about what Jesus is doing in their lives? It’s not about condoning sin, but it is about realising that Peter and John are totally different people (one of many previous points you ignored).

            I was taught that when you can’t get through to people who just talk and never even acknowledge that you have made a point, then you should bless them and move on. I’ve not been on these forums long enough to tell you what needs to be told, but I pray every blessing on you and I ask that you pray for me also, to understand better where you are coming from and what you are trying to say because I can’t believe that you or Tony Campolo are actually as rude as you are coming across to me here.

            I’m bowing out of these forums, I find them too divisive and exclusive.

            “So long and thanks for all the fish” — not Ghandi but I’m sure you like it 😉

          • Jdomaille78

            Well said.

          • Do you really think people have a sense of satisfaction at the death of
            an unbeliever, feeling all self righteous inside saying “He’s in Hell
            now! Serves him right! Mwahahahahaha!”? Really? Do you REALLY think

            Actually, yes, I do think that.  I have personally heard far too many Christians make smug comments about somebody being in hell…for example, Gandhi on the “good” side or Osama bin Laden on the “bad” side.  Not just the generic unbeliever…I think most Evangelicals do in fact have sympathy for him/her.  But for anybody who’s rejected them (note, rejected Christians, not necessarily rejected Christ) there seems to be an unholy satisfaction in “knowing” that they’ll get theirs…

          • Jdomaille78

            I think it’s implied Greg. But I think you know where I stand and I think I know where you stand and we seem to be at an impasse so, nothing left to do but pray for each other and wish each other well. God bless you and have a good day!

          • You guys are really trying hard. Noble efforts. But, nobody has yet to provide a single passage where Jesus condemns a person to hell. Yes, Jesus talked about hell. I never denied that. But, He never condemned a lost sinner to hell like so many Evangelicals do in their speech today.

            Jesus talked about the kingdom of God more than any other subject in the entire Gospels. Why do we not hear such similar topics being preached from the pulpits in the Evangelical church? Instead, we hear a lot of condemnation and a lot of talk who is going to hell. It’s no wonder young people are disinterested in church today. Why would anyone want to be a part of an institutionalized, dogmatic, organization that is bent on hell?

            I’m out of here too. Peace.

          • Brian


            And if your right eye causes you to SIN, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire – where Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:47-48

            But I guess Jesus wasn’t using this as a method of evangelism.

    • Brian


      It seems that Red Letter Evangelicals reading of the Red Letters is just as selective as is that of Conservative Evangelicals.

      Another thought I had is that this distinction between the God of the Red Letters and the God of the Black Letters hints of gnosticism. Many of the “Christian” gnostics argued that the God of the Hebrew scriptures was a different God than the Father of Jesus. And the gnostics were not into social justice for what it’s worth.

      In my opinion there is good and bad in Red Letter Christianity, and I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but we do need to get rid of the bathwater.

  • Johneconner

    Tony, my brother, you never cease to amaze me with your ability to speak the truth in love and shine the light of that truth into the darkest corners of our lives and our faith. Keep up the good work!

  • Jennymiller87

    Wow…I have never heard it said so well. These have been my thoughts for a long time, but you put them perfectly!!! Thank God that there still are some Christians who like/love Jesus!!

  • Rev Dr Michael DD

    I am here, Jesus.

    You were right in your surmise that I was with you to-night, and as you imagined, I was standing close to you at the time the preacher was delivering his discourse, and you felt the influence of my love and sympathy, and also received the thoughts that I was superimposing on your brain.

    The preacher’s sermon was an advance upon the beliefs of the orthodox in many particulars, but in the most important particular and in the one that will affect mortals most vitally in their progress in the spirit life, he was wrong, very wrong. I refer to his declaration that he saw or knew of no statement in the Bible that would justify him in asserting that there would be an opportunity for the spirits of mortals to receive pardon or to progress from the condition of hell to that of light and heaven in the spirit world, when they had not started on that journey in the mortal life. This, as I have told you, is a damnable doctrine, and one that has done more harm all down the centuries from the time of my living on earth, than most any other teaching of the church that claims to be representative of me and my teachings.

    Many poor souls have come into the spirit world with this belief firmly fixed in their minds and conscience, and the difficulties have been great and the years long before they could awaken from this belief and realize that the Love of the Father is waiting for them in spirit life just as in the earth life, and that probation is never closed for men or spirits, and never will be until the time of the withdrawal of the great opportunity for men to become inhabitants of the Celestial Heavens, and even then, the opportunity to purify their natural love will not cease, and never will, until all who have the opportunity shall become perfect men in their natural loves.

    Had he searched the Scriptures, in which he so implicitly believes, he would have found an authorization for him to declare that even in the spirit world, the spirits of the unsaved sinners on earth, who died without having become reconciled to God, had the gospel of salvation preached to them; and furthermore when he declared that the Bible says that I said “that he that sinneth against the son of man it shall be forgiven him, but he that sinneth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come,” had the preacher placed the natural and only implied construction on this declaration, he would have found that the sinner who neglected the opportunity on earth, would yet have another chance for salvation in the world to come, as the spirit world is referred to.

    So that, even according to his own source of belief and foundation of his knowledge of these things of the future, he would be justified and even required, as an honest preacher of the Scriptures, to declare that probation did not end with the physical death of the mortal.

    It is so sad that the creeds and fixed opinions of these preachers, formed from the teachings of the old fathers, as they are called, should be men of soul development, such as this preacher has, and teach the damnable doctrine that I speak of which he declared.

    There is a hell, or rather hells, just as there is a heaven or heavens, and all men when they become spirits, will be compelled to occupy one or the other of these places; not because God had decreed that any particular spirit because of his earth belief or condition shall occupy that place, but because the condition of his soul development, or want of development, fits and fixes him for that place and no other. God has made His laws of harmony and these laws are never changed, and when any particular soul gets into a condition of agreement with these laws, then that soul becomes at one with the Father and an inhabitant of His heavens; and so long as that soul remains out of such condition it is in hell, which is the condition of being out of agreement with the harmony of God’s laws. This is hell and there is no other comprehensive definition of it: every thing or place that is not heaven is hell. Of course there are many gradations of hell, and the inhabitants of these gradations are made by the condition of their soul development, which is determined by the quantity and quality of the defilement and sin that exists in these souls. The soul is developed as the love becomes purified and sin eradicated, and just as this process progresses the soul becomes developed.

    God has decreed that His universe, both of men and things, shall be harmonious, and only the creature, man, has become out of that harmony; and as the universe shall continue, the only destiny for man is, that he shall return to that harmony from which he fell by reason of his own misdirected will. Had God decreed, as the preacher by necessary implication, declared, that the sinner who dies in his sins shall forever remain in his sins and in a state of antagonism to such harmony, then God, Himself, would necessarily become the cause and power of defeating His own laws of harmony, which no sane mortal whether he believes in the Scriptures or not, would or could believe.

    God’s Laws are fixed and unchangeable and always in harmony with one another and with His Will, and knowing this, every thinking man will know and should know that whenever a proposition or opinion is put forth by preacher or layman or philosopher or scientist that shows that in order for a certain condition or truth to exist, God’s Laws will have to work in conflict with or in opposition to one another, then that proposition or opinion is false and has no foundation in fact. And so to accept this declaration of the preacher that there is no probation after death, or as he said, chance to progress out of the hell which the mortal carries with him to the spirit world, men will have to believe that the Loving Father, for the satisfying His wrath and meeting the demands of His supposed justice, will set his laws in conflict with one another and destroy the harmony of his universe.

    The preacher spoke, as he said, as a scientist, and not as a religious teacher, and yet the deduction that he made when he declared the eternal existence of the hells, violated one of the fundamental laws of science and that is, that two conflicting laws in the workings of God’s universe cannot both be accepted as true, and that the one of these two that is in harmony with all the other known laws must be accepted as true.Then I say, that founded on the Scriptures or founded on science, the preacher had no basis for making the untrue and deplorable statement, that physical death ends man’s possibility of progressing from a condition or state of hell existence into that of purity and freedom from sin and into harmony with God’s perfect laws and the requirements of His will.

    The preacher spoke from his intellect and mental beliefs of long years standing and the memory echoes of what he had heard said by other preachers and teachers who left upon his conscious beliefs in their false doctrines. But deep down in his soul, where the Love of the Father is burning and the soul sense is growing, he does not believe this doctrine, for he realizes that this Love of the Father is so much greater and purer and holier than any other love that exists in heaven or on earth; and the Father from Whom It comes must be holier and more merciful and forgiving and thoughtful of His children than of any mortal father of his children. And then as a mortal father having in his soul the Divine Love, he knows that his child could not commit any sin or offense that could possibly become unpardonable, or that he would not permit, and gladly, the child to repent of at any time. And so he would see, that if he refused to the Father, from Whom this Divine Love comes, a love and sympathy that would cause that Father to be as forgiving to His children as is he, the earthly parent, then the Greatest Attribute of that Father, God, Who is All Love, would not be equal to the love of his creature. The derivative would be greater and grander and purer and more Divine than the Fountainhead from which it is derived.

    No, the preacher in his soul does not believe this unnatural teaching, and at times, he travails in his soul at the conflict that takes place between the mental bondage of his intellectual beliefs and the freedom of his soul sense, the creature of the Divine Love that is in him, and the only part of Divinity that he possesses.

    And thus is demonstrated the great, real paradox of the existence in the same mortal at the same time, of an intellectual belief and a soul knowledge as far apart as the antipodes. And also is demonstrated the truth, a great truth, that the mind of man and the soul of man are not one and the same, but are as distinct as the creature of a special creation, the mind, and the creation of that which is the only part of man made in the image of his Maker, the soul, must necessarily be.

    But some day the soul knowledge will overcome the mental belief, and then the preacher will know that harmony and inharmony cannot exist for all time – that sin and error must disappear and purity and righteousness must exist alone, and that every man and spirit must become at one with the Father, either as an inhabitant of the Celestial Heavens or as the perfect man that first appeared at the call of God, and by him pronounced “very good.”

    I have written enough for to-night and must stop, but before doing so, I want to say that I have been with you today and saw that you were very happy in your thoughts and in your soul ex-experience. Other spirits were also with you, throwing around you their love and influence. Persevere in your efforts to obtain this Divine Love, and pray to the Father and it will come to you in increased abundance, and with it a wonderful happiness.

    I will come soon and write you another message.

    So with my love and blessings, I will say good-night and God bless you.

    Your brother and friend,


  • Rev Dr Michael DD

    I am here, Jesus:

    I am here tonight to write you about the Sermon on the Mount and how it is related to the New Birth.

    These sermons, of course, were not given all at once, at one particular time, as it is recorded in the Gospel, but rather as the result of a great number of sermons dealing with the spiritual lives of the Hebrews at the time, and which were put together in the form of a synopsis to cover a considerable vista of spiritual truths. Much of what is said pertained to the development of the natural love, because this was the only love that was known to the Jews at the time and it was these sermons dealing with the development of this love as found in the moral code and the exhortations of the Old Testament that could be best understood by my hearers and could be used as the bridge that led to the new subject of the New Birth and the Divine Love.

    In the Gospels, there are a number of blessings which I evoked, but not in the particular forms as given in the Gospels, because some of them I never used at all and some of them were the subjects of considerable sermons rather than the brief blessings therein recorded.

    I did say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” for I meant not that they were indeed without spirituality, but that those that realized that they were without spiritual development were blessed because this knowledge, or intuition, of their spiritual lack would turn them to the Father and seek either His laws and obtain spiritual development that way, or turn to the Divine Love and obtain the soul development necessary for at-onement with Him and a rebirth into His Celestial mansions. And I exhorted my listeners to seek, rather, the Father’s Love, for it was now available to all those who sought it in sincerity; and with that Love would come knowledge and possession of immortality.

    And I also blessed the people who listened to me because of their gentleness or meekness, for they would inherit the land. Now, by this, I meant that violence and quarrels and wars were sinful in the eyes of the Father, and that keeping from these offenses would enable the mortal to get into harmony with the Father’s laws and enable him to purify his soul to the point of eventually reaching the Heaven of the purified souls.

    But I also taught that gentility of heart could now be obtained through the Father’s Love, which would not merely purify the soul but transform that soul so that the sins of vengeance and hatred and ambition and murder and bitterness would cease to be an encrustation on the human soul, and the resultant gentility of heart transformed through the Father’s Love for His children would fit these children for a home in the Celestial Heavens. And this is what I meant by, “The meek shall inherit the earth,” for I did not mean the material earth but the promised land of the soul spheres, or the New Jerusalem, not for the material body but for the human soul transformed into the Divine Angel.

    I also said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And by that, I meant more than a mere religious consolation that comes from resignation with the death of a loved one and the thought that we must all depart, and that the sufferings of the departed have ceased, for this is true and such an attitude leads to the development of the natural love. But I meant, also, that the comfort for those who have lost loved ones would come from the faith that God is our Father and that His universe is peopled with the spirits of those who have departed from earth, and that these spirits are alive and are working out their progress towards happiness such as can never be achieved on earth; and that the grave simply took the envelope of flesh and that their dear departed were still alive and with them. This was the comfort I spoke of for the Hebrew people, who had a very limited understanding of the spiritual aspects of life after death.

    I also blessed the people, saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” And I meant this not in a literal way, for this is impossible, but in a spiritual way; and I meant by “the pure in heart” not merely those who had achieved the Paradise of the Hebrews, who do not see God but have an understanding intellectually of His existence, but by the pure in heart in the SOUL sense – that is to say, transformed by the Divine Love, and through this Divine Love would come the ability of the transformed to actually feel the presence of God in his own soul; for the Divine Love is of the Essence of God, and in this way the transformed soul would see God through his soul perceptions. By “see,” I mean “perceive with the soul perceptions,” and that means to actually feel God’s presence through the Love glowing in his own soul.

    Thus you see that the blessings had a spiritual and a soul aspect, and those who could not understand the meaning of the Father’s Love could understand the blessings as they pertained to the natural man.

    There were two other blessings attributed to me which I never mentioned, and these were the so-called blessings given to men who were persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and the blessing given to those who were persecuted because of their faith in me. Well, I never sought to convey such a blessing on people whose religion taught the doing of righteousness, and there was no reason to encourage them to do righteousness because of my blessings upon them; nor did I ever bless at this time my hearers because they might be persecuted for believing in me. I never taught them to believe in me except as a teacher who had come to show them the way to at-onement with the Father through prayer; and there was never a thought in their minds, or in mine, that they would, or could, be persecuted for these teachings. And it is plain that these two blessings were inserted into the Gospels long after they had been originally composed and were interpolated to meet the situation that confronted Christians many years after my death, when they were persecuted by the Jews and Greek pagans and the Romans. And the authority for these insertions was that Christians should be encouraged in their faith because I, myself, had blessed them because of their faith and persecutions, and that the Gospels covered precisely the situation which they were in. And the later copyists, as we have seen, did this type of interpolation to meet the current needs of the early Christian church. But while the intentions were good, they are not the truth, and my interest in exposing these insertions for what they are is motivated by my desire, and the great need to know what the original writers actually wrote and what is due to the imaginations and designs of others.

    I think I have written enough for tonight and I am glad to have this opportunity to write as I have. I should like you to keep studying the New Testament and I shall come repeatedly to show you what I actually did and said. And, so, I urge you to keep in good soul condition by constant prayers to the Father for His Divine Love and loving-kindness; and I add my prayers and love to those of the many Celestial Spirits who join me, that the Father bestow His Love in increased portions upon you and the Doctor. And I want you to be encouraged in regard to your material affairs, which we are working to improve to your satisfaction and that of all concerned.

    So I will say good night and with all my love to you, I will sign myself,

    Jesus of the Bible


    Master of the Celestial Heavens

  • Thanks, Tony. Another great article.

  • Steve Peck

    Excellent! What part of “judge not” is so hard to understand?

  • Greg

    Jesus is in my heart because of all he said and did that is reported in the bible, i also know taht his spirit lives inside of me and because of such i can not hate anyone. So no matter what your sin i love you however Jesus did not wish you to continue in sin his words were go and sin no more

  • I have never liked the Red Letter Christian movement because Jesus himself quoted a lot of the black letters. That it is a self-righteous movement designed to preen that they’re better than anyone else who calls themselves Christian is painfully obvious in this post by Tony Campolo. Didn’t humility used to be one of the Christian virtues?

    • steve

      Well said Bill. I have tried repeatedly to wade through this blog in an effort to see where these “Emerging Church” folks are coming from. They make it seem like no one else values the “Red Letter” message quite as much as they do. There is such a pervasive spirit of pride in these posts and in many of the responses, it becomes clear that there is great error in their midst. Paul warned that in the last days there would be a group that would give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. They are more tolerant and eclectic, but don’t have the backbone that Jesus demonstrated (in red letters) when he addressed the pharisees. And to slam Jonathan Edwards who God used in such a fantastic way in the great awakening is preposterous. Talk about judging another man’s servant! Some of these folks are so cannibalistic they make the Donner Party look like vegetarians! Truly nothing new under the sun. “You will not surely die…”

      • Courtney Laird

        While I can see the objective to both sides that have come out in response to this blog, it pains me to see mere disagreements turn into something more personal, ‘Red Letter Christians’ against ‘The Rest’.
        Are we not called to stand united under the ONE true God? 
        Are we not all different parts of the same body?
        Each part is equally as important, though they do not have the same function.

        Debate is healthy, and it’s important for for each of us ‘to work out (our) faith with fear and trembling’, but there is a fine line between this and harshly cutting down a brother or sister in Christ (and comparing what is an essentially love filled message with ‘doctrines of devils’).
        For essentially do we not all Love and Believe In the same Almighty, Loving God?

        • @Courtney There has been debate regarding the faith from the very beginning. It is not knew. If the apostles did it and learned from it, who are we to believe that we will not fall into the same discourses. The very disciples who were with Jesus debated of who was the greatest. I mean, if they were there with Him in the flesh while He taught how are we not to experience the same thing. Peter, James, and the elders sought Paul to discuss the doctrine he taught. There discourse was heated even from the illustration from the book of Acts. A heated debate over the fundamentals of the faith. I consider this eveytime I think how everything today should be all of one opinion in christianity (ie denominations, fundamentalist, reformist, etc). It never was that way even with first century believers. Just IMO

    • I totally agree. Jesus quoted scripture directly from the “black letters”. My disagreement with this article is that for those who may not have been led by the Spirit to understand that the entirety of scripture is God-breathed is that it would put an idea of separation of testaments, a difference in the Lord God of the OT and our Lord and Savior of the NT. There is no difference, there is no contrast. Nothing new under the sun. A different dispensaton of time, a different revelation fulfilled. Christ own words as He and the Father being “One” and Him coming to do the will of the Father, those words betray any words of anyone who would contrast The Father and Jesus

  • I’ve only come to this blog a couple of times. I want to like what you write, I want to like your movement…but I don’t understand how you can insult the Father while claiming to love Jesus, who is one with the Father. Jesus is one with the same God who said “eye for an eye,” who “legitimated war” and made the other laws you mentioned. While I agree we are living under a new covenant, I think you tread dangerous ground when you scoff at the Father, the Rock of Ages, I Am that I Am. Also, it hurts that you claim that so many “want” a God who will provide infinite punishment for limited sin. I think there are very few who do NOT struggle with the concept of eternal punishment, but there is so much evidence in the Scriptures, from the teachings of Jesus to revelation, that you really have to do some interpretive acrobatics to arrive at a conclusion that there is no such eternal suffering. In fact, I think it shows intense devotion to Jesus that we continue to follow when we don’t understand why he says certain things, why such a place exists where “the worm never dies,” or why the Father did not allow menstruating women in the temple.

    • With respect, Rebecca, and knowing I’m late to this party, an actual search of the Scriptures regarding eternal punishment turns up a rather different weight of evidence than you suggest.  If I may be so bold as suggest an alternative read, I did a series on Eternal Destiny based upon a survey of every passage I could find in the New Testament that said anything on the subject.  You can see the series here, and included in the series is the link to a passage-by-passage table of my scriptural sources.

  • Quaker1

    Thank you! I have been saying this for years, oftentimes, even in my sermons. The saddest fact is that, in my experience anyway, no one seems to care that the Jesus of the Gospels is not the one they have been “taught.”
    I love, too, Walter Wink’s _Jesus and Nonviolence A Third Way_. His suggestion that Jesus offered wry, nonviolent solutions to the problems of oppressive political regimes is an instruction to all radical Christians.
    “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
    Gilbert K. Chesterton

  • davidjspuria

    This is a great post. People who attend our nice megachurch are hardly concerned about the red letters. They are more wanting to validate their belief system. Each week sermons are really geared as self help sessions. That is okay to a point. But service and salvation go hand in hand. Tony is a real evangelical. And he is also very unusual. He lives beyond the creeds.

  • davidjspuria

    This is a great post. People who attend our nice megachurch are hardly concerned about the red letters. They are more wanting to validate their belief system. Each week sermons are really geared as self help sessions. That is okay to a point. But service and salvation go hand in hand. Tony is a real evangelical. And he is also very unusual. He lives beyond the creeds.

  • Ochieng

    Am a great admirer of the Red Letter Christian concept,and while it is true that we refrain from all sorts of prejudices.It is also a very loving thing to discourage sin through total obedience of the word of God and not to be selective on scriptures as and when it suits us.
    He is still the Righteous Judge in the highest sense of the word.

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Please pardon my manner of expression; I mean no disrespect. That’s a valid point about valuing the entire Bible and not just the points that suit us. But, still, Christians obey Jesus above all, including Paul and the Prophets, all their merit notwithstanding. Certainly there is much worth our strict obedience in the Old Testament’s texts on social and economic justice — not least of all for America’s suffering but non-voting poor! But all the same, we obey Jesus above all, or we move off the Path. God bless you,


  • Gavincargill

    In the last two weeks it has taken an intense reading of ‘Love Wins’, the death of a close friend and the news of the imminent death of the mother of a friend for me to to realise, fully, the magnitude of God’s amazingly radical love and justice AND just how totally and absolutely grotesque is the assertion that ‘Hell will be ruled by Jesus, where human and demon alike, including Satan, will be tormented there continually’. (Mark Driscoll)

    Surely If the latter is in fact true no self respecting believer and follower of Jesus could laugh or experience joy ever again.

    I can, like Driscoll, shout that Jesus is the only way to the Father, throw my arms in the air, tear up and bellow ‘Yes, yes, yes’
    with an absolute passion BUT also believe that there are many ways to Jesus and that He really did come to give me ‘life to the full’.

  • I appreciate the sentiment of this writer (Mr. Campolo) and while reading through many of the somments, I’m awestruck at the back & forth tug-o-war. I think the whole of the Bible is lost on many, for they see only these words speaking of good & bad people as the Believer & unbeliever; and I think this greatly misses the point, or mark (SIN)?

    Hell as a mythological torture chamber is nowhere to be found in the texts themselves. Sure, we can derive & interpret this ideology from numerous translations, but that’s where it goes arye. These words were not first scribed/written in English, nor were they first penned in western culture or ideology.

    While argument exists (as to the original languages used) ad-infinitum & ad-nauseum, the majority of our English scriptures were translated from Greek (New Testament) and Hebrew (Old Testament) and as Christ himself, as well as the 1st century Apostles, and most of their audience were of Israelite lineage/heritage/culture, the majority of Bible readers since has been anything but.

    Could someone point out this mythological torture chamber for me in the Old testament? Better yet, go grab a Torah (Non-Talmudic) Jew and ask them if they believe in an eternal fiery torture pit for non-believers in YHWH. I’ll bet you 95% of them will say no.

    Christ spoke, and the writer’s of the New Testament wrote, to a primarily Israelite audience, and they used Israelite custom, tradition & idioms to get their points across. Do YOU understand Israelite Idioms? Do YOU even know what an idiom is? Allow me to give an example:

    Genesis 37:9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

    OK, how many believe Joseph meant the ACTUAL Sun, Moon & 11 Stars “made obeisance” to him?

    Isaiah 13:10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

    This is about when the Medes would overthrow Babylon (See verse 17) 6th century BC, yet no historical records are known to demonstrate the Sun, Moon & Stars didn’t shine during this time?

    Ezekiel 32:7 And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.

    This is when the Babylonians attacked Pharoah & Egypt (see verse 11) yet no historical records are known to demonstrate the Sun, Moon & Stars didn’t shine during this time?

    But guess what happens when we get to Matthew 24:29 which is supposedly yet future:

    “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”

    This is entirely inconsistent with respect to idiom, or apocalyptic language, or even through following biblical typology.

    Does that matter to people? NO! they see scripture how they’ve been taught to understand it.

    The Bible has 2 sets of messages; one for the carnally minded man, and one for the spiritually minded. We tend to confuse these and apply 1 to the other instead of itself.

    War, famine, pestilence, bloodshed, disease, earthquakes, etc… often speak of those very things; but are often used metaphorically to describe events.

    The carnallly minded man is doomed to an EVERLASTING hell, both here on earth, and in their GRAVES; but hell should never be taught as a fiery torture pit, where non-believers endure horrific pain for the balance of eternity.

    Am I a Universalist? NO! It only gets more complicated from here, but scripture does say “Narrow is the path that leads to life, and FEW there be that find it” This isn’t about eternal life either.

    see http://www.1-revelation.com for more information.

    Great work Mr. Campolo. Tell the world Christ lives!

  • Pingback: Jesus and the Interpreter. A modern-day christian helps Jesus get started.()

  • DanD

    Tony is so right. The reactionary “Christians” want nothing to do with Jesus.
    But that is why the Red Letter movement is so important. It is one of the few places where people really take Jesus seriously.

    To RCOPEH,
    We say the so-called “Christians” are wrong, because they preach hate and Jesus preached love.

    • Brian

      Don’t mistake truth for hate.

      Jesus said the way that leads to life is narrow and that only a few would find it…..was that love or hate?

  • Steve

    It seems to me what many who have posted here are missing is the perception of non-Christians of contemporary Christianity. Non-Christians perceive us as harsh, judgmental, vengeful, exclusionary, selfish, insensitive, and very unlike the Christ we profess to believe in.

    Whether one follows the red letters, the black letters, or both; the point of the Christian Bible is the desire of God to demonstrate love. God wanted to love Adam and Eve and walked each day with them in the Garden, David was called a man after God’s own heart because David continued connecting with God even in the midst of poor and painful choices, Jesus of Nazareth came to live out the very love God had called the children of Israel to demonstrate but never had.

    I have grown up in the contemporary Christianity of the U.S. At this stage in my life I am disheartened and discouraged by what I experience and observe in what passes as Christianity . . . let alone being Christian. Some Christian friends tell me that there are no poor people in America and it is the Christian’s responsibility to hold those “scabs and scammers” responsible. Others tell me God is on the side of the U.S. as we fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. Still others tell me of the blessings God will bestow on us as a nation if we would just balance our national budget and stop supporting such “liberal” activities as public broadcasting, healthcare for the poor and the elderly.

    Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, the undereducated, the unemployed, the dejected and depressed whether or not there is a hell . . . from their perspective they are already experiencing it. And way too many claiming the name of Christ do not even offer as much as a cold glass of water.

    I applaud Mr. Campolo for calling on the carpet those who say with their words that they are followers of Christ, but show absolutely NO evidence in their actions that they are indeed brothers and sisters of Christ.

  • Ok folks… So I will share what the Holy Spirit told me about this earlier in the week… There is a Rainbow of Mercy connecting the first man (Adam) and the first man of God and virgin Flesh, Grace through Faith,(Jesus the Christ) … every thing in between gets burnt up in the fire of redemption through the Holy Spirit… and there will be no more tears!!! Yeah!! That makes me feel born again, again, again…Amen, Thank You all Brothers and Sisters…

  • gracey


  • TN Jed

    You bunch of bickering, snide, smart-mouthed, vindictive, arrogant, knee-jerking supposed “christians” have once again reminded me of why I long ago ran far away from congregating with the so-called saints, especially those of the “evangelical” sort. Where else but on this rather well-written post would I find such smarmy, holier-than-thou banter back and forth from those who just know so much better and have to make sure they let us all know. I keep up with Campolo from time to time because he makes sense of the Jesus I read the words of, but if I had to hang around one day a week or so with some of you folks I’d completely lose my mind as fast as most of you made me lose the religion. As its been said, “Jesus? I love Jesus. His fan club? Them I can do without.”

    • Chris Meyer

      TN, don’t know if you’ll see this…

      I hear ya…I have felt the same way, and on occasion still do.

      Problem is, which irks me sometimes too, is that we are to love them too. Jesus does.

      I get cynical toward other Christian’s far more than I care to admit, but more and more I’m working to show mercy – after all, God has shown me far more mercy than I could ever be expected to give.

      I am not the light I should be.

      If I’m honest with myself, I’m just like those you have listed – in a different capacity.

      I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I can’t claim saint hood, never will be able to.

      Don’t write any of us of off yet Jed! There is still hope!

      Thanks to Christ, there is ALWAYS hope.

      Peace and Love

  • Jbjs40

    Thanks for the book. I am using it as a supplement for home study. I came to Christ about 6 years ago and have been given many blessings as answered prayer. My wife and I have three kids. We are celebrating our 23 anniversary this weekend! Everyone says we look and act like newly weds. That is something special and I thank God everyday for my beautiful wife. She makes most of the money!
    Anyway we have been shunned by our ex church members. We really enjoyed serving the church through God and felt towards the last that we were among a sea of Hatred that ran deep. We became discouraged. We thought we could possibly be wrong about Jesus being peaceful, the way he was presented by the church was totally if not polar opposite from the Jesus we were reading about in the Bible.
    Evidently we had to be Bush backers and had to be Conservative and far right Republicans to be a part of the ongoing ministry in this church. I ask for prayer that our former colleagues resist Him that relishes in rumors and lies. Our name has been slandered for our peaceful and loving attitude and anti-war stance and pro choice stance and Jesus is for everybody stance. Please pray for us, are we wrong to think this way? I need some encouragement because all I have received from our former church brethren is scalding hatred toward a fellow Christian. They say the most heinous things about our President I cannot believe that these people are the same ones from before 2008 elections. They have changed so much since then.

  • Andrew

    I have a feeling that most people disagree with Tony because they put their political ideology ahead of their Christian faith.  As poster B Crump alluded to in his comment, too many people create God in their own image, rather than the other way around.  They build up a political ideology and then choose parts of scripture to confirm their own ideology.  Too many Liberals deny the divinity of Christ but recognize his teachings, and too many Conservatives recognize the divinity of Christ but deny his teachings.  Tony is only seen as a radical because he brings the two together, and to do that is to put Christianity before political ideology.

    He is not advocating the dismissal of the “black letters,” but trying to put the emphasis on the “red letters,” which is where our focus should be.  I have been to a few different evangelical churches where Paul is elevated to Jesus and his writings are studied 50/52 weeks of the year.  Right now I am lucky enough to be in a fairly conservative evangelical church but one that focues more on topics and pulls support from both the Gospels and the other books, rather than doing Bible Studies on Paul’s letters and ignoring the Gospels.

  • Andy J. Funk

    For some time I have wondered why we Christians make it so difficult for people to come to Jesus. The disciples tried to make it difficult for children to come and most of us know Jesus’ response to that. How can the church make it easy for people to come to Jesus and find a loving, redeeming God who does not seek the destruction of unbelieving people, but rather the salvation of everyone. Whenever we create hoops for people to jump through, we are somehow pretending that we ourselves have somehow moved beyond simple ignorance and that we are now in a state of full acceptability from God by what we do, do not do, or believe. Here is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer I encountered the other day. “He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!” For what it’s worth, read or don’t. This quote helps guide my thinking a little at least.

  • Benmanben

    I don’t think Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God was unchristian. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    Didn’t Jesus validate the writing of the Old Testament as the word of God, and didn’t he choose his followers who wrote the other Bible passages? And if you believe what is in red letters, why wouldn’t you believe the rest of the Bible? Do you think the people who wrote it down only wrote the quotes from Jesus correctly?

    • Quaker1

      Precisely! As the Apostle says, the Scriptures are given to instruct and inform us…we are foolish to try to “triage” the Bible into only the “red letters”. Jefferson did that, too. One is left with a remarkably vapid collection of quotes. Jesus was more than the sum of His words!

    • I challenge you to point to where Jesus “validated the writing of the O.T. as the word of God.”  He quoted parts of the O.T. as authoritative; other parts he corrected/expanded with “you have heard…but I say.”  But nowhere does he (or, for that matter, any other biblical writer) call the entire text “the word of God.”  This is one of the gravest errors of modern bibliolatry.


  • dan

       God spoke to Abraham and began a relationship with mankind. Things were misunderstood, or had problems with application, or whatever. God called Moses. Our relationship with God improved. It was not perfect. Old Testament Hebrews tried hard, meant well, but generally had problems relating to God.
       God sent Judges, later prophets and Kings, later still priests. People continued to have an improved, but still imperfect relationship with God. If it was perfect, if they knew it all, then why did Jesus come at all? They did not relate well to their God, and we have the same problem.    Finally, God sent Jesus. He so loved us that he sent essentially himself. In Jesus we get God incarnate. His words are the only words we have from Yahweh which came directly from his own mouth.    Prophets, Kings, priests and other writers of the Bible say things that seem to conflict with the voice of Jesus. This needs explaining, to be sure. Short version: who are you going to go with? Amos? Moses?    Old Testament Hebrews record a growing, changing, developing relationship with God. They were not ready for Jesus when King David was killing Philistines. They were getting closer when Jeremiah wrote about the need to have the law written on our hearts. They were getting closer when Isaiah wrote about Israel becoming a light to the nations.   Why not ask why Isaiah was not written back at the time of Moses? Jesus is not a representative of the Old Testament. Jesus does more than validate The O.T, He is the fulfillment of the Law. Jesus is the completion of the revelation of God to Man.   In terms of biblical power to accurately develop and maintain a proper relationship with God, I believe the words of Jesus trump all. Words of men spoken before were helpful in preparing the way. Their words are inspired. They have value, especially when understood in hindsight after reading the words of Jesus.    (Aside from prayer and listening to the spirit) If you really want to know what God is thinking, what he desires from you personally, how to follow his lead, read Jesus. If you want a proper relationship with God, read Jesus. 

  • Doug Sloan

    But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works,otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
    (NRSV Romans 11:6)

    Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the lawbut through faith in Jesus Christ.And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus,so that we might be justified by faith in Christ,and not by doing the works of the law,because no one will be justified by the works of the law.
    (NRSV Galatians 2:16)

    For by grace you have been saved through faith,
    and this is not your own doing;
    it is the gift of God – not the result of works,
    so that no one may boast.
    (NRSV Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Grace is not awarded for the satisfactory completion of a spiritual check list – and grace is not earned for works or acts – and grace is not part of a quid pro quo arrangement or relationship – and grace is not a stipulation of a contract or covenant – and grace is not right thinking or thinking right or thinking good thoughts or having the right beliefs – and grace is not about rewards and punishments – and grace is not about later. Grace is not about heaven or a post-mortal existence or guaranteeing a future occurrence because grace is not about having an after-life insurance policy or hedging our spiritual bets. We live in, we exist in and have always existed in (not “by”, not “because”, not “alongside”, not “under”) in the grace of God. Grace is now – constantly present and immediately accessible. Grace is always freely available and freely supplied and supplied freely unconditionally and abundantly without exceptions and without restrictions and without qualifications. Grace and conditions are mutually exclusive, even oppositional. A faith full of grace has no conditions – meaning no qualifications and no requirements and, consequently, no exclusions and no differentiation. A faith with any condition or any qualification or any requirement or any exclusion or any differentiation has no grace. God requires nothing of us – this is grace.

    excerpt from RECLAIMING GOD

  • Holldoug


    “They want a God who, when they march off to war, will be on their side ”

    I cant exactly blame them, if I had to go into combat I’d certainly hope God would approve of my motives for going to war. Why is that wrong ?

    “and they reject the God revealed in the red letters who warns that those
    who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

    Even those warriors who liberated the oppressed and those in physical peril ?
    Like I’ve stated before Tony – It wasn’t the pacifists who liberated Auschwitz. They just stayed at home finger wagging those who did.

    Sometimes the good Samaritan carries a sword.

  • Ann

    Just why why WHY can’t you put “Most Christians”? It’s like saying the Peace Churches don’t exist, we don’t exist, we’re unicorns.  Why are so many Christians on the left just like the ones on the right, with big broad brushes to condemn people?  Is it so hard? Or is it ok to marginalize people for the sake of a good headline?

    • Richard Lyons

      Ann, a fair remark. While I honestly try not to paint all my fellow-Christians with the same, broad brush…sometimes it is hard not to, though the Peace Churches would never even cross my mind. Even as an Anglo-Catholic priest, I would sit with the Quakers, and attend their protests. To my mind, the Peace Churches are much nearer the Gospels than many in the liturgical bodies.

  • Planetpainter

    I am an American. 
    I do not like that you said Jesus is not an American. Obviously He was born in Bethlehem and is not from North America. The rhetorical implication here, is that Americans are not true Christians. There is a VERY judgemental and anti- American bias in the writings of this red letter group . As a fellow follower of Jesus and as an American I would like to remind you of some thing that is easy to forget. Americans do not currently agree with or support war, the majority of us do not support or agree with the tiny offensive – obnoxious- non Jesus like Christian extreme right.Many Americans are tired and embarrassed of our local and federal governments and find our selves not represented at all by actions taken by politicians in our name and ” on our behalf”.
    American Citizens, are not the American Government

     and do not individually stand be hind every thing that is being done in the world by a minority few of Americans with political power and the tax dollars of the American people.
     I am asking you to remember that the people in America are just like the people in your country and others. We want peace, we like other people, followers of Jesus in the US need Jesus and like his forgiving graces also. Please do not confuse your loving fellows in Christ with our crazy government, or crazy religious zealots.

  • I find this very true as I observe the world, and it’s a struggle for myself not to point the finger at others. This doesn’t mean that I should never point out the faults of others – it’s necessary at times, and this is a post that reiterates what I’ve felt for a long time. But I will admit it’s mighty tough to live up to for myself.

    I also want to say, as someone born and raised Jewish, that your ideas about the Hebrew Bible are, to a degree, ignorant in my opinion. Not stupid or bad, just ignorant.  I used to think the old testament was just full of B.S. and horrible, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become aware of my own internalized anti-semitism. The Old Testament IS full of horrible things and so-called “decrees” of God, there is also a logic to a lot of things that escapes people today who don’t know what society was like in those times, and who don’t understand how certain passages came to be (not that I understand much about the OT or it’s history, or have any intention of following the more barbaric opinions within). So what seems horrible today may have been “progressive” at the time. 

    You must also remember that the NT follows the OT, and that even Jesus commands followers to kill those who aren’t true believers in the book of Luke (19:27).

    I personally don’t believe the OT is based in historical truth or “the word of God”, and so the NT would theoretically have to follow suit.

    • With respect to your mostly-excellent comment, your suggestion that “even Jesus commands followers to kill those who aren’t true believers in the book of Luke (19:27)” is missing the context.  Jesus is telling a parable about a hypothetical king, who he says would order the execution of those who tried to rebel against that king’s authority.  This is not a command by Jesus to his followers, and in fact flies in the face of everything Jesus *did* command.

  • Konrad Corey

    There really is no need to get so divisive regarding this issue. if you want to believe in just the words of christ then thats fine but its important to understand the context of christs statements and to look at everything he said if you really want to take this whole red letter thing seriously. You call christians black letter christian if they believe the words in black are the word of God well christ quoted from the old testament he fulfilled many prophecies from the old testament. I think that focusing more on the words of christ is a wonderful thing but jesus believe in the God of the old testament christ himself told us to fear God that had the power to destroy the soul in hell. to separate christs statements from their biblical and historical context doesn’t make sense, however i am all for focusing more on what christ taught.

  • I turned to your blog for refreshment after reading atheist bloggers on the subject of Jessica Ahlquist, the atheist high-school student who got her school to take down a prayer banner. As a Brit, I wouldn’t totally understand this American Church/state separation thing, but I get the general idea.  Apparently some Christians have been hurling vile hate at the girl, while other Christians have been saying “Don’t misrepresent us by saying that all Christians are hateful.  Those rude and nasty abuse-writers cannot be real Christians”.  And the atheists say (not without reason), “Don’t tell us, tell them!  They say they’re Christians, how are we to know which are the real ones?” 
    Some Christians are starting to say “how do we respond?”.  I suppose the question is “How can we be truly Christian without being tribally Christian?”

  • Anonymous

    There is one Baptist group that uses only the NT; I forget which one.  I laughed at that notion, but as I have read more and compared it to our times and other philosophies (such as Ayn Rand’s), I have come to understand the relationship of the OT and the NT better.

    I did somewhere, sometime back in the day hear a sermon where the NT was called a New Covenant, a New Contract, that superceded the Old Covenant, or Old Contract, as a legal document.  That did not resonate with me at the time, but in viewing the Religious Rights descent into being Pharisees and more in line with Ayn Rand’s socioeconomic Darwinistic atheist philosophy of greed, it has made more sense.

    In a nutshell, the OT was full of violence, retribution, tribulation, exclusiveness, and crudeness because man was an infant.  God’s chosen people needed spanking, needed the keys from the family car taken from them occasionally, and given time outs often so they could learn what all that was.  Their survival lay in culling the weak, poor, and sick from the herd, just like herd animals, like the antelope, etc. do.  In 2 Samuel, Nathan’s parable chastising David for his adultery begins to show us the value of cherishing the minor one, as the man with one sheep is robbed by the wealthy one with many, as David with his many wives robbed the one of Uriah.  David’s adultery was not that of sex, but of greed.  David does not get struck sterile or with penile cancer (in fact, Solomon is his son by Bathsheeba), but instead, sees his sons in civil war, dividing the spoils of David’s kingdom; the punishment fits the crime of greed, not lust.

    In the NT, humanity is treated as a young adult, more maturely, by God, for he sends Jesus to die for us.  But first, Jesus teaches a NEW way to live.  He says, “You HAVE BEEN told…but NOW…”, meaning this is the new standard.  The OT calls for stoning adulteresses; Jesus steps in the way of it and essentially says, “Don’t do this anymore.”  

    Humanity has risen above the level of herd animals.  Jesus advocates rescuing the lost lamb, instead of cutting losses.  The atheist Ayn Randians have convinced large numbers of “Christians” that “dog-eat-dog” is also God’s will and that “greed is good”.  These “Christians” keep away from the Gospel as though it were an L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi fantasy.  They dredge up OT and Pauline verses cherry-picked to support themselves, but forget that Christianity did not start as a religion, but as THE WAY, a new way of life for a new humanity.

    As Paul himself even says in 1 Corinthians, “12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
     13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

    We follow Christ and His Way.

    • Didn’t the New Covenant begin in Jeremiah 31?

      I always wondered this too because I believed that God said this in Jeremiah, but I could be absolutely incorrect

    • Didn’t the New Covenant begin in Jeremiah 31?

      I always wondered this too because I believed that God said this in Jeremiah, but I could be absolutely incorrect

  • Chris Lahr

    Check out the new article about the mission trip my guys from philly did in Huntington… part of the “what white people can do about racism” series.

  • Chris Lahr

    Check out the new article about the mission trip my guys from philly did in Huntington… part of the “what white people can do about racism” series.

  • Pingback: Why Christians Don’t Like Jesus « RickDancer.com()

  • Anonymous

    Tony, are you really saying that the Christian God is not the same God as the old Hebrew God? Wow that is revolutionary. That is the concept of one who does not worship the Bible in an idolatrous way that creates a small God…

  • This article’s assertion is that the God of the “black letters” is not the same God of the “red letters” is preposterous and very very heretical. Do you not know that the same Son of God who came in human flesh will return as a Lion with His vestage dipped in blood as stated in the book of Revelation? Do you not know that the same repentance demanded by the LORD in the old testament for Israel is the same repentance preached by The Lord Jesus Christ? Here’s a news flash for you. The very WORD of God that spoke to His chosen in the old testament is the very WORD of God (John 1:1) who came in human flesh (John 1:14). The very rock that Moses struck twice leading the children of Israel. The same that Jacob wrestled with. The same that stood in the flames with the 3 boys in the furnace. This article is flawed for the vague or blatant (however you classify) attempt to seperate the God of the OT from the God in the flesh of the NT and gospel is proposterous

  • Ashwin

    Both the words are true.. the black letters as well as the red!!!…As paul said in romans- What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not
    known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had
    said, Thou shalt not covet….

    This is what Jesus said after the beatitudes-

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them… .. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the
    Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

    “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part
    of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

    “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But
    I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[g]

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you

    I fail to understand how anyone considering these words will not be convicted of his sin and not fear the judgement of God!!!… Jonathan Edwards must have taken classes from Jesus…

  • Everyone is already forgiven, including me, including all of you.
    If you perceive attack, then how can you claim to be “saved”? Stop the conflict. It’s ungodly.

  • SuperLogic

    Where are all these black letter Christians that you describe as “Most”?? I actually hardly know any Christians like that. What they are is not willing to do is ignore the black letter parts of the Bible, and focus only on the Red Letter parts. Do you not feel the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God?? Yes, God loves everyone, and invites them to Himself, however He also said, “Go and Sin no more!” Which you oddly chose to ignore. Why is that? Are we doing people a favor if we don’t tell them the truth, and allow them to continue in their sinful lifestyle, and pretend that this is acceptable to God? Will we be “lovingly” sending them to Hell? Those Red Letters speak to the reality of Hell as well.

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