As I understood it, there are two fears.

  • God does not exist.
  • God exists.

However, sean samis remind me (here) of a third fear.

  • God exists, but is not good.

I imagine that third fear explains our reluctance to speak of Hell. Why does something as horrible as Hell exist? What do you tell your child?

Thoughts On Hell, Sin, Grace, Works

by Mark Knox, author of Notes from the Crossroads

I was raised by a United Methodist minister and so, while my father saw to it that theological matters were frequently the topic of discussion (and debate) within our home, the topic of hell rarely came up. Methodists are often known for their outspoken position on many subjects but hellfire and brimstone is not one of them.

Imagine my discomfort, then, when recently my eleven year old earnestly asked me for my thoughts on hell. I knew there was much more hanging in the balance of her question than I was equipped to answer on 30 seconds’ notice, and so I did the only prudent thing I could think of – I asked her for some time to think it over. (continued here)


10 thoughts on “THE THIRD FEAR

  1. Tom;

    Regarding …

    This blog post is quite good but it doesn’t really address the “third fear”: “God exists but is evil”. It does address the related “Problem of Evil” which usually presumes that God is good and evil is problematic.

    But here is what we used to call the “acid test”: If you discovered with absolute certainty that God exists and is, in fact, Satan and is profoundly evil; and that everything you were told about a benevolent God is a lie intended to induce the deepest disappointment and dread; would you still worship him? Would you still worship the God/Satan who (in this hypo) sits on the throne of Heaven?


    I hope I’d have the courage to say No. But I can only hope.

    I have some comments about Mr. Knox’s post itself, but I will put them there.


    1. To Satan, God is evil.

      Revelation 20:10 Good News Translation (GNT)

      10 Then the Devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

      Is your perspective on the “third fear” the most literal presentation? Yes. But I doubt most people seriously contemplate God as Satan. What most fear is the possibility of being sent to Hell by a stern and unforgiving God.


      1. Tom, I am sure most believers (especially those in the Abrahamic tradition) rarely think of God as Satan. It is those who are disbelievers and doubters who most readily realize that is one of the three options: God is good, God is evil, God is not. I am not advocating for any of these three, but these three are all possibilities.


        1. Sean — I am advocating that God is good. Why aren’t you? Logically, I don’t see how God could be otherwise than good. However, I am human, and there are times I must admit am not too happy with our Creator.


  2. Tom,

    I advocate nothing about God; about God I have only questions. For instance, I see no logical argument against the idea that God is Evil. I see many reasons to WANT God to be good, but no logical requirement. One can–and many do argue that God is good, and he allows evil for reasons that are ultimately mysterious; likewise one could argue that God is evil, and he allows good for reasons that are ultimately mysterious. It’s easy to see which of these is more likeable, but I don’t see how logic can determine which of these possibilities is more likely. If you think you know how logic can do that, I would genuinely love to see it.



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