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Adapted from this older post.

Deconversion is essential to the religious liberty of every man, woman and child.  We must deconvert from every god that man has imagined.   If humanity is to be free from the tyrannical rule of God: God must die.  This is the most basic claim of orthodox Christianity.

Christopher Hitchens often made the following kinds of remarks about religion's "permanent, unalterable dictatorship":


An eternal North Korea is, he says, religion's idea of heaven.  But it's Hitchens' idea of hell (probably ours too!).

But which God is he imagining ruling over this kingdom of heaven?  He's imagining a greedy dictator, a cosmic leech, an almighty sink-hole of need.  Of course, if that were true, eternity would feel like a drain!  Our lives on earth would be bad enough.

This was the tyranny that Dan Barker laboured under - now president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.  He speaks of his past in evangelical Christianity here:

I was a "doer of the word and not a hearer only." I went to a Christian college, majored in Religion/Philosophy, became ordained and served in a pastoral capacity in three California churches. I personally led many people to Jesus Christ, and encouraged many young people to consider full-time Christian service.

But one day he de-converted to find liberation from this Almighty Surveillance System:

"For my whole life there had been this giant eyeball looking at me, this god, this holy spirit, this church history, and this Bible. And not only everything I did but everything I thought was being judged: Was God pleased? I realized that that wasn't there anymore. It occurred to me, 'I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I'm thinking right now. There's no fear of hell, no fear of judgment, I don't have to be right or wrong, I can just be me.'" (Source)

Once God was dead, Barker was free.  It was "exhilarating", he said.  You can imagine it was something of a Hallelujah moment.  The death of God always is!  Mischievously, I wonder whether Barker wishes such exultation could go on forever...

It's interesting that Barker had this revelation while out in the beauty of nature and looking up at the 'heavens'.  I mention his location because it's very similar to John Bunyan's de-conversion experience, three centuries earlier.

He too was labouring under the feeling that heaven was a spiritual North Korea.  He felt the "giant eyeball" very keenly and it was a heavy oppression.  But one day he also de-converted from his old religion...

"As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, "Thy righteousness is in heaven"; and, methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand, there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8)."

"Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away, so that from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now also went I home rejoicing for the grace and love of God."

Notice the exhilarating effect of the death of God!  When Bunyan grasps the implications of God the Lamb he finds instant freedom from religious afflictions and even from "those dreadful scriptures of God."  Even Bunyan's language mirrors the de-conversion experiences related so often on today's atheist websites.

I've met many an atheists on the internet - especially those from the kinds of religious environments that Bunyan experienced in the 17th century.  Countless times I've heard de-conversion stories about finding release from a greedy god, from judgementalism, from hypocrisy, from the guilt, shame and fear of their religious upbringing.  I feel their pain.  I also grew up in church.  I also laboured under the tyranny of an imagined god.  I also felt the eye-ball in the sky.  I also found release in de-conversion.

But there's two kinds of de-conversion.  There are two kinds of death-of-God experience.

Bunyan de-converts from a God-of-Demand and finds a God-Who-Is-Giver.  The death of God means, for Bunyan, looking to the cross.  There He sees the LORD Jesus giving Himself utterly - pouring out His life for the world.  There He sees that God is not greedy - God is Giver.  This is the vision that changes him.

Barker de-converts from a God-of-Demand and finds, what?  Only other powers.  Selfish powers.  Uncaring powers.  What lies 'at bottom' in this universe in the atheist vision?  'Blind, pitiless indifference' if you ask Dawkins.  Barker is de-converted towards powers that will only judge and crush us in the end.

His exhilaration can only be short-lived.  He's only traded one tyranny for another.  But with Jesus, the death of God is our salvation.  And it might just make you want to sing "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain." (Revelation 5:12).  That's the song of heaven - because heaven is a celebration of the grace, not the greed, of God.

How do you think of judgement and salvation?

If you ask me - you shouldn't think like this:


Instead think like this:


Or to be a bit more nuanced - like this.

Now I could take this observation in many directions.

Perhaps we could explore its significance for an infra versus supra-lapsarian debate.

Perhaps we could discuss the strong link that some make between penal substitutionary atonement and limited atonement.

We could think about how to preach warnings of judgement (for instance warnings of exile in the OT) given that judgement is a-coming.

But I'm going to take the observation in this direction...

I'm becoming convinced that when Jesus says 'Take up your cross and follow me' (Mark 8:34) He's saying the same thingas Paul when he says 'I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live'  (Gal 2:20).

Think of some of Jesus' words:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  (Matt 10:34-39)

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  (Luke 14:33)

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  (John 12:24-26)

In the context of Jesus' own judgement and salvation He tells His followers what it means to come after Him.  It means being caught up in that same path - the only path of life.  Seeds must die to live - so it is with The Seed so it is with themany offspring His death produced.  Judgement then salvation.  To be saved is to die with Jesus - to join Him for an early judgement day and pass through to find true life.

Compare this with some words from Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Gal 2:20)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his, etc, etc  (Rom 6:3-5 and following)

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  (Gal 6:14)

Here Paul describes his history as utterly determined by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Judgement and salvationhave happened for Paul because he has died and risen with Jesus to new life on the other side of wrath, death, sin, law, old creation.  And (apart from his Adamic flesh that still clings to him) he is utterly dead to the world around him and utterly brought into 'newness of life'.

Now.  Think of a sermon you've heard on the Jesus verses.  And think of a sermon you've heard on the Paul verses.  I imagine the tone of those two sermons was quite different.  I imagine that the Jesus sermons spent a lot of time presenting His words as moralistic exhortations and 'if-then' conditions before (perhaps) the preacher retracted the force of them and told you not to forget that you're 'saved by grace' ('grace' understood along the lines of diagram 1 not diagram 2).   And I imagine the Paul sermon comforted you with the whole 'union with Christ', 'newness of life' stuff and encouraged you that 'hey, you really are saved by grace.' (again, probably 'grace' as understood according to diagram 1)

I wonder if the Jesus sermons should sound more like the best of the Paul sermons.  And the Paul sermons should sound like the best of the Jesus sermons.  In other words, Jesus, the Seed, dies and rises on your behalf.  If you are His rejoice that you are created, shaped and defined by this death and resurrection in which you are crucified to the the whole world, and the whole world is crucified to you.  This is your salvation because there simply is no other way to resurrection than through the cross.  'Come and die' is not a fearful condition of life - maybe you're up to it, maybe not.  It's the description of how that life comes, wrapped up in the announcement that Jesus really has crucified the world to raise it up new - come on in.

If you are not dead to the world, this might well be a sign that you are not His.  Or that you have wandered far from Him.  So go to Him and take that easy yoke onto your shoulders (Matt 11:28-30).  Be constrained by the death and resurrection of Jesus, for this is salvation.  Or else be wearied and burdened by your own, much heavier yokes which cannot lead youthrough the judgement to come.

But for those who are yoked to Christ, know that you have begun, even now, to live that newness of life.  Even today as we walk together with Jesus, dying to sin and self and the praises and worries of this world, resurrection life is unleashed.  This mystical union with Christ (the best of the Paul sermons) is earthed in the daily discipleship of living for Jesus (the best of the Jesus sermons).  Let's have both.

I wonder if that's why Peter finishes his first letter (which is all about this judgement then salvation dynamic) by saying 'This is the true grace of God.' 1 Peter 5:12.



Full Text Session 2B - The God of the Cross

Powerpoint Slides - Session 2


The God Revealed at the Cross

Philippians 2:5-11

1 Corinthians 1:17-25


Group Discussion:

How do you react to these religious statements?

What do they have in common?

-          Divine beings created humanity in order for us to mine gold and other precious materials for them.

-          God created us to test us, to see if good would triumph over evil.

-          God created us so that we would give him glory.


What is glory?

John 8:54

John 12:23-24

John 13:31

John 17:1-4,5,24


The cross redefines...







Jesus shows us that God is Giver!

Therefore repent and believe the good news!

Common Objection:  I don’t believe there is a god and I’m not sure I want one!

Recommended Reading:  Colossians

How does Jesus shape:

our view of God

our view of ourselves

our view of ministry

our view of the world around us

Next Time:  The Surprising God
Jesus is not the God of the pub discussion or the philosophy department.  Exploiting the shock value of Jesus in evangelism!



... the ultimate plague (i.e. judgement)  (Ex 11:1)

... judgement upon the gods (Ex 12:12)

... the defeat of the Enemy (Ex 6:1)

... liberation from slavery to overlords (Ex 13:14)

... liberation to the service of the LORD (Ex 8:1)

... the cause of unparalleled sorrow for the enemies (Ex 11:6)

... the cause of great joy for the redeemed (2 Chron 30:21)

... the distinction between the LORD's people and the world (Ex 11:7)

... in darkness (Deut 16:6)

... a sacrifice (Ex 12:27)

... substitutionary (Ex 12:13)

... bloody (Ex 12:13)

... a sign for the LORD's people (Ex 12:13)

... for the LORD Himself to see (Ex 12:13)

... to be memorialized in perpetuity (Ex 12:14)

... community-defining (Ex 12:47)

... open to non-covenant people (Ex 12:49)  but...

... for those who enter the covenant and own its sign (Ex 12:48)

... time renewing (Ex 12:1)

... the ultimate revelation of the LORD (Ex 6:7)


What is the cross?

Exactly the same.

[this is a repost]


"I wish I never sinned" said the Israelite at the head of the queue.

The others waiting to make their sacrifices nodded.

The priest narrowed his gaze.  "Why do you wish you never sinned?"

The Israelite was amazed that the priest would ask.  The answer was so obvious it hardly needed saying.

"So I don't have to keep returning to this altar."



This passage is the story of two cups.  Easter is the story of two cups.

One cup was offered in the upper room.  The other cup was offered in the Garden of Gethsemane.

One cup Jesus gives to us.  One cup Jesus drinks for Himself

One cup is a cup for the forgiveness of sins.  One cup is a cup of wrath and judgement.

One cup brings life.  One cup brings death.

One cup the bible describes as a cup of blessing.  The other cup is a cup of curse.

But this is the story of Easter – Jesus drank the cup of curses so that we can drink the cup of blessings.  In other words, Easter is all about a wonderful exchange.  That’s how Christians for thousands of years have described it: a wonderful exchange:  Jesus takes the curses that we deserve in order to give us the blessings that only He deserves.  He doesn’t deserve the Garden of Gethsemane.  He doesn’t deserve to drink the cup of curses, but He does.  And we don’t deserve to sit at the Feast with the LORD Almighty.  We don’t deserve to drink the cup of blessings, but we do.  It’s a wonderful exchange.  He takes what we deserve to give us what we don’t deserve.

...continue reading "Two Cups: Matthew 26:17-46 – Maundy Thursday Sermon"

This is such a beautiful song and I couldn't find it on youtube (not to this tune anyway). So here's a Good Friday effort. Someday I'll learn how to fingerpick...


Sermon audio: Mark 15:21-41

Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul said this:

the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The cross splits the world.  Either you look at the cross and think – that’s pathetic – or you look and you think – that’s powerful.  It’s either pathetic or powerful.  If you think it’s pathetic, Paul says “you are perishing.”  The way milk perishes and goes off and soon it gets chucked away for good – that’s you if you think the cross is foolish.  But if you think it’s the power of God, you are being saved.  That means you have been plucked from the perishing crowd and set on a one-way street to heaven.  But it’s one or the other.

The cross splits the world.  And tonight we’re going to hear the message of the cross.  If you have not become a Christian, the bible says that right now you are in the perishing camp.  And you need to look again to find salvation.  But you can, tonight, you can look at the cross and say “Wow!  That is the power of God!”  And you can go home saved from your perishing.

And if you are a believer already, you and I need the message of the cross daily.  A few verses later in 1 Corinthians, Paul says “I’m determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).  Christians grow in their faith as they contemplate the cross.  So let’s look at the cross together, and let’s allow Mark’s Gospel to be our guide.

Turn to the beginning of Mark. Have a look at chapter 1, verse 1.  And here’s where we need to begin with the cross.  We need to begin by realizing WHO is hanging on the cross. Who is He?  Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So who is Jesus?  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  Those are two different titles for Jesus.  Christ means “The One Anointed with the Holy Spirit.”  In Hebrew it’s the word “Messiah.”  In Greek it’s the word “Christos.”  In English we say Christ – but it’s all the same thing.  Christ means, “The One Anointed with the Holy Spirit.”  It means that Jesus is King, because KINGS are anointed.  We usually think about “crowning” a King, but in the bible (and even in the British coronation service) you ANOINT kings.  It means pouring oil on their head.  The oil symbolized the Holy Spirit.  The King would reign in the power of the Spirit.

So Jesus is THE Christ.  THE King.  THE Anointed One.  And it’s not like Jesus has been anointed by mere men.  Even before the universe began, Jesus has been the One anointed with the Holy Spirit. The One filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.  The One who has the most intimate and intense relationship with God the Spirit.  That’s what it means that He is the Christ.

And He is also “the Son of God.”  That means He has always called the Almighty God, Daddy.  Before there was a universe, Jesus was always calling God Most High, Daddy.  He’s the eternal Son of the Father.

This is Jesus:  He is the Christ – He has the ULTIMATE relationship with the Spirit.  And He is the Son of God – He has the ULTIME relationship with the Father. Jesus is one of the Trinity.  He is God the Son, loved by God the Father and filled with God the Spirit.  He is God filled by God with God.  He is God filled by God with God – He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Now then, think, who is hanging on the cross?

He is God filled by God with God.  He is the Lord of this world.  He is our Maker.  He is the Author of Life, the Centrepiece of all reality.  And He is nailed to a piece of wood until He dies.

Here is the message of the cross:  Does that sound powerful or does that sound pathetic?

God filled by God with God comes to planet earth.  And we kill Him.  And He lets us.

Does that sound powerful or does that sound pathetic?

God filled by God with God comes to planet earth.  And we kill Him.  And He lets us.

If that’s true then what are we like?  And what is He like?

...continue reading "The Power of the Cross – Mark 15:21-41"


Sermon Audio

In America there’s a ridge running up and down the Rocky Mountains – it’s called the Continental Divide.  Any water that falls on this ridge has to go one way or the other.  A raindrop may fall on this ridge and if it trickles to the west it ends up in the Pacific Ocean.  The next drop may fall on that very same place and trickle off to the east.  It will end up in the Atlantic Ocean.  Consecutive drops of water will fall on same ridge, but eventually thousands of miles will separate them.

That’s what the cross does to the whole human race.  We are all divided into only two camps heading to only two destinations.

Verse 18 speaks of two kinds of person: there are “those who are perishing”, and there are “those who are being saved.”  The whole human race divides into the perishing and the saved.  This room divides into the perishing and the saved.

...continue reading "1 Corinthians 1:18-31 sermon"

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