|Answering The Atheist|
January 21, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 3
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Should we fear God? There are several texts which say yes (Leviticus 25:17; Deuteronomy 4:10; 6:2, 13, 24; 10:12, 20; 31:12-13; Joshua 4:24; 24:14; 1 Samuel 12:14, 24; 2 Kings 17:39; 1 Chronicles 16:25; Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; 25:14; 33:8, 18; 34:9; 96:4; 103:11, 13, 17; 111:10; 112:1; 115:13; 128:1; 147:11; Proverbs 1:7; 22:4; 24:21; Ecclesiastes 5:7; 12:13; Isaiah 8:13; Jeremiah 5:22; Matthew 10:28; Luke 1:50; 12:5; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:22; Hebrews 10:31; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 14:7; 15:4), but there are others which say no (2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:8, 18). Is there a contradiction?
Should we fear God? Absolutely. The questioner gave us an extensive (yet certainly not exhaustive) list of verses which say we should fear God. The Hebrew word from which fear is rendered in the Old Testament is yare', which Strong's identifies as "...to fear... to revere... to be afraid... reverence..." The Greek word from which fear is render in the New Testament is phobeo, which Strong's identifies as, "...to frighten... to be alarmed... to be in awe of... revere... afraid... reverence..." Should we approach God with reverence? Indeed. Is there reason to be in awe of the God of heaven? For sure! Ought some be frightened, even to terror, of the Lord? Yes, if they are not doing His will. But what shall we make of the texts which are listed as indicating that we should not fear God? Let us consider these.
2 Timothy 1:7 reads, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." The text does not say that God has revealed that we should not fear Him. We have no need to fear the world; no need to "...be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...", but rather are able to share "...in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God..." that others (ie. like Paul) endured. The text does not tell us not to fear (revere, stand in awe of, extend great respect toward) God.
1 John 4:8 reads, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." Yes? God is identified as love, but it appears that the questioner is doing the same here as many in the religious world do. They emphasize the love of God, to the exclusion of the justice of God. We must take into account all that the Scripture says about the character of God. Hebrews 12 likens God to our earthly fathers. In most cases, earthly fathers love their children, but, equally, they command fear of their children. Not terror or horror, but respect, awe, an appreciation for authority, etc.. Should it be thought odd that God, who loves us, also expects that we should fear before Him?
1 John 4:18 reads, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." If we have love abiding in us, in what respect has fear been cast out from us? The contexts answers the question: "...we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world." (v 17). Those who love the Lord and walk in accordance with His commandments need not fear the coming judgment, for as God is holy and pure, they walk in holiness and purity. The text does not say, as the questioner suppose, to not fear God.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible