I was reading something from Dan Phillips when he linked to this article on the CNN belief blog. It is written by Craig Gross, who is a pastor and founder of xxxchurch.com [a provocatively named ministry whose purpose is to free people from various sexual addictions] I’ve decided to enclose the whole article, which I hope you read, and there are manifest issues with it that I think would be relevant to discern.
“I heard a news clip promoting my recent speaking engagement at a church, and they mentioned that I deal with some of “the greatest sinners of all time.” I thought to myself: Do I? Would people who are caught up in porn and sexual sin addictions consider themselves some of the greatest sinners of all time? Probably not.
Without a doubt, Judas, the biblical disciple of Jesus, is considered the greatest sinner of all time because of what he did to Jesus. Here is the passage from Luke 22:21-22. “Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out.” [The Message Bible]“
No surprises there. But for the one who turns him in – who turns traitor to the Son of Man – this is doomsday. Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bible says about Judas:
He was personally chosen to be an apostle by Jesus.
He spent 3 1/2 years traveling with Jesus.
He saw all the miracles of Christ in person.
He watched as Christ healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons.
In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas.
On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch. No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer.
His life was changed.
He knew Jesus personally.
In a dark moment of his life, he made a mistake. A big one. He sold Jesus out for 30 silver coins or so. The moment he knew what he had done, he felt remorse, and he killed himself.
I am not here to debate theology. The facts are the facts. I don’t think Judas was “The Mole,” like the reality show character who’s there to sabotage the game from the beginning. I think he made a mistake and now has gone down as committing the biggest sin of all time.
Judas heard every message, saw every miracle, and still screwed up.
Recently, I asked on my Facebook page: “Is Judas in heaven or hell?”
The first response was:
Judas is in hell today. He has been there for 2,000 years and he will be there forever.
There is a button on Facebook that I have started to love. It is called “unfriend.” I won’t unfriend you because you believe differently than I do, I just don’t need more theologians as my friends on Facebook who speak with such confidence when it comes to someone’s place in eternity.
A debate continues on my Facebook wall. I love how everyone is so convinced they know whether Judas is in heaven or hell.
I don’t know who gets in, actually. Do I believe in heaven and hell? Yes. I believe one is dark and one is light, and they both last forever.
What is interesting to me is that in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples shared their last supper together, the 12 disciples all talked about how they were so great. Peter left the room and denied Jesus three times. Judas left the room and sold Jesus out for 30 coins.
One committed suicide, and one went on to build the church as we know it today. Both Peter and Judas committed the same sin. They both denied Jesus. But why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell?
This is not the debate Christians need to be engaged in. We don’t know. Instead of wasting our time on these types of arguments inside our little Christian world, maybe we should look inside ourselves this Easter.
It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.
But maybe as we approach Easter, we can be reminded that for Christians, the cross and the grave should silence all of these debates. We all fall short and deserve death, but because of what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago, we are able to have life. And I believe that where you end up, God only knows.”
I think Pastor Craig is right in that this debate is not one that should be high on our priorities list. I certainly don’t think it’s particularly important. And yet I think the substance of the arguments he makes are worth discussing and debating. This is because using the bible rightly matters, no matter who is using it or how they are using them. The question of whether Judas is in hell or not is NOT the issue. The issue is “what is Pastor Craig doing with the Bible to support his contention one way or another?” I’ll tell you what I see. I see bad logic, non sequitors, biblical inconsistencies, irrelevant biblical argumentation, and someone who thinks it’s acceptable to leave out key passages from the bible when he wants to make a point that can only be made if you leave out those key passages. For that reason, I think it would be beneficial to sort these things out.
1. “In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas.”
This is not true. There were certain events that Judas did not experience, chief among them would be the transfiguration as relayed in Mark 9 and Luke 9. That is kind of a big deal, and so it would not be accurate to say that John and Judas shared the same experiences. Similar, yes, but seeing Christ with face unveiled and in his full glory, talking with Elijah and Moses, and then having God from heaven audibly speaking to them, that is a significant experience that Judas did not share. For that reasons, and others, it would not be accurate to say “In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas”
2. On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch.
Scripture also recounts that “But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. [John 12;4-6] I wonder in retrospect how they knew he was a thief. Was it assumed after the fact? Did they talk amongst themselves about how much was being put in vs being taken out? I would imagine that sustained thievery and lack of repentance about that fact would not be indicative of the heart of a true believer. The fact that someone was trusted, does not mean they are trustworthy. This whole money thing goes to his next argument though, which is really quite astonishing.
3. “No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer.”
Stop and think about that for a second. Isn’t that a completely fallacious reasoning? Isn’t it shameful at how uncritical this argument is considered and thought out? Stated another way, his argument is “everyone thought that Judas was a believer, which means he must have been one,” Since when is the ability to pretend to be a believer a sign that you are one? Since when is proficiency in deceptive a sign of salvation? There is so much that is said about false teachers and men who enter the church disguised as ravenous wolves who deceive people, and so forth, that I hope it would be clear that his argument holds no weight whatsoever, and is more than a bit silly. While we’re here, I find it interesting and telling that Judas always called Jesus “teacher” and that he never called Jesus “Lord” or “Master” as the other apostles did. Furthermore, we see Judas mentioned 30 times in the Gospels, almost all reference Judas in a negative light [and NONE in a positive light].
4. Judas heard every message, saw every miracle, and still screwed up…Peter left the room and denied Jesus three times. Judas left the room and sold Jesus out for 30 coins. One committed suicide, and one went on to build the church as we know it today. Both Peter and Judas committed the same sin. They both denied Jesus. But why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell?”
There is where things get real and the dishonesty becomes apparent. Pastor Craig cherry-picks some passages while omitting others in order to forge his hypothesis of implication. He has his hypothesis, that Judas and Peter are essentially the same who each made similar mistakes, and then selectively weaves a simplified, incomplete, emotionally driven narrative in place of a well rounded, complete, biblical narrative. For example, I think it might be worth noting that Jesus says a fair amount about Judas and that what he says has consequences, repercussions, and sheds light on the fate of Judas. Pastor Craigasks “why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell?
There are many, many reasons
In John 6 Jesus asks the question to his close disciples about their leaving him like the others disciples. But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. “Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil? “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve (John 6:68-71.) That might have something to do with it.
In Matthew 26:23-24 we see Jesus talking “He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
In John 17:9-12, Jesus is praying for his disciples, and he says ”I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you, Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
In Luke 22:3 we read of the supposed believer “Then Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.”
Perhaps his Bible does not have those verses, but his seems clear that their inclusion blows his earlier thoughts out of the water. I’ll take those over “people thought he was a believer, that’s good enough for me!” Of course there is much more that could be said about this. Yes, Peter denied Christ three times, but was not a part of the betrayal that handed Him over to the Jewish leaders. Yet, even knowing that Peter would do this, Jesus prayed for Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” [Luke 22:31-32]. Jesus prayed no such prayer for Judas.In one man, Satan asks Jesus permisson to sift, in the other man, Satan enters in without asking and possesses him. That’s a bit different
In terms of witnessing the miracles, we see that many people witnessed the miracles, and did not believe that Jesus was God. In terms of Judas being able to do miracles, I would say that Judas offers us a perfect example of those claiming to do miracles in Christ’s name and where Jesus turns to them saying he never knew them.
In terms of remorse ” Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” [Matthew 27:3-4] Judas felt “remorse” but remorse is NOT the same as repentance. Judas confessed his sins to other men, but we have no record of him confessing his sins to the Lord.
As it were, I hope its evident that the problems are manifest. Do I believe Judas is in hell? I would certainly hope that he isnt, but when we look at the whole of the biblical narrative concernning Judas, I think Matthew 26, John 6, Luke 22 and John 17 are clear. For this reason, the fate of Judas is clear.
But again, that is not the point. The point is that we ought not to let people get away with using the Bible so poorly and carelessly. We need to check their verses [and versions!], think through their argumerntation, see what they are holding back, what they are neglecting to tell us, and what they are leaving out. Once we assemble the missing pieces then we are able to finish the puzzle and engage in robust, thoughtful dialogue. Not before.