To Fear and Not to Fear

How are we to regard fear, in the context of Christian faith? Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, as is proclaimed in many parts of the Bible (Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 9:1, 15;33, Job 28:28), yet God’s encouragement is also there: “be not afraid” (Luke 5:8-10).

Some groups of Christians, notably the Irish Catholics and American Fundamentalists, have promoted a dreadfully fearful picture of God, of being Vengeance rather than Love. God is both a God of Justice and Mercy, and in this regard we must strike a balance of both of these aspects; not by diminishing either, but realizing that he is both 100% just, and 100% merciful. We must be able to confidently turn to Him, our heavenly Father, by honestly admitting and repenting from our sinfulness, as a child does.

As I wrote on a Being Frank post, The best approach I’ve come across so far – the transcendent middle – is in Peter Kreeft’s Between Heaven and Hell: to fear God in volition, not in emotion. We are to not only be in awe of God, but (as Aquinas taught, I believe) also fear the possibility of eternal separation from Him – but only in the gift of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3).

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