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February 18th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Facing death, a top pastor rethinks what it means to be Christian

Editor's Note: The short film accompanying this story, called "My Garden," comes from EdsStory.com. CNN.com is premiering the latest installment in the "Ed's Story" series.

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Ed Dobson is not afraid of dying. It’s the getting there that really scares him.

A former pastor, onetime Christian Right operative and an icon among religious leaders, Dobson has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him 3 to 5 years to live.

That was 11 years ago.

“I am a tad happy to be talking to you right now,” joked Dobson, whose voice has deteriorated since his preaching days, in a phone interview. Speaking with him feels like being exposed to a brief moment of clarity. He speaks slowly, but with an understated confidence and authority.

As pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a position he held for 18 years, Dobson would regularly preach to 5,000 people or more on Sundays. Back then, Dobson said he looked at himself as a man filled with lessons, proverbs and, most of all, answers.

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After retirement six years ago, the massive crowds went away.

“I went from 100 miles an hour to zero miles an hour overnight,” Dobson said. “That was a shock to my system.”

Dobson says the answers vanished with the crowds.

“I know that sounds a bit lame,” he said. “I know that that I should have all the answers, but the truth is, the more I live, the fewer answers I have.”

And yet the people Dobson comes in contact with – those who call him dad, husband and friend, or those who have read one of his 12 books and watched his short films, don’t agree with that assessment. To them, the last six years of Dobson’s life have led to a remarkable ability to put life into context. To them, Dobson is a man filled with lessons.

From 5,000 to 1

In the 1980s, Dobson rose to prominence as an executive at the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical political organization, which had influence with the Ronald Reagan White House. Dobson’s rise continued when he accepted the pastorate at Calvary Church in 1987. He cut a national profile, with Moody Bible Institute naming him “Pastor of the Year” in 1993.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Dobson suddenly felt unsure of himself. At times, he said, he didn't want to get out of bed. After years of intense Bible study, Dobson said this is not how he thought he would react to news of his own mortality.

“I thought that if I knew I was going to die, I would really read the Bible and if I really was going to die, I would really pray,” Dobson said. “I found the opposite to be true. I could barely read the Bible and I had great difficulty praying. You get so overwhelmed with your circumstances, you lose perspective.”

Eventually, Dobson regained perspective. But feelings of listlessness led him to take his preaching to a more personal level. He now meets with congregants one-on-one. Sitting with them in their homes or offices, Dobson provides whatever help he can. “Most of the people I meet with have ALS and basically I listen," he said.

“When I meet with someone and look into their eyes, it is like I am looking into their soul,” Dobson said. “We are both broken, we are both on the journey and we are both fellow pilgrims.”

Going from 5,000 congregants to one at a time was a big change for Dobson, forcing him to reevaluate his job as a pastor. “I am trying to learn that one-on-one is just as important as speaking to thousands,” he said. “I reemphasize – I am trying to learn that.”

During his one-on-one meetings, Dobson says he remembers Adam and Eve being charged by God to work the Garden of Eden. For years Dobson’s garden was Calvary Church – the baptisms, weddings, the Sunday preaching.

“Whether it is preaching to 5000 or meeting one on one, I am trying to take care of the garden,” he said.

The wind knocked out

One way Dobson strove to tend the garden is by writing a book about dealing with serious illness. In 2007, he wrote “Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness.”

Dobson’s son Daniel read the book while deployed in Iraq. After returning home, Daniel made it his mission to turn the book’s stories into videos.

He pitched the idea to Steve Carr, the executive director of a faith-focused production company called Flannel. “When I met Ed, when he came to our office, something really spoke to me,” Carr said. “Not too long before that, I had been diagnosed with Leukemia.”

“I thought that this guy, he has been where I am right now and he has somehow mastered it,” Carr said.

So far, Flannel has released five Dobson films, available through the company's website. There are plans for two more. Though the films range in topic, from loss and forgiveness to healing and growth, all are centered on lessons Dobson learned through his battle with ALS. The videos toe the line between a dark look at a dying man's life and an uplifting glimpse at someone who exudes clarity.

"My Garden," the most recent title in the series, centers on Ed’s struggle to deal with ending his preaching career.

Dobson talks about the films as if they are his swan song, his last words of encouragement to a group of supporters he has inspired for decades.

“My desire is that people who have had the air knocked out of them, whether divorce or losing a loved one or illness, that they will get a sense of hope by watching the films,” he said.

Surviving (with help)

The series’ first short film opens with Dobson explaining what it was like to be told he had ALS. After lying in bed, Dobson gets in the shower, brushes his teeth and starts the day. Even he would admit, however, it is not that easy.

Dobson has lost much of the function in his hands and is seen struggling to brush his teeth, his frail body using two hands on the small brush. Though he is able to do a lot, including drive, Dobson wouldn’t be able to make it on his own, a fact he is keenly aware of when about when describing his wife, Lorna.

“She is my right hand, my left hand, my left foot, my right foot, my heart and my brain,” Dobson said. “Without her, it would be impossible to go on.”

Standing in the kitchen in one video, Lorna helps puts Ed’s belt and gloves on. The two don’t speak on camera, but their love is obvious.

“Our love has grown each year of marriage,” Lorna said. “I didn’t want to just wither in the sorrow of how our life was changing. It took a while to get used to what our life was going to be like but I realized that I needed to be more available to him.”

Dobson says he is also more available to her.

“I am no longer a preacher,” said Dobson. “Today, I would say I am a Jesus follower. Period.”

Lorna said she continues to learn from her husband. Throughout their life together, she said she learned by being in church with him, by raising three kids together and by loving one another.

The last 11 years, however, their love has changed. Dobson's illness has taught her to focus on the important things, she said, primarily their kids and five grandkids.

After tending the garden for decades, Dobson is now being tended himself, largely by Lorna. “ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding of what it means to obey Jesus,” Dobson said in the latest film.

“It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose," he said. "But the good news is out there – there is a purpose for everyone.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death • Faith Now • United States

soundoff (3,194 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    There are some really cruel people commenting here.
    I don't care what your beliefs are, he's in a horrible situation. I wouldn't wish this on an enemy.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      He wished death on Aids victiims. What comes around goes around.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • god s u c k s little boys c0ks

      the only true religion is karma
      and she is a beatch!
      what goes around comes around!
      this punk is getting what he deserves!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • IceT

      1st .. the comments are not for him or to him.
      2nd .. It should be a time of great joy since he's going to heaven, unless we really don't believe in heaven.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      and yet "god" wished it upon him

      February 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • SHOUT

      I AGREE WE MUST PREACH LOVE OF JESUS ON HERE OVER AND OVER.

      February 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • god s u c k s little boys c0ks

      the only real cruel people here are ur parents!
      ur mom should have swallowed that load!!!instead of spreading her legs and having u!

      February 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  2. SHOUT

    God Loves You!

    The Bible says, "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life"

    The problem is that . . .

    2 All of us have done, said or thought things that are wrong. This is called sin, and our sins have separated us from God.

    The Bible says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God is perfect and holy, and our sins separate us from God forever. The Bible says “The wages of sin is death.”

    The good news is that, about 2,000 years ago,

    3 God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

    Jesus is the Son of God. He lived a sinless life and then died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. “God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

    Jesus rose from the dead and now He lives in heaven with God His Father. He offers us the gift of eternal life - of living forever with Him in heaven if we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me."

    God reaches out in love to you and wants you to be His child. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name." You can choose to ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and come in to your life as your Lord and Savior.

    4 If you want to accept Christ as your Savior and turn from your sins, you can ask Him to be your Savior and Lord by praying a prayer like this:

    "Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. I want to serve you always."

    Did you pray this prayer?
    YESNO

    February 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  3. god s u c k s little boys c0ks

    god is a filthy dog

    February 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  4. SHOUT

    If you want to accept Christ as your Savior and turn from your sins, you can ask Him to be your Savior and Lord by praying a prayer like this:

    "Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. I want to serve you always."

    February 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • god s u c k s little boys c0ks

      god is a pimp
      anyone who prays to god is a f a g

      February 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  5. SHOUT

    TRUE DEBBIE. IF YOU DONT WANNA BELEIVE THEN DONT BEELIVE. BUT WE WILL CONTINUE TO PREACH CHRIST. WE HOPE YOU WILL RECEIVE LOVE OF JESUS. JESUS2020.COM

    February 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      This is the reason everyone else has a problem with your tired tripe! If you wouldn't preach no one would care. Believe what you want but keep it to yourself.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  6. N&W 1000

    WHY is this gentleman standing next to a railroad track, in a curve?

    IS he trying to commit suicide?

    Stay off, stay away, stay alive.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  7. ReligionIs4Dolts

    "god" was too stupid or impotent to write "his" message in permanent ink in the sky, geostatically by region, in every language necessary to prove to man that the message actually came from a supernatural being. Instead "he" delivered it to fallible men in an isolated desert tribe at a time when everyone thought the world was flat and at a time when global transportation/communication was non-existent, therefore dooming countless millions to hell fire because there was no way for them to receive the all-important message of how to be saved.

    Go ahead pull the other leg!!! RETARDS!!!

    February 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • N&W 1000

      You really sound like a nut.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Bruce

      I am curious as to why you get so angry over something that claim does not exist?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      When people tell the story of religion (especially the Abrahamic ones) they always sound like nuts ... especially when they're getting it right out of their own religion's texts!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Believer

      Religionis4dolts
      The message did not start in some random desert, it started in the cradle of life. Most people believe that human life started in the middle east, african area. The message of Jesus started at the perfect time for it to spread, the Roman empire where there were roads to carry the message to the vast majority of people.

      February 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • cigarlover

      wow! the indoctrination. Hey many religions and civilization started before the JC's invention. Have you heard of Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.?

      February 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  8. Debbie

    Jesus loves me, this I KNOW. For the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. Why does it have to be so complicated? Why do atheists, humanists, and agnostics get so hot under the collar? If God isn't real, what do they have to worry about? But if He is...well, that's another story.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • N&W 1000

      Atheists are in for a tragic, rude shock on the great and final day of judgment.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Bizarre

      This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century (where have you been?)

      – What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands of gods which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to very nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.

      – What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?

      – What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      Or not, since there will be no day of judgment you stupid caveman.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • ashrakay

      We get all bothered because religious people try to dictate what is right for others and attempt to stop progress and interfere with people's private lives.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Believer

      What progress are we trying to stop? Im all for learning more about science. Im all for advancing medicine, makes life easier. Im all for an interconnected world where we help those in need, especially in 3rd world countries. I am all for making the world a better place, I just disagree that some of the things we call progress are in fact progress, such as advancements in guns.

      February 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hmmm. How do you feel about contraception, Believer? Do you think women have a right to bodily autonomy? Do you think families should be able to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy if the fetus is found to be profoundly abnormal and will be incapable of living a life with any kind of quality?

      February 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Believer

      I do not agree with that at all, however I will admit that people are going to do it anyway. I am 100% against abortion I believe it is murder, however I do not think that making it illegal is the way to go. We attack poverty through charity work, we educate and we adopt the children without a home. We make sure that the man who makes the teenager pregnant stays with her. We work on these and the need for abortion will be eliminated.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Believer

      As for contracptions, I am not against them. I am against the idea of s.e.x that they bring. I believe that it should be between one man and one woman. It is a beautiful and intimate thing, and it should remain so. When more partners are added the intimacy between the partners becomes less potent. For you are not just thinking about your partner, you are comparing him/her to partners past.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  9. SHOUT

    GOD IS LOVE AND LOVES YOU AND DEMONSTRATED IT IN THAT YET WHILE WE WERE SINNERS CHRIST DIED FOR US. YOU KNOW HE DIDNT DESERVE TO DIE BUT HE DID FOR US CUZ HE LOVED US SO HE COULD COME INTO OUR HEARTS IF YOU WOULD DECIDE TO LET HIM IN. THAT IS TRUE LOVE. DONT TRY TO ARGUE BIBLE IF YOU DONT HAVE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR HEART. VISIT JESUS2020.COM TO GET SAVED.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • SATAN

      I LOVE ALL CAPS! JOIN ME IN HELL!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      Hey there shout, can you do me a favor. Run this down for me so I can understand and be a good Christian:

      Ok, God knocked up Mary to make Jesus. But, Jesus is God, therefor, God did not exist at the time he did the nasty with the, er ah..."virgin" so whlle this was not possible, it happened anyway and God created himself. Then, God killed himself even thought that is a sin buy sacrificing himself, not his son, not himself...???? on the the cross. Then God, no Jesus...??? rose from the dead and chilled for a while as a ghost.....which is the same as Jesus who is God. So God is a ghost, but not really because.......ahhh screw it.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  10. Contagious Faith!

    February 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • god loves to get rimmers

      religion is for pinheads who cant think for themselves
      that kid died in the video cause he was a loser!
      he deserved to die!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • SHOUT

      LOVE IT!!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  11. king of kings

    Faith of a mustard seed

    February 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • ashrakay

      ... has the power to grow into a mustard tree.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  12. SHOUT

    RED BIBLE WITH HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR MIND. GO TO JESUS2020.COM TO FIND OUT HOW TO RECEIVE HOLY SPIRIT. CHRISTIANS BE FILLED WITH HOLYS PIRIT AND CONFESS SINS.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Oh now the bible has to be RED, too!?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I guess patients DO have internet access in mental hospitals ... it appears they can even promote delusional websites.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • SATAN

      I AM THE LORD OF ALL CAPS

      February 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  13. jesuswore womens panties and loved giving rimmers

    how many people have been killed in the name of jesus and god over the many many many millenia?

    February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • bam

      ZERO. because before the christian taliban 'end a life' they declare it a heretic... satan, demon... first u dehumanize a non believer then u r free to 'end a life' via whatever means u see fit.... hang, burn, tear apart, stone....

      February 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Asherah Kuanyin Ganesha Adonai Zeus

      Ahh yeah, fun with names, heh. :-p

      February 24, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  14. SHOUT

    DONT READ BIBLE WITHOUT HAVING SPIRIT OF GOD. GO TO JESUS2020.COM AND FIND OUT HOW TO RECEIVE HOLY SPIRIT FIRST. YOU CANT READ BIBLE WITH A CARNAL MIND. YOU HAVE READ IT WITH MIND OF HOLY SPIRIT IN YOU.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      More evidence of how irresponsible and retarded your "god" is. Read the "word" I gave you thousands of years ago, but which, in order for you to understand it, you not only have to have it translated through at least 3 languages, AND you have to also receive some help from yet an imaginary ghost to FURTHER interpret it the right way. WHAT A HOAX! Why can't you see that? DOLT!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      So you're saying the Bible cannot stand up to scrutiny or give me the spirit or help me know God? You're kidding right?! You are not making a strong case here shout.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • bam

      perfect example of a nutcase....

      February 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • HolySpiritBatman

      But I'm scared of ghosts, holy or otherwise...

      February 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      So, what you mean to say is that you shouldn't read the Bible unless you believe all the hype about it being God's word first. That way you can gloss over all of those contradictions, displays of cruelty, genocide, inaccuracies and other illogical parts and safely accept what others tell you it says.

      February 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  15. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    Please just read the Bible for yourself & we'd all be better off ...
    ... it is the best way to realize the madness and free yourself from religion.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  16. SHOUT

    JESUS2020.COM FOR THOSE THAT ARE NOT SAVED

    February 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Does your website sell Jesus T-shirts & Jesus coffee mugs or just "salivation"?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Joy of Sin

    Compare prayer to a lucky horseshoe

    The dictionary defines the word "superst.i.tion" in this way:

    An irrational belief that an object, action, or circ.umstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
    We have all seen plenty of superst.i.tions. There are the superst.i.tions that a rabbit's foot or a four-leaf clover bring good luck. There are the superst.i.tions that breaking a mirror or seeing a black cat bring bad luck. And we all know that these superst.i.tions are silly. A rabbit's foot or a broken mirror has no good or bad influence on the course of events. This is obvious to any intelligent person.

    So let's imagine the following situation. Let's say that you have cancer. You are lying in the hospital after a round of chemo and you feel terrible. A person pops into your room with a bright smile on his face and a horseshoe in his hand. He says to you, "This is an amazing and lucky horseshoe. If you touch this horseshoe, it will cure your cancer. But I need to charge you $100 to touch it."

    Would you pay the man $100?

    Of course not. We all know that touching the horseshoe will have zero effect on cancer. The belief in lucky horseshoes is pure superst.i.tion.

    It is also very easy to scientifically prove that the horseshoe has no effect on cancer (or anything else). The way we would do it is simple: we would take 1,000 cancer patients and split them randomly into two groups of 500. We would let 500 of the cancer patients touch the lucky horseshoe and we would leave the other 500 alone in a double-blind way. Then we would look at cancer remission rates between the two groups. What we would find is zero benefit from the horseshoe. We would see no statistical difference between the remission rates in the two groups of 500 patients.

    Prayer

    Now let us imagine another situation. You have cancer, you have just finished a round of chemo and you feel terrible. This time, a person pops into your room with a bright smile on his face and a bible in his hand. He says to you, "There is a being named God who is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe. I am his representative on earth. If you will allow me to pray to God on your behalf, God will cure your cancer."

    You agree to the prayer, and the man prays over you for 10 minutes. He invokes all the healing powers of God, beseeching him, reciting verses of scripture and so forth. Afterwards, as he is getting ready to leave, the man says, "Oh, and by the way, God says that you should t.i.the 10% of your income to the church. Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation today?"

    The question is: Is there any difference between the two men? Will the prayer have any effect greater than the horseshoe?
    The answer is: No. The belief in prayer is just as superst.i.tious as the belief in lucky horseshoes.

    The fascinating thing is that we can prove that prayer has no effect in exactly the same way that we can prove that horseshoes have no effect. We take 1,000 cancer patients. We pray over 500 of them and we leave the other 500 alone. Then we look at cancer remission rates between the two groups. What we find is that prayers have zero benefit. We would see no statistical difference between the remission rates in the two groups of 500 patients.

    In other words, we can prove that the belief in prayer is pure superst.i.tion. The belief in the power of prayer is no different from the belief in the power of lucky horseshoes.

    These experiments have been performed many times, and they always return the same results.
    Quite simply, prayer has absolutely no effect on the outcome of any event. The "power of prayer" is actually "the power of coincidence." Belief in prayer is pure superst.i.tion.

    Prayer has absolutely no effect in every scientific experiment we perform because God is imaginary.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Pastor Lawrence

      @JOS – you're a genius. I want what you have. Your insight into what isn't is sheer brilliance. You give my life meaning and purpose now. Hey, since I have this nagging conscience (I know I've done wrong), pray, tell, what eternal answers do you have to at least assuage my guilt, if not blot it out forever?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      I like to long hot baths in the hot tub.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Skeptic

      JOS: Read "Be Careful What You Pray For," by Larry Dossey, M.D.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      @skeptic
      No, thanks anyway. I am reading the Girl that Kicked the Hornets Nest" right now. Great book.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  18. Pastor Lawrence

    @ Joy of sin – it's odd how you atheists are drawn to religion posts. If we all believe in nothing, leave us alone. Your bitterness and anger only shows how vacuous your faith in man is, for you literally have no answers. This pastor's faith gives his life and his death meaning and purposes. We all experience hardships, and we all die. It's a matter if you're willing to live forever with the consequences of your empty faith in humanism.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      Pastor Lawrence, you are incorrect. I am simply pointing out facts. I think reality in healthier for our children and our country than fantasy and I will work against your hypocrisy, swindling, lying and political sabotage in the name of truth. You don’t fool me. Up yours.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Pastor Lawrence

      See – no rational dialogue to be had. Only vitriol. Your position is enticing indeed.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • SHOUT

      AMEN LET CHRISTIANS BE FILLED WITH POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT. LEY NONBELEIVERS GET SAVED. DONT THROW PEARLS TO SWINES. WE HAVE PREACHED AWAY! LET POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT GO THRU YOU AND MAY LOVE GO WITH YOU. MAY YOU SPEAK TO YOUR OCNGREGGATION TO BE FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT AND HOW PEOPEL CAN CONFESS SINS (JAMES 5:16) AND PREACH GOSPEL WITH ALL HEARTS AND AND LOUD AND PROUD LIKE CRYTOGOD.COM

      February 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Joy of Sin

      Pastor Lawrence, you are weak and clearly have nothing to add. Waste of time talking to you.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Religion is dangerous, it is an incubator for fanaticism. The religious indoctrination of children is child abuse and needs to be punishable. Indoctrination is dangerous for anyone but inexcusably used on innocent children. It needs to stop & I will fight it my entire life.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Pastor Lawrence, If we didn't have faith in man, we wouldn't be trying so hard to wake you from your delusions. Guess what? Reality is fresh and alive right outside your bubble. When you're ready to let go of your bondage to god, we'll be waiting here to welcome you with loving and open arms.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  19. SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

    Question: "Why does Isaiah 45:7 say that God created evil?"

    Answer: Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Version reads, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” How does Isaiah 45:7 agree with the view that God did not create evil? There are two key facts that need to be considered. (1) The word translated “evil” is from a Hebrew word that means “adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, misery.” Notice how the other major English Bible translations render the word: “disaster” (NIV, HCSB), “calamity” (NKJV, NAS, ESV), and “woe” (NRSV). The Hebrew word can refer to moral evil, and often does have this meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, due to the diversity of possible definitions, it is unwise to assume that “I create evil” in Isaiah 45:7 refers to God bringing moral evil into existence.

    (2) The context of Isaiah 45:7 makes it clear that something other than “bringing moral evil into existence” is in mind. The context of Isaiah 45:7 is God rewarding Israel for obedience and punishing Israel for disobedience. God pours out salvation and blessings on those whom He favors. God brings judgment on those who continue to rebel against Him. “Woe to him who quarrels with his Master” (Isaiah 45:9). That is the person to whom God brings “evil” and “disaster.” So, rather than saying that God created “moral evil,” Isaiah 45:7 is presenting a common theme of Scripture – that God brings disaster on those who continue in hard-hearted rebellion against Him.

    GOTQUESTIONS.ORG IF YOU KNOW JESUS OR NEED TO KNOW HIM GO TO JESUS2020.COM

    February 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jesus Loves You

      Jesus even loves spammers.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Crap...I got the 20th spot again. Reposting so I get more "air time"

    (Isaiah 45:7, KJV) – "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, AND CREATE EVIL: I the LORD do all these things."
    (Amos 3:6) – "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be EVIL in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?"

    "God" created evil and then expected his beloved man-creation to avoid it! HA HA HA! But instead of realizing "his" mistake of having created the stumbling block (evil) "he" just threw a tantrum and decided to punish us all in "hell". HA HA HA!

    "God" created evil and then wrought it upon man (such as ALS and many other debilitating forms of torture). "hell" is not enough torture for man. NO, man must also suffer in this life. HA HA HA HA!

    Who the hell believes in this $hi+?!

    February 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      GOD GIVES A MAN OVER TO EVIL WHEN THEY CHOOSE TO CONTINUE TO REBEL AGAINST HIM. HE DOES NOT CREATE IT. GO BACK TO ORIGINAL HEBREW AND GREEK.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      The scriptures clearly teach that God cannot be the author of evil. James 1:13 states "Let no one say when he is tempted. 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." And further "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." (emphasis added) We know that God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Psalm 18:30 tells us "As for God, His way is blameless" and "Thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee (Psalm 5:4). Also, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds." (Psalm 145:17)

      Now, we know that all of these Scriptures cannot be wrong on the nature of God, so we must re-examine your exegesis of the Hebrew word ra'. Hebrew is an ancient language that was much more limited in scope than say Greek. Frequently, the same words were used in several contexts to mean different things. Why, even in English the word blue could mean a color or someone feeling depressed.

      The word ra' is used throughout the Old Testament with several meanings. It is used many times to mean something morally evil or hurtful (Job 35:12, 1 Sam 30:22, etc.) but it is also used to mean an unpleasant experience (Gen 47:9 and Prov. 15:10). It is used to describe fierce beasts (Lev. 26:6), and even spoiled or inferior fruit (Jer 24:3). Certainly, the figs that Jeremiah was looking at were not evil in the sense of morally reprobate!

      In Isaiah 45, the word evil is used in a contrast to the peace and well-being discussed before it. I quote John Haley:

      Evil means natural, and not moral evil, or sin. Herderson says "affliction, adversity"; Calvin, "afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences."

      Whichever interpretation may be adopted, none of the above texts, nor any others when properly explained, sanction the revolting proposition that God is the author of sin."(1)

      God, in Hebrew thought, is considered the final authority over everything. If wars or famine happen, then God has allowed that to occur, and therefore controls evil. He does not initiate any type of evil. When a man seeks to sin and commit adultery, that is his choice. He should not expect God to protect him, then from any disease or negative ramification of his choice. God's judgments and the loss of His protection are how he creates afflictions in the lives of men. Judgment is not morally wrong, though. Quite the opposite. Judgment is what we expect of a righteous God.

      Read more: http://www.comereason.org/phil_qstn/phi025.asp#ixzz1ms9s76u6

      February 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      That's a typical stupid-@$$ talking point you brainwashed oafs always spout out! "It's out of context"

      BS! YOU read it! YOU read the whole chapter and everything leading up to and following it. It says exactly that and nothing more. GOD CREATED EVIL!!!! DOLT!!!

      SORRY, I wasn't born a Jew or a Greek. All powerful, all knowing "god" should have sent me a message in English in such a way as to be obviously not tampered with by fallible man! P|$$ off!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      "The scriptures clearly teach that God cannot be the author of evil."

      AND YET IT SAYS IT RIGHT THERE IN THE CHAPTERS/VERSES I QUOTED THAT GOD DID CREATE EVIL!!!!!!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      Did God Create Evil?

      By Tim Jackson

      Did God create evil?

      If we believe that God created a perfect world and He is sovereign, where did evil come from? There are some people who believe that His sovereign control includes the creation of evil, and they base their conclusion on the words of Isaiah 45:7. In that verse, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil” (KJV).

      In order to understand what God was saying through the prophet Isaiah, we need to look at the words used in the text of Isaiah 45:7 . Hebrew words often have a wide variety of meanings, depending on the immediate context in which the word is used. The job of the translator is to accurately select the best modern English word that is closest to the meaning of the word used in the original Hebrew manuscripts.

      The fact that ra’ is contrasted to shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, helps to give parameters to the meaning of ra’. Shalom, again, is a rich word with broad meaning. Depending on the context, shalom can be translated “peace,” “well-being,” “welfare,” “prosperity,” “safe,” “health,” and “peaceable.” in Isaiah 45:7 makes it evident that different translators interpreted the context of Isaiah 45 in different ways. Five different English translations are compared below.

      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things (KJV).

      I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things (NKJV).

      I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (NIV).

      The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these (NASB).

      I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who does all these things (RSV).

      The Hebrew term ra’ has a broad spectrum of meanings. It can mean “wickedness,” “mischief,” “bad,” “trouble,” “hurt,” “sore,” “affliction,” “ill,” “adversity,” “harm,” “grievous,” and “sad.” Thus, as with the interpretation of any word, it is the immediate context that dictates the exact nuance of the word to be translated into English.

      The fact that ra’ is contrasted to shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, helps to give parameters to the meaning of ra’. Shalom, again, is a rich word with broad meaning. Depending on the context, shalom can be translated “peace,” “well-being,” “welfare,” “prosperity,” “safe,” “health,” and “peaceable.”

      The context of Isaiah 45:7 is a profound declaration of God’s total sovereignty over the affairs of men. God’s stunning revelation that Cyrus, the totalitarian ruler of Persia, was being chosen by Him to be “His anointed” ( Isaiah 45:1 ), the deliverer of the nation of Israel, was shocking to Isaiah’s readers. This is especially true given God’s clear denunciation of idolatry in the immediately preceding context ( Isaiah 44:6-23 ). The irony of this passage is that God reveals how He intends to use a pagan, idol-worshiping dictator like Cyrus to return His people Israel to the land from which they had been deposed by the Babylonian despot, Nebuchadnezzar.

      In summing up the gamut of His awesome character and unpredictable ways (see also Isaiah 55:8-9 ), God declares:

      I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged Me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (Isaiah 45:5-7 NIV).

      This is the signature exclamation of the only sovereign potentate of the universe: “I did this!” From the beginning to the end, from light to darkness, from prosperity to disaster, all are the work of His hands. God uses even the most wicked and evil exploits of this world to bring about His glory and divine purposes. That is what is so awesome about God. Only He can take the most wicked, evil, and self-serving intentions and make good come out of them (see also Romans 8:28 ).

      Does God create evil? Certainly not. If He was the author of evil, then He certainly would not be a good God that is worthy of worship and praise, much less trusted to have our well-being in mind. The idea of a good God creating His own enemy and the object of His wrath seems inconceivable. It would be inconsistent for a good God to mastermind the idea of evil, will it into existence, and still be considered a good God.

      Rather, God created man in His image with the freedom to choose. With this freedom came the opportunity to rebel against Him. Man did rebel ( Genesis 3 ), and the rest is history. The annals of human history chronicle how God uses everything — even the chaos of this world — to bring about His glory and purposes. Those purposes include our growth in becoming more Christlike.

      What’s the point of Isaiah 45:7? God reveals His almighty and awesome character to us so we can relax with the confidence that comes from knowing, even in the most dark, desperate, and discouraging times in our lives, God is up to something good for us all the time.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • SHOUT

      Did God Create Evil?

      By Tim Jackson.......

      Did God create evil?

      If we believe that God created a perfect world and He is sovereign, where did evil come from? There are some people who believe that His sovereign control includes the creation of evil, and they base their conclusion on the words of Isaiah 45:7. In that verse, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil” (KJV).

      In order to understand what God was saying through the prophet Isaiah, we need to look at the words used in the text of Isaiah 45:7 . Hebrew words often have a wide variety of meanings, depending on the immediate context in which the word is used. The job of the translator is to accurately select the best modern English word that is closest to the meaning of the word used in the original Hebrew manuscripts.

      The fact that ra’ is contrasted to shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, helps to give parameters to the meaning of ra’. Shalom, again, is a rich word with broad meaning. Depending on the context, shalom can be translated “peace,” “well-being,” “welfare,” “prosperity,” “safe,” “health,” and “peaceable.” in Isaiah 45:7 makes it evident that different translators interpreted the context of Isaiah 45 in different ways. Five different English translations are compared below.

      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things (KJV).

      I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things (NKJV).

      I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (NIV).

      The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these (NASB).

      I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who does all these things (RSV).

      The Hebrew term ra’ has a broad spectrum of meanings. It can mean “wickedness,” “mischief,” “bad,” “trouble,” “hurt,” “sore,” “affliction,” “ill,” “adversity,” “harm,” “grievous,” and “sad.” Thus, as with the interpretation of any word, it is the immediate context that dictates the exact nuance of the word to be translated into English.

      The fact that ra’ is contrasted to shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, helps to give parameters to the meaning of ra’. Shalom, again, is a rich word with broad meaning. Depending on the context, shalom can be translated “peace,” “well-being,” “welfare,” “prosperity,” “safe,” “health,” and “peaceable.”

      The context of Isaiah 45:7 is a profound declaration of God’s total sovereignty over the affairs of men. God’s stunning revelation that Cyrus, the totalitarian ruler of Persia, was being chosen by Him to be “His anointed” ( Isaiah 45:1 ), the deliverer of the nation of Israel, was shocking to Isaiah’s readers. This is especially true given God’s clear denunciation of idolatry in the immediately preceding context ( Isaiah 44:6-23 ). The irony of this passage is that God reveals how He intends to use a pagan, idol-worshiping dictator like Cyrus to return His people Israel to the land from which they had been deposed by the Babylonian despot, Nebuchadnezzar.

      In summing up the gamut of His awesome character and unpredictable ways (see also Isaiah 55:8-9 ), God declares:

      I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged Me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (Isaiah 45:5-7 NIV).

      This is the signature exclamation of the only sovereign potentate of the universe: “I did this!” From the beginning to the end, from light to darkness, from prosperity to disaster, all are the work of His hands. God uses even the most wicked and evil exploits of this world to bring about His glory and divine purposes. That is what is so awesome about God. Only He can take the most wicked, evil, and self-serving intentions and make good come out of them (see also Romans 8:28 ).

      Does God create evil? Certainly not. If He was the author of evil, then He certainly would not be a good God that is worthy of worship and praise, much less trusted to have our well-being in mind. The idea of a good God creating His own enemy and the object of His wrath seems inconceivable. It would be inconsistent for a good God to mastermind the idea of evil, will it into existence, and still be considered a good God.

      Rather, God created man in His image with the freedom to choose. With this freedom came the opportunity to rebel against Him. Man did rebel ( Genesis 3 ), and the rest is history. The annals of human history chronicle how God uses everything — even the chaos of this world — to bring about His glory and purposes. Those purposes include our growth in becoming more Christlike.

      What’s the point of Isaiah 45:7? God reveals His almighty and awesome character to us so we can relax with the confidence that comes from knowing, even in the most dark, desperate, and discouraging times in our lives, God is up to something good for us all the time.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • SHOUT

      ORIGINAL HEBREW MEANING SINCE HEBREW HAD MANY MEANING IS CALAMITY NOT IN ESSENCE OF EVIL MEANING SIN IN THIS PARTICULAR FRAME OF SENTENCES. GOD CAN CREATE DISASTERS OR HE CAN GIVE MANKIND OVER TO THEM AND ALLOW YOU TO BE GIVEN OVER TO SATAN CUZ YOU CHOOSE TO BE GIVEN OVER TO SATAN DESTRUCTION AND KILLING BECAUSE YOU CHOSE TO MAKE SATAN YOUR god AND IF YOU WANT SATAN THEN YOU ARE GONNA GET ALOT OF HREATBREAK DESTRUCTION AND DISORDER

      February 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      I WAS NOT BORN JEWISH AND MY NATIVE TONGUE IS NOT HEBREW! GOD IS PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK TOO WELL FOR ME TO GIVE A $H|+ ABOUT FINDING "HIM"!

      February 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Bruce

      Apparently you do because you come back to it time and time again.

      February 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Pathetic response there, Bruce. No, sir, this is a counter-action, after having been accosted with this tripe for way too many years of my life...that is, it was forced down my throat, you understand. My "returning here time and again" is merely to counteract and hopefully to make some of you fairy-tale-believers see reality the way it was meant to be seen.....after all, it took someone having to be a d|ck to me in college to get me to change my mind.

      February 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Asherah Allah Radha Adonai

      this thread is soooo tl;dr.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:14 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.