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 • United States

soundoff (3,195 Responses)
  1. ClayManBob

    Why is it that atheists work so hard to prove they are right and that creationists are wrong?

    Calling a creationist ignorant does nothing to advance anything, much less one's denial of the existence of God.

    If it doesn't matter to you whether God exists or not, please take your rantings elsewhere. To a creationist, it is about faith, and he or she does not care about a theory that can't be proven any more than the existence of God can be proven.

    News flash, anti-religion trolls, it's not your job to "educate" anyone.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • jimtanker

      It’s about living in the real world. There is NO evidence that your god exists, which is why they call it faith. We tend to use logic and reason to live our life by and in that world things like what is real matters. Why we believe what we believe is the most important thing to a skeptic.

      February 23, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      It shouldn't matter what anyone else believes, but creationists tend to be the same people who vote against civil liberties that we atheists think ought to be a given in our enlightened society. So we criticize that decision-making by pointing out the illogic of the root beliefs it's based upon. Don't take it personally. If the people who believe that black cats are unlucky banded together like Christians have and started lobbying for all black cats to be euthanized as a measure to improve our nation's luck we'd be right in there criticizing them too.

      I wouldn't consider myself or many of the other atheists here trolls, but if people like us didn't make the effort to challenge the propaganda and outright misinformation being circulated as the "truth" by some believers, then who would? I sure don't see many moderate believers making the effort.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • RagingLamb

      (Oh Yeah) – So you're here because you're worried about how believers will vote?

      February 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – So you're here because you're worried about how believers will vote?

      February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Well, many are voting according to values that are outdated and based on an assumption that some powerful being might become upset should they not vote the way clerics direct them to. That's not all believers by a long shot, but some wouldn't dream to vote against what their preferred pastor would like. It really isn't any different than astrology lovers voting according to their star charts. Such thinking begs to be challenged, wouldn't you say?

      February 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – so what behavior that you may wish to engage in is currently being stopped by the laws of the US? And how will challenging Christians, and insulting some, actually win voters to help you with your political goals?

      February 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      I'm not a woman, but I support their right to abortion and contraception. I'm not gay, but I support their right to fair and equal civil rights, including marriage. I'm in good health, but I support the rights of those who could benefit from stem cell research. I'm already educated, but my heart goes out to those who are being fed false information about science because a conflict is seen between it and religious dogma. I'm not poor, but it bothers me that those who can afford it the least are sometimes the ones who are compelled to give huge percentages of their funds to support enterprises that enjoy tax advantages that the rest of us cannot. Not much affects me personally, because I happen to be of the most privileged demographic, but I can recognize injustice when I see it.

      Personally, I prefer calm, civilized debates, but appealing to reason with zealots (and I use this term accurately) very often proves futile, so I can understand the use of insult. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

      “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

      Oh Yeah – so what behavior that you may wish to engage in is currently being stopped by the laws of the US? And how will challenging Christians, and insulting some, actually win voters to help you with your political goals?

      February 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – I don't know if you will find this helpful or not http://www.newmediaministries.org/Morality/Legislated_S.html. It talks about the political vs the inward belief conflict. People of faith wrestle with things that relate to that faith that touch the core of what Laws are about, motivations, our need for justice or freedoms. Not to say that people without a faith in God do not, but I haven't heard a whole lot from the 'unbelieving' group examining where morality comes from. They seem to link it to social evolution – basically how to get along to survive. What is intrinsic about morality in my opinion, is deeper than merely how to get along to survive. There is something greater in play. You can have a law and yet find justice miscarried. You may have seen that occur. The Bible talks about that kind of issue from the very beginning throughout. The nature of sin. When you've been the recipient of injustice, all of sudden it becomes more personal, and interestingly an appeal to a higher level of morality than a mere law seems to touch.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – What about rebellion? Where does that come from? Is that adequately explained by social evolution? We don’t mind living in a culture with laws and authority, most of us actually would rather live in a culture where the rule of law is the state of the union rather than the rule of an arbitrary dictator. Now when it comes to our personal lives, we are rebellious to the core. Think about it. How many of us want someone else to dictate how I ought to think, what I ought to do, how I spend my time or my life? We alone are the captains of our own souls or so we think. When you cross a person whose rebelliousness effects you personally, don’t you appeal to something? To someone? You react in some way, don’t you? What if that rebellion could be traced to something deeper inside of a person, their conflict with God? If God, who is pure in character, has some say in our lives, don’t you find yourself wanting to resist? Why? You want to captain your own life right? Maybe that works for you until you have someone inflict that same nature upon you, and you become the victim. At some point, you hopefully wrestle with this issue. Have you ever seen a very belligerent person become a Christian? I have. I’ve seen some amazing transformations where this very difficult, self-centered, rebellious person was someone totally new. He cared about others like he never did before. And seemingly cared so much more about his own motivations, thoughts, and actions – completely contrary to who he was before. Is that a weakness? Was that somehow a step backward? A rebellious heart becoming a humble and compassionate one? Hmm…. The Bible wrestles with this rebellion. Once the words and message of the Bible gets inside of you, you become much more aware of who you are, not the person you present to others. It’s freaky how powerful and accurate the Bible is in dealing with these things. People who know Christ can tell you how amazing it is to have Him in their lives. It's not pie in the sky optimism, or fire insurance for the hereafter, it's the exposure of our true selves, the rebellious one inside, and the remedy for our corrupted conscience. He not only gives life to our souls, He touches every relationship and activity we have in this world, in a life giving way, not a destructive way. I think you will find others who can testify to this.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  2. Tony

    I attended Calvary Church during the last few years of Dr. Dobson's tenure. He fed me the Word of God which I am thankful for. In my opinion, he is a good man and has been blessed with wisdom. Life is short, eternity is not. Such a short time to make such an important decision. If Ed is wrong, he's lost nothing. If Ed is right...and you do not know Christ, you've lost it all! Good luck fellow travelers! 🙂

    February 23, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      If Ed is wrong, he may have lost nothing, but think of all the harm his anti-gay rhetoric has caused, and that's just for starters. People like him are really gambling that all of their non-acceptance will pay off in the end, for them, but isn't that rather selfish? Personally, I'd rather not step over people just to improve my chances at getting into some rumored paradise.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  3. HK

    It is often times that we look at the body's ailments and think that God has abandoned us or is punishing us, or at our remarkable years and health thinking that God has blessed us.

    Here is a new concept: God does not care if we are well or sick, rich or poor, a genius or stupid; what God cares about is if we are moral–to understand this is being blessed. While we may die physically each of us has a soul–our moral factor. Sometimes in the scripture this soul is called our heart.

    Jesus asked, "What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?" It is the loss of our soul during our physical life that has consequences and places us in heaven or hell for eternity. Do not look to the body's failures; look at a man's moral accomplishments. To place this concept in secular terms, "All anti-narcissists go to heaven and they want everyone else to go there too."

    Jesus, speaking as God, made an extreme anti-narcissist statement to his followers, [If you want to follow me, you must] " love your enemies." Sometimes love means correcting immorality; the Bible states that if one does not correct his brother, then he will be lost as well.

    There are times when the receiver thinks that speaker, when asking or telling them to act morally, is being intolerant when the speaker is simply asking the receiver to consider the eternal consequences of receiver's immoral actions today. (Surely, the Occupy members are not acting in an intolerant manner when they ask Wall Street to act morally.)

    Jesus said that "you are either for me or against me"; there is no fence sitting since the fence is not in his territory. Acting morally in an anti-narcissistic manner (speaking against the immoral action of another) places one in Jesus's territory; acting immorally in a narcissistic manner places one in the other.

    There is no other choice; it is A or B; personally, I would not take the risk of believing that God does not exist and that Jesus was not his Son–the risk is too great. As for myself, I choose to act morally as defined by God; here I stand, I can do no other. I will be strong willed for God. Yes, at times, I will fail, but it is the intent to act morally and for the right reasons which is important and defines my character. This is called discernment. Believing "it is all about me" has eternal consequences.

    Are not the Occupiers asking Wall Street to act morally?

    February 23, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  4. RickK

    The Bible isn't a guide to ANYTHING. It is such a long muddle that anyone can find any message. It's a Rorschach test, where a good person can see good and an evil person can see evil. Why can't we put aside the book of Bronze Age mythology like we put aside Roman and Greek mythology, and just look at the world with our OWN eyes?

    February 23, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      I love Rev Dobbson as myself not so much because he is a Christian minister or at the point of death but because he is my neighbor and YHWH commands it. It is high time we learn to love men as ourselves even if they are our enemies. This will not destroy us but strengthen us even if we r atheists.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Nii Croffie
      You can love a man like a brother, but still think that his views are dangerous and wrong.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  5. jimtanker

    The Big Bang for beginners: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/02/the_big_bang_for_beginners.php

    I know that most of you thumpers out there won’t take the time to read it but that’s OK. You probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. It’s written at a 10th grade reading level.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • BW

      I finished reading this beautiful story of a man struggling to find his place in a life affected by one of the most life-altering diseases we know, and jimtanker's comment was the first below its sweet conclusion. Something about the big bang, followed by a petty insult. I thought, did this guy even read this article? I think he missed the point entirely. Who cares?! Fine, you're right, move on with life and spend your time doing something that really matters.

      February 23, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  6. jimtanker

    @ Raging Lamb,

    "Cause/effect seems to be disregarded when suitable by those who are against the thought that this world was created."

    OK, who created your god? If you say that he always existed then you are falling into your own trap. Either give us a reasonable explanation or shut the heII up.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  7. Crum

    To become a top pastor, do you have to win a contest?

    February 23, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  8. Vinny

    Maybe if he prays harder, he will be healed. Just like Tim Tibow. Pray hard.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  9. RagingLamb

    Over 350 to 400 of our current dog breeds have been around for only a couple hundred years according to this month's National Geographic article, Feb 2012. So much variation can occur within dogs in a very short period of time. This suggests that the planet does not need to be billions of years old to have such diversity of life within it. The reason it "MUST" be billions of years old is because the evolutionist's need that amount of time in order to keep their theory from getting ripped apart. In fact, if you looked at science textbooks through the years, the evolutionist’s timeline for creation has been growing rather exponentially. Yet, no one questions the math. Why?
    Carbon dating has limits, and may not even be accurate to any extent at all. It's a measurement of the amount of carbon 14 in a body that has died. This radioactive carbon decreases over time. After a certain period, you can’t even measure the amounts because it gets halved so many times over. Also, in some tests it has been shown to be completely false. A recently killed seal was aged using carbon dating methods and determined to be “thousands” of years old when the seal was likely around 15 years old because it was just recently killed. Unless you think we have some thousand year old seals swimming around today.
    Ask an evolutionist what creature the dog evolved from? You may get an interesting answer. Genesis chapter 1 answers that one too. Dogs were "created" and when they mate, they produce other dogs. They never produce anything other than a dog. There may be varieties, but they are all dogs. Darwin’s observations supports variations within kinds as the Bible teaches, not new species altogether. A dog and a dog can bring forth another dog. A dog and a cat cannot “bring forth” or produce offspring.
    To God be the glory for the creation He has made. He shares His glory with no other.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • Q

      Knock yourself out...


      February 23, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Furby

      Lambie Pie: Do yourself a favor and at least go to the library, to the Biology stacks, not the Religion stacks, and do some reading on evolutionary biology before you open your mouth about it again. What you've said here merely shows your woeful ignorance. The cure for ignorance is to LEARN!

      February 23, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Theodsman

      RagingLamb: Evolution does not state that the offspring of one species will be an entirely different species or that two unrelated species can reproduce.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • David Pilgrim

      Recall the scriptural admonitions against casting your pearls before swine and the permission to shake the dust from your sandals when the heathen refuse to listen. You (nor I) will ever convince the type of people represented in this thread of anything. If they eventually wise up, God will have to do it. You are wasting your time with them.

      February 23, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • jimtanker

      Believing in fairy tales is not “wizening up”. That is delusional behavior.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      David Pilgrim
      What's wrong? The first sign that someone might actually question the stuff you're preaching instead of just accepting it at face value and you want to turn tail and give up trying? No wonder Paul gave that whole "foolishness of God – wisdom of man" speech. He knew even back then that it all sounds like so much foolishness to logical-minded people, and it still does.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  10. RagingLamb

    Recently I passed a field where a chair was in the center of it. Would it not be ‘reasonable’ to presume that someone placed it there? I think that’s plausible and reasonable. If I were to come across a turtle perched on a fencepost, would it be reasonable to consider that someone placed him there? The Bible says we were created in the image of God. To see how we think, create, and care about morality and doing right, doesn’t that seem not only plausible but reasonable to believe there’s a Creator? As opposed to us evolving from a single celled organism to human?

    February 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • saopaco

      False Equivilency. A chair in a field and a turtle on a fence are not the same as a creator of the universe. This is also an appeal to ignorance.

      February 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      your ignoraance being pealed to? Hope so too. After all if someone says the simplest cause possible for an effect is the most likely explanation that is not appeal to ignorance but rather something else. It just escaped me though.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • RagingLamb

      Saopaco, forgive me if you thought I was trying to offend you by appealing to ignorance. I was trying to suggest to you and any others who may disagree, that to have the view that Creator created everything is not an "unreasonable" viewpoint. It is a very reasonable worldview.

      Cause/effect seems to be disregarded when suitable by those who are against the thought that this world was created. I think there are plenty on this blog who would agree with me that it is reasonable to see the creation and consider the option that there is a Creator. And they would not be out of their minds to think so.

      But having us come from a Big Bang? If you really described those events in detail, you would find a number of people on this blog and elsewhere who would think that it is rather silly. Where did all the elements come from? You can't fuse any elements past iron. How did we get the others? Too many 'atheists/agnostics' bash Creationists for their view when in fact it is a very reasonable consideration of the origin of all things.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      "Too many 'atheists/agnostics' bash Creationists for their view when in fact it is a very reasonable consideration of the origin of all things."
      It's only 'reasonable' when you lack the scientific education to understand the Big Bang. Your example of fusing elements past iron is like arguing that the inside of an egg cannot possibly be liquid because all the eggs you've seen have been on your breakfast plate and cooked solid.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – I like my eggs poached by the way. And since you seem to know so much about my education, why don't you enlighten us with your knowledge. I think you missed my entire point.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Nii Croffie
      If you think about it, the idea of an eternal God creating the universe out of absolutely nothing is far more complicated an explanation than the natural one of the Big Bang. It's like the difference between a boulder rolling down a mountainside due to gravity vs Wile E Coyote ordering a rocket from ACME, strapping it to his back, trying to use it to catch the Road Runner, overshooting him, hitting a sloping rock, flying into the air, the rocket petering out, Wile E falling back to earth onto a rock slab with a fulcrum under it, his weight popping a rock on the other side of the slab up unto the air, and that rock hitting the boulder up on the mountain, sending it down upon Wile E!! Enter the Road Runner__beep! beep! fin! 😉

      February 23, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      No. If the iron thing has you convinced that the Big Bang couldn't have happened then I don't think I've misjudged your knowledge of the science behind it.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • RagingLamb

      Oh Yeah – you're digging yourself a hole. What caused the Big Bang? How do you get time, space, and matter to come into existence at one time from an uncaused cause? If you have matter and time come into existence at once, but no space, where would you put it? If you have space and matter come into existence at once but no time, when would you put it?

      Genesis 1:1 solves this in 10 words. Let see how you do?

      And, by the way, I'm really curious to hear how you explain where we got all of our elements from the initial Big Bang. At least the Creationist point of view gives credence to your ability to acquire, dissect, and communicate knowledge. Evolution gives that credit to a single celled organism – an organism without conscience.

      To God alone be the glory for this creation we enjoy.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      "To God alone be the glory for this creation we enjoy".
      A M E N !

      February 23, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • No More Phone Calls, Please

      I remember watching "Friends" – Ross says, "I have proof that evolution exists! Look at this fossil!" To which the daft Phoebe replies, "So the real question is, who put it there and why." Probably her character's most brilliant line.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Furby

      Again, Lambie Pie, your post proves nothing but that you are woefully ignorant. Your "analogy" such as it is is ridiculous to the point of laughable absurdity. Chair in a field indeed! LOL!

      February 23, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Let's see, Genesis 1:1 states "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." How did he supposedly do that? Where did he supposedly get the material from? How could he have existed and been able to consciously act before the development of time? Supposing that God's existence is "natural", and that he wasn't himself created by even superior beings, what laws of the universe allow his eternality and extreme complexity prior to the development of the most basic of particles? How could the only creature in existence have developed the highest level of intelligence possible?

      In short, what caused God prior to his being able to magically "poof" a whole universe out of nothing. You probably just take this at face value without considering how magnificently more complex and convoluted the God hypothesis is to that of the all natural Big Bang. We may never really know for certain what caused the Big Bang, but that's no excuse for just inventing a cause that we can't prove either.


      BTW Evolution doesn't address where the elements came from. Last I heard, supernova release enough energy to make all the elements heavier than iron. Seriously, you have access to the internet so these answers aren't so difficult to find.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Theodsman

      RagingLamb: Time and space are relative to matter. Seven words. Is that succinct enough?

      In other words, when matter formed, time and space followed. Time and space are relational measurements that deal with changes of matter.

      The Big Bang is not the beginning of everything as you imply it is. It is merely the beginning of our current "everything". This is, again, a relational statement. Our current space-time stream is what is being discussed in the Big Bang Theory. There are no claims that nothing existed prior, or even beyond the edge of our envelope (the boundaries of our cosmological expansion). Also, the Big Bang theory is not an isolated theory.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Well put, Theodsman! 🙂

      February 23, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  11. Glades2

    The byline of this article is misleading – it makes it sound like the Pastor has lost his faith, when in fact he says his faith is now stronger because his illness has given him a better understanding of what God expects and expected of him...

    February 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • john

      I don't think the byline does that at all. Literally "rethinks what it means to be a Christian", not rethinking whether or not he wants to be a Christian.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  12. Nick

    i havnt been to church in a very long time, and now i want to go back!

    February 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Caleb

      At least someone does, go for it!

      February 23, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  13. DC

    Sounds like a good person.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  14. Linda T

    When my father had to go to a vet home he was really down because he did not have a place to preach but after a short time he had people coming to him and asking for pray. He said God had a plan and he was glad he was part of it. Keep the faith and your reward will be great. LORD I MISS MY DADDY.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  15. Shirlron

    Wow, amazing! The simplest things in life have the greatest and most meaningful meaning. Our LORD bless you Pastor ED with HIS choice blessings!

    February 22, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  16. eyesopened

    I believe that the difference between being truly thankful for what ever it is, a person has thats worth being thankful for lies in having a direction that gives one a hope of appreciation to begin with. there would 1st have to be the truth at least by way of ones accountability to it. in order for the individiual to have something to evaluate ones own thoughts, other wise you have a sorce of zero accountability and therefore no basis to lean towards faith or the truth,but instead claim that you are ultimately right in whatever it is you want to do in your life as you know it. Dearest pastor The lords word states that apart from Salvation or Christ redemtive blood, by faith through grace not of works in that no man can boast, one will not know the truth that sets one free from the curse of death. this is a eternal belief system no temporary as anything of the flesh or of this world. So set your mind on these things and not religion. In john 3;16 it dosent state that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever belongs to a certain religion may not perish but have eternal life, But whoever beleives in Jesus. Faith does not come with conditions we already have it because of Grace, this glorious Faith only works a certain way and unless its placed in the right hands or sorce by simply believing, is it made whole or perfected. I am the way the truth and the life no man comes too the Father but by Me. Its in this miricale alone that Gods word may come alive in and through and too its recepter. Place your faith in the finished work of the cross and not your religion, and your faith Will come Alive It is the will of God! not to mention its already done for ALL mankind, What a waste to waste away an oh so great Salvation. Rom 5:18 states this reality past tense.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • zinger

      The above is a clear and logical proof that religion is a murky swamp that means whatever someone with a Book chooses to say it means. Live a moral life, doing unto others etc., and forget the church and the men in the funny clothes who threaten you unless you behave a certain way and give them your money and time.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      "In john 3;16 it dosent state that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever belongs to a certain religion may not perish but have eternal life, But whoever beleives in Jesus."
      Ah, believing that Jesus was divine and the ONLY way to salvation pretty much rules out all other religions, and a sizable portion of moderate Christians as well.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  17. humanbean

    Really? The guy can barely brush his teeth with two hands and they let him drive? ALS is horrible. I watched an aunt wither away with this disease. It's a very cruel way to die. Wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  18. Jesus Loves You


    February 22, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • RagingLamb

      Original sin. Holiness of God. Until you wrestle with this, then the gospel is absurd. The video shows that. If you learn about the God of the Bible then you will understand the need for sin to be forgiven. With the inability of man to do this, God did it for us in Christ. Without Christ, God would be violating His holiness and His justice.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      The Bible tells us about salvation from original sin, but it also invents the very idea of original sin to begin with, right? Don't you find that just a tad bit suspi cious? I mean, if some doctor sold cures for a disease that he not only discovered, but that he alone diagn oses, wouldn't that seem a little too conve nient to you?

      February 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Brent

      My name is Janet and I live in Orlando too. God gave me a child like your Sweet Baby James, and she went to be with the Lord two years ago (she was 6). I was so thcuoed by seeing the photos, and would you mind if I share this poem with you? Many blessings, JanetI wanted you to be born healthy and strong, but you showed me God's strength was perfected in your weakness.I wanted to teach you to eat and drink, but you showed me my need to feast on God's word.I wanted you to see my face and respond, but you taught me to seek Jesus' face and trust.I wanted to teach you to hold things in your hand, but you taught me to loosen my grip on the things of this world.I wanted you to learn how to speak, but you showed me how to pray.I wanted to teach you to stand, but you taught me to walk with God.I wanted you to sing in the children's choir, but you taught me to praise God in times of despair.I wanted you to learn to be quiet in public places, but you taught me humility instead.I wanted you to learn about this world, but I learned this world couldn't even recognize your worth.How can a student be so hard to teach?How can one be so slow to understand?God made you the teacher, didn't He?Yes, you were the teacher, not I.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:09 am |
  19. Mike

    I am surprised to learn that ALS is much more common than I thought. The article is well written. Thanks.....

    February 22, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  20. Reg

    Uhm...I thought it was a good story. Simply showed that this man who served God in his life had doubts and stuggles when he was face to face with his own mortality as most of us will. Bottom line is, your faith is just that...faith. A person either believes or they don't. I can't MAKE you believe what I believe, nor do I desire to do so. But I WILL show you my faith by how I treat you and what i do for you. Love, respect and empathy. In this life, we Help, Heal and Hurt. I prefer to Help and Heal.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Yes, but so many believe that we atheists are doomed to hell unless we FORCE ourselves to believe in God and Jesus. I suppose they think it's a simple choice, like they think being gay is a simple choice, but I know too many reasons why God isn't believable to just ignore.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      OhYEAH! You do not know that we Christians think professing belief in God will give u salvation. The vast majority Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Conservative Protestants say tht it is your loving works not words which get u saved. Racism and murder are complex choices too. Shud they be ok? If no..

      February 23, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Nii Croffie
      Are you saying that Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Conservative Protestants believe that atheists, the "good" ones who do mostly good works, will be accepted into the heaven that they don't believe in?

      February 23, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Furby

      What was missing, however, and what I'd like to have heard, is that he's abandoned the hate filled rhetoric he spouted when he was in the thrall of Falwell and the Moral Majority. 🙁

      February 23, 2012 at 8:00 am |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.