Distinguished theologian and Pastor R.T. Kendall has taken a look at fear in a newly released book, dividing the emotion into three distinctive categories as he urges churches to stress the importance of fearing God.
Titled Fear: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the book was released earlier this month and examines the fear of God (the good), fear of man (the bad) and Satanic or demonic fear (the ugly).
In an interview with The Christian Post, Kendall said he was inspired to write the book because he believes that there is not enough fear of God in the United States.
“I’ve had, in recent years especially, a feeling that there is no fear of God in the nation, and there is little fear of God in the Church,” Kendall said. “And this needs to be dealt with. I wanted for a long time to write a book on the fear of God.”
He was also inspired by Proverbs 29:25, which reads, as rendered by the New International Version, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
Kendall, who pastored Westminster Chapel in London for over 25 years and is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky who has authored numerous books, believes there is a lack of preaching about fearing God in American churches. This is happening, he said, because pastors are concerned that they will “run people off.”
“I think we’ve reached the stage that we’re trying to hold people and coax them to stay and get interested,” he told CP. “And because people naturally hate the idea of Hell and eternal punishment, churches have tended not to deal with it at all. And the result is, there’s just an absence of the fear of God in the Church.”
In the book, Kendall discusses how Adam and Eve experienced the fear of God after sinning, writing that “they might not have known at first that this was a good sign.”
Kendall said he believes that when Adam and Eve felt the fear of God, it showed that “God was on their case” and that “He was going to show mercy to them.”
“Likewise, I believe … that COVID, for example, is God’s gracious judgment,” he added. “I think He’s trying to get our attention, and I think He’s not finished with us yet.”
“And so, likewise, in the Garden of Eden, in other words, God was after them to help them, to show grace, not entirely to punish them.”
Kendall detailed how he believes God is moving through the coronavirus pandemic in more detail in his 2020 book, We’ve Never Been This Way Before.
Initially, Kendall was going to focus on just the fear of God, which is considered a spiritually healthy fear, and the fear of man, which primarily involves fearing the loss of a good reputation.
“One of the worst addictions on the planet is to be in bondage to what people think of us,” Kendall stated in his book. “The fear of man refers to being hurt, harmed, or humiliated by people.”
However, after more thought and inspiration from the famous movie title, Kendall added “the ugly” section about Satanic fear, focusing on issues ranging from demonic possession to living a fearful life in general.
“Satanic fear is the worst kind of fear there is,” wrote Kendall. “Satan is ugly. All that he does is ugly. One of his weapons is to make you afraid.”
Kendall believes U.S. churches need to do more to prepare for spiritual warfare. He traced the problem to many churches adhering to cessationism, which teaches that the miraculous gifts and actions of the Bible ceased after the first century.
“I think we should be equipped to know this kind of thing will happen,” he said, believing that Christians should be “doing our best to deal with” a possible demonic possession when medical explanations fail to understand a given malady.
The book included a forward by Pastor Grant Brewster of Island Church in Bainbridge Island, Washington, who wrote that in “our COVID-19 world, the fear of what others think has been escalated to new heights, capturing many in its snare.”
“The fear of man manifests in so many different ways, causing its victims to succumb to lies that numb their hearts to the reality of God’s very great and precious promises,” continued Brewster. “RT skillfully helps those trapped to escape and live on God’s promises by focusing on eternal realities.”
In August 2021, Lifeway Research released a report based on a poll conducted in 2020, which found, among other things, that 41% of U.S. adults surveyed sought to avoid fear more than any other emotion.
“For many Americans, circumstances in 2020 led to an increased focus on their fears,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement.
“Many feared getting COVID; others feared social unrest during protests, and politicians played on people’s fears in ads and speeches.”