Ten Birthday Candles: E2R’s Most Inflammatory Articles

Escape to Reality is turning ten next week! To mark the occasion I could list the ten most popular articles, but that would be boring. I’d rather list the ten most inflammatory articles, the ones that lit a fire and got people talking. Think of these as ten candles atop the cake of nostalgia.

10. The Christchurch Earthquake: Four questions Christians can answer

After my hometown was flattened by an earthquake in 2011, some said God was judging the city for its sins. Apparently Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient. God deals with our sins by dispensing death and destruction. Of course this was nonsense, and I wanted to offer an alternative narrative. Sadly, I don’t think I made much of an impact which is why I found myself apologizing five years later.

9. Why did Jerusalem fall?

Back in 2014 I wrote a short article explaining that God did not destroy the city that Jesus loved. I was immediately contacted by a well-known preterist. He wanted to know if I was attacking his ministry. Er, no. I replied. Who are you again? And what’s a preterist?

At the time I didn’t even know what the word preterist meant. But that reaction started me down a trail that led to my book, AD70 and the End of the World. It’s a controversial book because the end times is a controversial subject. Just say the word “rapture” on Facebook and you’ll start a bonfire.

8. Grace is inclusive, but inclusionism is not grace

Some years ago certain grace teachers began preaching a doctrine of universal inclusion. This teaching troubled me and I contacted several of them privately with questions. Are you sure about this? And what about these scriptures?

Only one of the teachers replied, but his responses confirmed my growing conviction that inclusionism was unscriptural. The above article was the first of several that I wrote on the subject. I hope to never write about it again. I grow weary of discussing the differences between inclusionism, universalism, and the gospel of grace. Happily, the controversy seems to have died down.

7. “Confronting the error of hyper-grace” – A response to Michael Brown

This 2013 article was the first time I wrote about hypergrace. It led to conversations with Michael Brown and other critics of the “modern grace message.” It also led directly to the publication of The Hyper-Grace Gospel in 2014. Hypergrace was a hotly debated topic from about 2009 to 2015, but it doesn’t seem to generate much heat these days. I like to think that the critics of the hypergrace gospel have been apprehended by the very grace they once attacked.

6. Does God scourge his kids?

You would be amazed at how many people think God flagellates them in the same way the Romans and the Jews flogged the apostles. He doesn’t.

5. Tithing under grace

Any time you talk about tithing, you’re going to get a reaction. It makes no difference what you say, whether you are for it or against it, people are going to react. Christians have strong views on anything to do with money and they are not afraid to share them.

4. What happens to Christians who commit suicide?

I expected a bit of blow-back on this one (and I got it!). What I did not expect was how many messages I would get from suicidal believers who are bound up with guilt and condemnation. There are some hurting people out there.

The number of people reaching out for help can be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes I’ll receive a comment on a discussion thread from someone who’s in a dark place and I am unable to immediately respond. At those times I am very grateful to those E2R readers who weigh in with grace and wisdom.

3. Can divorced people remarry?

If divorce is evil, then remarriage is downright abominable – at least that’s what some people think. Not me. God’s grace is redemptive. It mends, it heals, it makes things new. If grace can’t be given to those who’ve been damaged by divorce, it can’t be given to anyone.

2. What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

This was one of those articles that became an unexpected hit – not because it was good, but because many people are worried they have committed an unpardonable sin. Such people tend to be hard to convince that they haven’t! The grip of guilt can be hard to dislodge.

1. Does God give and take away?

After Jesus, the most controversial figure in the Bible seems to be Job. That’s right. A person who may or may not have been real has split the church into two camps. On the one hand, there are those who think that God takes away our health and kids. Then there are those who don’t. Even if his words did make it into the Bible, Job was wrong.

Job was not included in the Bible because he was as wise as Jesus. His story shows us how God’s grace heals our hurts.

When I wrote this article in 2010, I had no idea that it would lead to more than 500 comments. Why is Job’s story so appealing? Because the guy is so relatable. Job had troubles? I’ve got troubles! We have all gone through hard times and wondered why. “God, what are you doing to me? Where are you in my hour of need? Why have you abandoned me?”

These may not be wise questions, but we’ve all asked them. We’ve all been Job.

That’s my anniversary list. Which article was your favorite? Or should I ask, which article stirred you the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Looking back on some of these articles now, I marvel at the reaction they got. I promise you, I don’t go looking for trouble. I am regularly amazed how things I think are not particularly controversial often turn out to be.

But I guess that’s what happens when you write about Jesus. He remains the truth by which people divide themselves.


E2R is nearly 10 years old! To celebrate our anniversary, email subscribers will be getting a free book. Make sure you are signed up before next week (it’s free)!

Where is E2R heading in the coming decade? Check out our audacious moonshots.

36 Comments on Ten Birthday Candles: E2R’s Most Inflammatory Articles

  1. Happy 10th for next week!!
    If these articles are the 10 candles on the cake, then they are those particularly annoying candles that don’t blow out…and thank God!

    I have been soo blessed by you & this blog Paul over these 10 years. I’m often surprised when reading articles now, how much I still get bowled over by the message within, & how much I still needed to hear the message of grace.

    So thank you so much.

    I’d be hard pressed to pick one article – but if I had to choose, maybe one of the early repentance articles.
    I still recall the feeling of joy I got from not only learning some new ancient Greek lingo, but the perspective shift you provided as well.

    So Happy Happy Birthday once again….let the party begin!! Grace Disco!!! 😉

    • Thanks John. Let me guess, are you referring to this repentance article? I was going to include it in my top ten, but it’s given me so my grief of the kind I-never-said-that-and-never-would, that I bumped it. I don’t mind getting hung for things I did say, but…

      • That’s the one!! Nice to go back and read it again – thank you 🙂
        And I hear you haha, might have been a bright candle but would have also been “Oh wasnt that the one where you said ‘X, Y & Z?”…its just not worth the cringeworthy memory haha!
        Much love brother.

  2. Inflammatory–love the play on that word! A little daring, but that is what’s needed to put more oil in our lamps. Thank you for lighting up our hearts and faith for 10 years already.

  3. Helen Kearney // January 30, 2020 at 2:12 am // Reply

    Brilliant! I feel like I’m late to the party, I only started believing in hyper grace 2 years ago, so I missed all the controversy over these articles! I love your responses especially when it spurs you on to write a book!

    • Thank you, Helen. Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be more controversies to come – especially if I start saying things like women can pastor. Hehe.

      • Helen Kearney // February 1, 2020 at 5:37 am //

        Yeah, that topic is another hot potato! Are you familiar with Lee Grady’s book Ten Lies the Church Tells Women? Don’t know how much grief he got but he says women can pastor 🙂 And btw happy birthday E2R, and many more!!

  4. Brandon Petrowski // January 30, 2020 at 3:27 am // Reply

    Can divorced people remarry is my favorite from this list, partly because it relates to me and my experience, but also because I have heard so many believers get it wrong.

    • Thanks for sharing the journey, Brandon. I think you’re one of the few that’s been here for all or most of those ten years.

      • Brandon Petrowski // January 30, 2020 at 3:46 pm //

        Yeah, I started following you in Summer of 2010. I still have some of the E2R emails saved from then. I have not only enjoyed it, I have been blessed and encouraged many times by your provocative posts. They have either confirmed something the Spirit has been speaking to me or opened my eyes to a new and/or better way of looking at a particular theme. Here’s to 10 more years! I am hopeful that someday my wife and I could travel to NZ and meet you. I pray for you, your family, and ministry almost daily.

      • I’d love to meet you too, Brandon. I really appreciate the prayers.

      • Brandon Petrowski // January 31, 2020 at 1:06 am //

        Very welcome. 🙂

    • Brandon Petrowski // January 31, 2020 at 1:10 am // Reply

      Speaking of this topic, there are two pretty good books on the subject by David Instone-Brewer. One is called Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, the other is Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. I can’t remember which is which, but one is an easier read and one is more geared toward a pastor audience.

  5. Gail Whitford // January 30, 2020 at 3:54 am // Reply

    Happy Birthday E2R! Thanks for the posts and books.

  6. You are a blessing Paul. It’s nice to see someone who can explain scripture without tribal restraints. Thank you, my friend.

  7. Happy birthday, E2R!! And thank you so much, Paul, for your faithfulness and for challenging people to think and grow in God’s superabundant, neverending, mind-blowing grace! Here’s to 10 more years (in 50 languages for 10,000 more people!)

  8. Happy Birthday! I’m a little surprised by the top 5. I would have guessed hyper grace, inclusionism, and hell to be right on top of the list. It’s been a great journey. It has caused me to grow and looking foreword to more.

  9. Happy Birthday E2R! I am so thankful to have found this blog during a pretty dark time in my faith. It really changed my relationship with Jesus. My favorite (and most read) post is “Is God Sovereign?”. I grew up in a church where everything that happened, good or bad, was God. Winning something, getting diagnosed with cancer, hurricanes, whether or not you got married. It was always hard for me to accept. This post really helped me understand things better and introduced me to the gospel of grace. Runners up would be the posts talking about there only being one “unforgivable” sin and the post on what hell actually is.

  10. Congrats Paul, ten years of sizzling nuggets of Grace in small thoughtful bites.
    When you first began this blog I would copy them and use them as outlines for my Prison ministry (most of what they hear is guilt & condemnation). Thank you & bless your wonderful gift 🎁
    PS. I hope you write movies one day! 😇😇

  11. I’m totally convinced that the Gospel of Grace is very controversial for those who have been steeped in the Law, but it only takes a very small ray of Light (Grace) to abolish the controversy and allow the Father’s great Love to manifest in their hearts. Thank You, Paul for allowing the Father to use you as the ray of Light. Blessings… 🙏

  12. Hey Paul,

    Congratulations on your 10th anniversary….what an amazing achievement. I know as you have been obedient and faithful and given out of the Truth Father has revealed to you over these past 10 years, He will reveal to you (so you can share with us all) even so much more of His love and grace. I was watching a documentary recently of salmon making their journey upstream against incredible difficulty, opposition and great dangers to reproduce. The picture came to mind as similar to what you have faced over these years….and what’s even more encouraging you have made it and reproduced so many others who are free to enjoy the goodness of God.

    Have a look at this link and see if you can see yourself J Rich blessings to you and your wonderful family. James and Margaret

  13. Thanks Paul..for your articles..and the letters from Jesus book..

  14. Marshall Peters // February 4, 2020 at 11:59 am // Reply

    Paul, avid reader of yours since 1/13. Thank you for your sacrifice and preserverance.
    Have loved your writings and books, many of which I have shared widely. You would be amazed at the vast influence in the KOG they have had.
    Blessings, Marshall

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