Tennessee Thrives and the Lie From the Pit of Hell

Jan 17, 2020 by David Fowler

black family adopting a daughter
Tuesday, the Tennessee Senate passed and sent to the governor a bill that, in sum, prohibits a governor from trying, by executive order or regulation, to force private organizations to make adoption placements in violation of their religious beliefs about the family structure a child needs. As a “woke” Christian, I realized one of the arguments against it came from the pit of hell, and a good friend’s bit of advice from years ago proved helpful on Wednesday.

Why the pit of hell? What comes from the pit of hell?

Before I explain the argument against the bill that got my attention, and why I would categorize it as being from the pit of hell, let me clarify a few things.

First, Jesus said Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). So, if something is a lie, in a real sense, it is from the pit of hell.

Second, I am not damning anyone to hell if they believed the argument or repeated it on the Senate floor. I’d be damning the whole world and myself to hell, as every person who has ever lived has lied or been less than honest at some point.

Third, the foregoing is the point of Jesus who, in responding to something the Apostle Peter said to Him, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33, NKJV).

Peter was not Satan, but what Peter said was from Satan. Moreover, Jesus was saying Satan “was not mindful of the things of God,” not Peter. However, Satan can use any of us to accomplish his purposes, and that goes to why I describe myself as a “woke” Christian, though not in the pop culture social justice sense of that word.

If you don’t have time to figure out whether, as a professing Christian you are “woke,” then skip to the next section. If you want to get straight to what I think the lies were, skip the next section as well. I hope you won’t, but I know you’re busy.

What Made Me a ‘Woke’ Christian

Having grown up in conservative “evangelical” churches, whatever that means nowadays, I heard lots about sin and hell, and that’s okay.

But I realized that most of my life I treated sin very lightly from God’s perspective. In other words, as long as really terrible things didn’t break out in my life—alcoholism, adultery, mayhem, or murder, or an outright denial of God—then, having made a profession of faith and having been baptized, what I needed to do was, to put it bluntly, work at keeping sin “under control.”

But, when I read this from The Mortification of Sin by 16th-century theologian John Owen, I got woke! He wrote:

Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.

Why? Here’s what Owen next said:

[Sin] is like the grave that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin, by which it prevails to the hardening of men, and so to their ruin, Heb. 3:13,—it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind. (emphasis added)

This, he says, is why the first covetous longing leads to oppression:

This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a falling off from God is already made; . . .  but sin is still pressing forward, and that because it has no bounds but utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him; that it proceeds towards its height by degrees, making good the ground it has got by hardness.

The remedy?

Now nothing can prevent this but mortification; that withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour, so that whatever it aims at it is crossed in. There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.

In other words, without serious daily engagement in my Gospel duty of mortifying sin and daily supplication for a greater application of Jesus’ righteousness to me by the Holy Spirit working in me, I could wind up being an alcoholic, porn addict, adulterer, compulsive gambler, and total skeptic in regard to Scripture’s truth claims.

No Christian ever made these behaviors their goal, but that is the goal of Satan and the principle of sin that Scripture says we all inherited from Adam.


Without quibbling over inerrancy or infallibility, let’s just say I try to take seriously all that Scripture says. Two things seem clear to me: God is sovereign and God is good, not as we like to define “good,” but good in His very nature.1 The combination of God’s sovereignty and His goodness are what theologians called the providence of God.

This is how I applied what Owen said to me relative to these two truths about God:

If I do not deal with the denial of the sovereignty of God or the goodness of God in any one area of my life, then that sin against God, by denying what is true about Him, will “constantly make[ ] good its ground, and press[ ] on to some farther degrees in the same kind”—eventually my “utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him.”

What Were the Lies from the Pit of Hell?

Tennessee Thrives is a group of businesses with full-throated support for homosexual conduct, same-sex “marriage,” transgenderism, and all that flows from that. Tennessee Thrives opposes even the smallest of legislative efforts that are an affront to their sexual beliefs, like the bill passed Tuesday. That, of course, is the organization’s prerogative.

But when groups like Tennessee Thrives can’t or won’t make a substantive argument against a bill like the one the Senate passed—such as, “It is really a good thing to force Christian organizations to engage in private adoptions that violate their beliefs about marriage and the family”—then they throw out the possible ominous consequences to the state’s economy if LGBT organizations follow through on their incessant threats of an economic boycott of Tennessee.

Here’s what Tennessee Thrives put out on Twitter on January 10.:
  I don’t condemn them for that hurt-the-economy argument; they can make whatever argument they want. The issue is whether I should buy it. And, in that regard, but to me, as a Christian, there are three subtle lies of Satan behind that argument.

One: Money Is the Be All and End All

Here is the message: The economy is the most important thing in the world and the material wealth it might afford me, not growing during my lifetime in conformity to Christ so that the image of God, revealed in the “face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), can be repaired in me, thereby allowing me to enjoy and revel in the glory of God for all eternity.

In other words, the lie is this: “God and His glory” is not the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 14:36) for which a wise man would give all he had on this earth to possess.

The lie is that “a man [is] profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Matthew 16:26, KJV).

This argument, at its root, is trying to sell me covetousness, and, as a Christian, I agree with Owen that “every covetous desire would be oppression” if I don’t deal with it (see James 4:12). That’s why these groups are oppressive toward Christians and their beliefs!
Covetousness being what I am asked to buy, how ironic, then, is it that the Apostle Paul said, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET” (Romans 7:7, NASB).

I’m not buying the lie.

Two: God Is Not Sovereign

Here is the lie that, as a Christian, I’m being asked to buy: God is not sovereign over all the affairs of this world, and He cannot direct all things to His own good ends; therefore, a boycott by the Human Rights Campaign and other groups will have a calamitous effect on our economy or even “hurt” it, whatever in the eyes of the beholder that might mean.

Not surprisingly, this lie about God’s sovereignty over them was part of Satan’s first lie to Adam and Eve, when he said, “You ‘can be like God’” (Genesis 3:5).

The truth with respect to those who think they can break the bonds of God’s sovereignty is this: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision” (Psalm 2:4, NKJV).

The truth is, “The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7, NIV).

I’m not buying the lie.

Three: God Is Not Good

This is the clincher, and this is the lie with which we all will be tempted if God, as with His own sovereign choosing of Nebuchadnezzar to capture Judah, uses the Human Rights Campaign and other groups to actually hurt Tennessee’s economy: God is not good.

For the Christian, the lie assumes that the goodness of God toward His people is measured in material possessions. I know some preach that, but the truth is God said those of whom the “world was not worthy” were those who “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, [and] tormented” (Hebrews 11:37, KJV).

In fact, with respect to God’s people, He said through the prophet Jeremiah, “Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without charge, because of all your sins throughout your country” (Jeremiah 15:13; see also 17:3, 20:5; Ezekiel 7:21).

Why? Because wealth can cause Christians, like those in Laodicea, to become “lukewarm,” and it can hide the fact that we are really, from God’s perspective, “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:16–17, KJV).

The truth is it is the goodness of God that leads Him to discipline His people, and we are supposed to understand that “momentary, light affliction is producing for [us] an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NASB). See also Psalm 119:71 and Hebrews 12:10.

If God thinks an economic downturn will further refine for Himself a people “zealous for good works,” (Titus 2:14, NKJV), who am I, among His people, to grumble and complain against His good providence? I recall what Matthew 20:10–11 says about the laborers who worked shorter hours getting paid the same as those who worked all day: “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner” (NKJV).
So, again, I’m not buying the lie.


As a dear friend of mine now in state government once said to me, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23, KJV). What Satan is selling these days I’m not buying.


1. Moreover, God’s attributes are never in conflict with each other or in conflict with His being, what the older theologians referred to as “the simplicity of God.” I, on the other hand, am a “complex” being. By complex, I mean, for example, that I can be just but also very mean or even extreme in the process of meting out justice. However, God’s justice is never mean or extreme. His unquenchable wrath toward those who, to their death, are against Him and go to the grave denying His glory and, therefore, the glory that was due Him as God (“sin,” according to Romans 3:23) is an appropriate expression of God’s holiness. In other words, wrath is not part of the nature of God—who would the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit have expressed wrath toward prior to creation? Each other?—but is an expression of His holiness relative to man in his rebellion against the God who made him.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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