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Yes, I See That Hand . . .

Jeffrey Dahmer.jpg

Jeffrey Dahmer was a brutal killer and deserved life in prison, if not the death penalty.

Supposedly, Jeffrey Dahmer become a Christian while in prison, and his pastor actually felt that he had the gifts to become an effective evangelist before his death at the hands of another inmate. Click here: Would serial killer Dahmer have been an evangelist? | US News |

This raises a number of interesting and troubling questions. No doubt the grace of God can reach even Jeffrey Dahmer. But Jeffrey Dahmer as an evangelist? That's a tough one. The pastor who baptized Dahmer is writing a book about Dahmer's 1994 conversion. How objective is the author? And if Dahmer actually became a Christian (and it would be wonderful if he did) what would repentance look like in the case of a man who killed 17 boys, raped many more, and cannibalistically consumed many of them? What would the families of his victims think?

And then there's the added problem of Christopher Scarver, who killed Dahmer in prison because he claimed "God told him to."  Makes you wonder about providence . . .

This whole thing raises a lot of interesting questions. There's certainly no question that even a Jeffrey Dahmer is not beyond the reach of God's grace--the merits of Christ are no doubt sufficient to justify the vilest sinner. Let's hope this was not just another jail house conversion with the goal of more prison privileges, or a crass  ploy to sell some books.

But the cynic in me says that Dahmer sure would have an interesting testimony! 

Your thoughts? 

Reader Comments (50)

I remember seeing something about his conversion before he was killed in prison. I don't question his conversion because the evidence I would need I do not have, that is he didn't live long enough afterward to produce or not produce much fruit. I think one of the things that he did do though was reconcile with his father (the biological one) and begin a real relationship with him. That would actually count in his favor as a real convert on my scorecard. Anyway, Praise God!!!
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersibert
I think if a person is convicted of killing and gets the death pleanty, then why should his actions afterwards let's say modeled inmate or becomes religious. I say that should not matter. If he did or maybe it is a ploy to prevent from being killed.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commentertiminator
It seems to me that the Christian life has a rhythm of repentance and faith. Repentance in response to God's holiness. Faith in response to God's love. This means that the Christian life is a journey, not a destination. Growth is dynamic, not static.

So all of us (even a Dahmer) will be growing in holiness.

One of the most impactful autobiographies I've read was from a shaman in South America who had committed many murders and rapes -- very common in the Yanomamo Indian culture. After becoming a Christian (adopting the "One Great Spirit"), he only murdered those who really deserved it. That's a step toward holiness. He had repented of his "undeserved" murders. His life was changing by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dahmer's Christian life would have looked quite different than mine, I'm sure, but I think it helps us "good" Christians to understand that our "goodness" or our "level of holiness" or "where we are on the journey" is unimportant to God. Our Christian life is one of change.

Good question: Am I closer to God than I was 5 years ago? Bad question: Am I socially acceptable among the "good" people.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam
I have no idea if Dahmer actually was converted or if it was an attempt to avoid the death sentence (I don't remember if he faced that where he was convicted or not). However, if he did, that would not mean he should not receive the death sentence.

As you said, "There's certainly no question that even a Jeffrey Dahmer is not beyond the reach of God's grace--the merits of Christ are no doubt sufficient to justify the vilest sinner." We cannot minimize that truth. If he believed that would mean that Jesus had faced the punishment and wrath of God against his sins so he would be justified before God. Christ's suffering can certainly cover him. It covered the sins of Paul who persecuted the church. It covered my sins, which always amazes me. There is no doubt it could cover Dahmer's sins.

If he really believed, as with all believers did he not have the responsibility to spread the evangel?

Would he make a great evangelist? I guess that question depends on what one means by great. He certainly would be a walking testimony to the greatness of the grace of God toward sinners. There is certainly no way that anyone would look at him and think he deserved the benefits that Christ gives, and so the grace of God would be highlighted in a very visible way.

However, the response to him might have been what I sense in your post, a cynicism that discounts what he would say and probably what he would do.

While I can identify with that cynicism because I see it in my own response as well. At the same time it troubles me. It troubles me because behind it seems to be found a questioning of the sheer immensity of the grace of God. That unspoke, or perhaps spoken, "God's grace could save him, but that certainly does not seem likely." That troubles me because it shows that we really have not come to terms with the grace of God, but still seem to battle against it. I don't think I am saying this as well as I want, but the idea that sits behind this sort of thinking seems to be that somehow someone like Dahmer is beyond the grace of God because his sins are so hideous. Yet, my sins are hideous as well. Maybe not in terms of how I have hurt other people (although I had done my share of that) but in terms of the fact I grew up in a believing home, knew who God was, knew what Christ had done, knew all those things, yet I still committed high treason against God by not trusting in the one who justifies the ungodly, but going my own way. In my own estimation that sin against God is heinous as well, but it is not something that others can see. God can though, yet he still called me to himself. Me! A pitiful, wretched, treasonous, sinner who brought shame on his name. He shows his love to me that while I was still a sinner, an enemy, and ungodly person, Christ died for me. If God called me, certainly he could have called Dahmer.

I don't know if even wondering about the truth of his profession is of any use at this point as we have nothing to test it by. He is dead. If his profession was true, if he trusted Christ, he is with him now washed and cleaned by the precious blood of my Saviour who satisfied the justice of God. If it was false, then he is facing the just results of his sin, just all who die apart from Christ, even those who live seemingly pretty good lives, will do, in an eternity of punishment for sin against the infinite God.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJim Vellenga
I think something should be said about what makes a good evangelist. First, what does not: our personality/persuasiveness/positive past/ power/eloquence/creativity. Second, what does: Holy Spirit, our repentance and relationship with Christ, our willingness to take the shots and wade into the fray, our persistance, endurance, faith and trust. God determines the success of the evangelist. This takes a great deal of negative pressure off of the evangelist and allows him to focus on what matters, sharing the Word. Dahmer could certainly have been an effective evangelist, if he didn't fall into the trap that most of do. Most of us think it's someone else's gift, it is too intimidating, or that we can do it later or when we get a special feeling (spidey sense) that tells us when to share.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersibert
i am a great fan of that God-given category called common sense. i love common sense...i have all their albums (er, CD's).

does common sense say it would be a good idea to endorse a dude like dahmer for such exercises? mine says, without being too hasty or judgmental or whatever about a high-profile serial killer (i.e. like KR says, nobody is beyond God's grace), very likely a nice, quiet yet grounded "no" would suffice.

next question?

January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
For the record, Dahmer was sentenced to 15 life terms. He was killed while on a work detail-- why he was on a work detail, the Lord only knows. It wasn't the first attempt on his life while he was in prison.

If Paul (Saul) was converted then we have no reason to doubt that Dahmer could have been. An evangelist? I agree with sibert,that it only could be by the Holy Spirit. (What does the flesh profit?)
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Sherman
When I read about the horrible things Dahmer did, I think I get a tiny glimpes at what God sees when he sees my sin. We are utterly disgusted when we hear about what Dahmer did to those boys, but in God's eye no sinner is any different. We are all guilty, as Paul says.

Praise be to God for Christ and his righteousness that covers my filthy bloody rages!

Chris Coleman
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Coleman
Of course this side of heaven there is no way to know for certain whether Dahmer was truly converted. But is he was, why would this disqualify him as an evangelist? I'm sure the thief on the cross wouldn't have made a good "prospect" for an evangelist (isn't that the point of the gospel?) How many lives have been affected for Christ through the testimony of that vile sinner who trusted Jesus the last moments of his life?
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterScott
The Apostle Paul seemed to do alright. Granted, he didn't eat the victims of the murders he observed and approved but he was a pretty vile (and religious) person.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Alvarez
yes, but are there not some relevant differences between saul/paul and jeff? as much as what he did was repellent, the former still worked within the socially acceptable constructs of his day and had a pedigree that lent itself to the work to which he was called. persecuting a group via an established system of religion, while repugnant, seems quite different from eating little boys; crimes, yes, but also very different.

i do not support women's ordination, but it does seem odd to vie for the right of jeff over women. there are stipulations to preaching. not only do you have to be male but also of good repute, yes? parlaying celebrity seems such a common thing in our culture. just because jeff is well known and vile seems to "make good tv," but, again, common sense (and revelation) seems to say it's not so good for preaching.

January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
Most so-called evangelists with a "great testimony" are good story tellers who revel in their ungodly past. They have very little evangel to give. They often remind me of the construction worker in City Slickers who was telling the kids about how he rescued someone who was trapped. He used colorful language and spun a good yarn and then ended with "... and don't do drugs." I'm not convincved that non-Christians need celebrity evangelists with powerful, emotional and persuasive stories. They need to hear the law and then the gospel.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Malamisuro
Thankfully, God's calling to ministry does not depend on human qualifications or disqualifications.

Moses killed an Egyptian man, this did not disqualify him from leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.

David had his share of guilt as well and remained as King over Israel.

It seems to me that God can and does use whomever He wills, imperfections and all, to accomplish His good and perfect will, regardless of what we assess of the situation.

Of course, it took a perfectly righteous, sinless man to intercede for us.

January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Sherman
Connected to this have a look at

January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJim Vellenga
great link, Jim.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersibert
I have to admit, as I was reading these comments about Dahmer, I was thinking, That would explain why Christ had to suffer so much. What does that say about my understanding of my own sin? Not very much.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterturmeric
"Thankfully, God's calling to ministry does not depend on human qualifications or disqualifications."

really? is this to say that there are no dis/qualifications? maybe the operative word here is "depend"? of course, God is not "dependent" upon us, but does it really stop there? i am not so persuaded that there is no biblical category for dis/qualifications.

and is using biblical figures like moses, david and paul really as useful as we think? i mean, the assumption here seems to be there is a one-to-one correspondance to the offices and functions of these figures and "us." that is, last i heard, there are no more apostles or christo-proto-types. these analogies sound good superficially, but seem to create more problems and questions when you really think about it--at least, when i do.

January 31, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
First, I think Dahmer was "converted" under the ministry of the "church of Christ". Many of them teach baptismal regeneration. Just because of this there is doubt about his salvation. Second, the "get saved quick before you die" evangelism creates many so-called converts. Third, this man was of the worst type of reprobates. Just the possibility of his truly being converted is questionable.

Another thought is that the Bible teaches that the death penalty is acceptable under certain circumstances. One example is Acts 25:11. I don't believe he should have been permitted to live considering the crimes he committed (Romans 1:18-32)
January 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
I'm going to stick with what I wrote. Could the Gospel be preached and disciples be made if it required perfected humans to do it? Who is qualified? Who is worthy? Who is without sin?

After all isn't this in the very nature of the Gospel? Is it not our joy having been justified to point others to the one who has saved us from our sin?

This is not to say that someone could not disqualify themselves in while the midst of ministry. We have plenty of that in this country.

Paul makes clear qualification for deacons and overseers/elders, but that is not the question here.

My point is that God uses us imperfect vessels to achieve His good and perfect will, to His Glory.

My use of Biblical figures is just for illustration and I used Paul specifically because he came along after the Cross. If we make direct comparisons to ourselves then we are likely to err and make new law for ourselves to follow.
Regardless of Christ type or Apostle, these were ordinary sinful men that were used by our Lord for His purpose and to His Glory.

From Luke:7

36One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." 40And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."

41"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49Then those who were at table with him began to say among[h] themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

If I were Dahmer, and knew my sins were forgiven, what choice would I have but to evangelize?
January 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Sherman

i would be interested to hear you testimony of salvation. i'm not insinuating anything, i'm just curious. i've read your posts for a few months now and would like to hear what Christ has done for you.
January 31, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersibert

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