Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UK's Evangelical Alliance and Rob Bell

In recent days, Dr. Al Mohler and others weighed in on the latest Rob Bell controversy over Hell and the afterlife. Now, the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom is weighing in with their view.

Writing for the Alliance, Derek Tidball praises Rob Bell for his communications skills, but then correctly highlights a key communication problem — a problem that is the hallmark of most things Emergent. A severe lack of clarity when it counts.

Mr. Tidball says that Bell's book "contains truth." But then . . .

Love Wins however only presents half the truth, which is disturbing to those who believe in the other half of the truth. Old Testament verses are strung together which speak of God's grace triumphing over Israel's sin and that their punishment will have a 'sale by' date. But he never mentions repentance in this connection as the prophets do, nor the fact that it was a remnant restored to the homeland. His teaching on hell ducks some hard issues while firing out a lot of questions of his own. God's wrath, and his holiness, is touched on only very inadequately and insubstantially. He says the sacrificial understanding of the cross belongs to a primitive cultural world we no longer inhabit, so he sidesteps a key understanding of the cross. He assumes that people will come round to accept God's love in the end, and doesn't see why death is the irreversible cut-off point. But why does he think people will 'repent' after death when they haven't done so before? He uses some parables that appear to fit his argument but ignores others and uses them all in a somewhat interesting way.

Bell is good at drawing on 'the hard cases' to make his point and ignoring the rest. He can be very emotive. He's very critical of evangelicalism for its lack of engagement in this world and ignores its huge and long-standing involvement in communities and in helping the poor. Many mission halls supported the vulnerable that others neglected. And the great and varied evangelical contribution to society in education, health, homelessness, youth work, drug rehabilitation, pregnancy crisis centres and so on is ignored. Perhaps the evangelicals he knows are nasty people. I know a few like that too, but I know many more who aren't.

Above all, Love Wins is confusing. I can see now why people are asking whether Rob Bell is a universalist (all will be saved in the end) or not, because it's unclear. Brilliant communication sometimes gets in the way. The book contains volleys of rapid-fire questions but isn't so good at giving answers, at least not clear ones. It confuses things like when he uses the parable of the prodigal sons as a parable about heaven and hell. Hell he says is the older brother going into the party and so hell is not about separation but integration. But didn't Jesus say…?

Much of what Bell writes is based selectively on the writings of Tom Wright and C. S. Lewis. But it is 'theology-lite' and people would be better served by reading those authors for themselves.

One thing to note -- Mr. Tidwall made the statement regarding postmodernism, "which isn't a bad thing in and of itself." I would beg to differ with him there a little. Of course, it depends on exactly what we're talking of. I would also differ with him in his statement that those who would criticize Bell need to "earn the right to do so." The context for the statement is being equally passionate about the Gospel, but all the passion in the world won't do you much good if you've got the wrong Gospel and the wrong Savior. If you deny the final and eternal punishment of the wicked, you've undercut the Gospel in my view. Part of needing a Savior is that there's something to be saved from, i.e. the wrath of God.

I think this whole affair is illustrative of something I've said quite often. What we are seeing isn't anything new. What we are seeing are regurgitated controversies that have happened in earlier generations, only wearing new clothes. What is troubling to me and many others is how easily the evangelical camp is torn asunder these days by things that ought to be flatly rejected in fairly immediate order.

Jesus talked about Hell more than anyone else in the entire New Testament. I think I'll take His Word on it before I accept someone else's agonized musings.

Don't like Hell? Neither do I, nor does anyone in their right mind. The good news is that Jesus provided a way out. He died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. Repent and believe. Be converted. That is the biblical message. Not "ollie ollie oxen free."

There is more in Mr. Tidball's original article at the Evangelical Alliance website, which I have linked here.

One thing is for sure. This dispute will not go away soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Evangelicals Arise?

Political consultant Brad O'Leary thinks evangelical Christians have a chance to have a huge impact on the 2012 election. Take a look at this Newsmax article on the subject. You can also opt to watch a video of the interview.

A comment of note is President Obama's view of gun control, which is a bit alternate to what's been coming out of his mouth of late. Since the Supreme Court cut anti-gunners off at the knees by affirming a Second Amendment right to bear arms, O'Leary says Obama's real view is to approach restricting guns through state legislation. Of course, that will set off a whole new round of lawsuits, since the general view is that the Bill of Rights also restricts state governments from what they can do to the public.

Whatever the case, government is always ready to mess with people's rights. I hope O'Leary is right that we've got a chance, and I hope the number of misguided evangelicals who voted for Obama the last time around will wise up.

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Ex-Atheist's Opened Eyes

As you no doubt have detected, I'm in one of my periodic busy spells and haven't posted much in the past couple of weeks. Some of it continues to be due to my mother's ongoing health issues.

Today, I am offering up this wonderful testimonial article in the Christian Post, in which former atheist and evolutionist Richard Morgan describes his gradual journey to faith in Christ.

Yes, it can happen to the most ardent unbeliever. And it's wonderful when it does!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Potty Mouth Heathcliff?

I've been so busy of late, it's hard to find time to even eat. But this little BBC entertainment story caught my attention.

It appears there's a new stage version of Wuthering Heights coming out soon. Apparently Britain's BBC felt it necessary to add expletives to Emily Bronte's Gothic romance. Here's a brief clip from the news article in question . . .

Playwright Jonathan Holloway said he had introduced expletives into the tempestuous tale of romance "to shift the production to left field". He said he wanted to "capture the shock" of the book's original release.

The BBC said it had used swearing to portray the "extremity of the lives" of Cathy, Heathcliff and other characters. A warning over its content will be broadcast at the beginning of the drama.

"That's what I wanted to elbow out, this idea that it's the cosy greatest love story ever told. It's not." Holloway describes Wuthering Heights as "a story of violent obsession and a tortuous unfulfilled relationship".

The article goes on to say that some words in Bronte's original manuscript had been crossed out because they were "too strong." That's interesting. I'd like to see that original manuscript. Somehow I doubt that a clergyman's daughter in that time period of England would be dropping the "F-Bomb" into her story.

It just goes to show you that some people simply can't leave well enough alone. I kind of wonder what Emily and her sisters would think of the BBC's tinkering with the story. Bramwell might have gone for it, but I doubt even that.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Callous Thinking

The news for the past few days has been consumed with the nuclear disaster in Japan — a disaster brought on by an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami.

In watching the coverage, and reading various newspapers/blogs, I saw some comments made in some circles that "Japan is rich enough. They don't need Western help."

I don't know about you, but I am appalled that helping Japan is even a question. It doesn't really matter what an economic powerhouse they've been in the last 40 years -- give or take a downturn in their economy here or there. This is a human tragedy. Japan needs help. For Christians, what better way to show the love of our Savior and helping those who are grieving or hurting.

Having said that, be careful. As I pointed out in my previous post on this subject, the scam artists are already out there. Give to reputable sources such as the Red Cross if you're of a secular bent. For Christian ministries, there are several including Samaritan's Purse, the Salvation Army, Christian Aid etc. Be sure the ministry is part of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

There will likely not be an installment from The Fundamentals this weekend, as I've got some other comments I'd like to make in a post tomorrow. I may move The Fundamentals to Monday or Tuesday for this week only.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In a Moment, It's All Gone . . .

If you're like me, you watched the news out of Japan with a mixture of wonder, horror and grief. It's hard to fathom such terrible destruction and human tragedy.

A few days ago, David Sanford contributed this article to the ASSIST News Service reflecting on the tsunami and its aftermath. I offer it up for your pondering.

One word of import — when international disasters like this happen, international scam artists line up to rip generous-hearted people off, all in the name of supposedly providing aid. I strongly recommend giving through the Red Cross, as well as established, proven Christian ministries such as Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, Christian Aid, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and a host of others. Most should be registered as members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Be as generous as the Lord directs, and pray with me that this will be an opportunity for the healing power of the Gospel. And beware of scam artists.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Princes in the Tower

One of history's mysteries that has always fascinated and troubled me is the one involving the so-called "Princes in the Tower," otherwise known as King Edward V and his younger brother, Prince Richard. Edward was the heir to the throne of England and briefly became king after the passing of his father, Edward IV.

Then "fate" intervened in the form of young Edward's uncle Richard. Richard usurped the throne and became Richard III, with the young king and his brother disappearing sometime in 1484. It has been largely believed that Richard killed the two princes, but this belief has generated a lot of controversy in subsequent centuries. Some think Richard III had nothing to do with the disappearance of the princes, and quite a lot of energy has been expended in trying to prove Richard III innocent.

Bertram Fields contributed an essay to the anthology, The Folio Book of Historical Mysteries, published by the Folio Society in England. At the end of the first page of the essay, there is a footnote discussing the discovery of two small skeletons in the Tower of London, assumed to be those of Edward and Richard, and Charles II ordered them to be reburied in Westminster Abbey. Then in 1933, after "a more thorough investigation, it was agreed that they were the bones of Edward and his brother. However, subsequent scholars have cast doubt on this conclusion, and the Queen refuses to allow further investigations."

Now that's interesting to me. Greatly. You would think we'd want definitive answers about such a long-standing question. Why would Queen Elizabeth II refuse to allow any further investigations? My inquiring mind would like to know.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The True Church

This week's installment from The Fundamentals

By Bishop J.C. Ryle

Do you belong to the one true Church; to the church outside of which there is no salvation? I do not ask where you go on Sunday; I only ask, "Do you belong to the one true Church?"

Where is this one true Church? What is this one true Church like? What are the marks by which this one true Church may be known? You may well ask such questions. Give me your attention, and I will provide you with some answers.

The one true church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus. It is made up of all God's elect—of all converted men and women—of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ's true Church.

It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born of the Spirit; they all possess "repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single Book—that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great center—that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, "Hallelujah,; and they can all respond with one heart and voice, "Amen and Amen."

It is a Church which is dependent upon no ministers upon earth, however much it values those who preach the Gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon church-membership, and baptism, and the Lord's Supper—although they highly value these things, when they are to be hald. But it has only one great Head—one Shepherd, one chief Bishop— and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members of His Church, though ministers may show the door. Till he opens the door no man on earth can open it—neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the Gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism—the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper; but he eats Christ's body and drinks Christ's blood by faith every day he lives, and no minister on earth can prevent him. He may be excommunicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church.

To be continued next week . . .

Thursday, March 10, 2011

So Now It Begins . . .

Regular readers to this blog will know that I have had concerns about Glenn Beck for some time. While agreeing with many of his positions on traditionalism and American history, I have been deeply concerned about the lack of discernment of many in the conservative Christian camp as to Beck's Mormonism and spiritual beliefs.

Brannon Howze has just released a video dealing with this issue. It will be very, very interesting to see the fallout.

The things Brannon raises in the WND article are serious. Beck is NOT an evangelical Christian. His beliefs are at variance with biblical truth, regardless of his use of the word "atonement." You always have to ask the question, "What do you mean when you use this or that term?" You often find that the meaning the other person holds is not the meaning you hold. It is that way between Mormonism and mainstream, biblical evangelical Christianity. And the consequences are eternal.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Chicago Court-Packing?

In the past, I've had the privilege of interviewing David Limbaugh, brother of popular conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. In addition to being a practicing attorney in Missouri, David also writes books and a regular syndicated column.

I am posting a link to David's most recent column dealing with the left and it's stepped-up pressure on members of the Supreme Court. My headline mentions "court packing," which isn't exactly what's happening right now, but the overall tenor of what David describes reminds me of FDR's attempt to pack the court with justices who would rule like he wanted them to rule in reference to his social engineering.

After you read David's remarks, have a gander at a story in USA Today dealing with new Justices Elena Kagan and Sonja Sotomayor. The USA Today story makes it clear the two newest justices are pushy and have big mouths, especially Sotomayor (those are MY words and assessment, not the newspaper story's words). The article gushes about the impact they're going to have on the Supreme Court, its deliberations and rulings. Reading between the lines, it seems like the justices have made their minds up largely on ideology before the case even gets to oral argument stage.

All in all, this is pretty troubling stuff that does not bode well for the future.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

More Trouble Ahead?

This morning, I offer another short post from Dr. Al Mohler, this time regarding a new book by Emergent pastor Rob Bell on the subject of eternal destiny. While Bell's book is not out yet, the blurbs being used to advertise it are troubling enough that Dr. Mohler put out this little warning shot across the bow.

It's been pretty plain in recent years that much of the Emergent movement is nothing more than regurgitated theological liberalism. It's been claimed recently that the Emergent movement is dying out and people are losing interest in the fad. I would not go so far as to say that. I think it is just in the process of morphing into another form of clothing, but with the same dangerous, destructive, unbiblical theology.

Keep watching.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

It Helps To Do What God Says

During our staff chapel today, the president of the organization for which I work took us to Isaiah 58 for the devotion. In this powerful passage of Scripture, God (through the prophet's pen) chides His people for making like the uber-religious, but then wondering why God doesn't respond to them. It's worth reading and pondering . . .

Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’

Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail
(Isaiah 58:1-11).

How often do unbelievers (and by that I include those who give nominal lip service to believing in God but who have no time for Him in their lives) moan, groan and curse over their life circumstances, and finally hit their knees, only to forget about the One who loves them and graciously answered their prayers?

More than that, how often do we who really believe in the Lord and purport to follow Him do the same thing? We go through all of our little routines and rituals, but when it comes to really putting what we believe into practice, we don't do it. Worse yet, we yap loudly about what we believe, but our words and actions speak otherwise, and it gets noticed by unbelievers. Their unspoken question is, "If that's what being a Christian is, why would I want it?"

Here's another one to ponder. If the words, actions and attitudes of those of us who profess Christ are indistinguishable from those who are unbelievers and living in open sin, what's the point of even identifying ourselves as Christ-followers? Perhaps the Lord would rather us keep quiet rather than embarrass Him by our words and behavior.

Something to ponder, isn't it?