Wednesday, July 30, 2008
You recently preached a sermon called “God wants to save Christians from hell.” I was discussing the message with a guy who after hearing this message was a bit disturbed and somehow came to the conclusion that you didn’t believe in a literal hell. Let me ask you, do you believe in a literal hell that is defined simply as eternal separation from God?Why would a Christian say there is a literal hell? Because the Bible says so.
Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?
I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.
Especially when so many fail to recognize the hell that many people are experiencing today and do little about it.
Yeah, I would think it would be your duty as a Christian to hope and long and pray for somehow everybody to be reconciled to God. If you are really serious about evangelism, as I’m sure you friend would claim, and you wanted to save people from hell, then wouldn’t your hope be that everybody reconciles with God? Why would you hope for anything else? It would be your duty to long for that. I would actually ask questions about his salvation.
Rob Bell, interview at theooze
Should I Christian hope that people come to Christ and be saved from hell? Sure.
Does that negate what the Bible says about hell? No.
And, as a final insult, Bell comes close to questioning the salvation of anyone who would say there is a hell (but what would that mean, anyway, if in his theology there is no hell then questioning their salvation becomes a moot point).
It's as if Bell is saying "Close your eyes and wish real hard, and the big bad hell will go away". That's not how reality and truth work. The Bible is unapologetic about hell, and leaves no question about the reality of eternal judgment. One doesn't make it go away by saying it's not nice.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
For instance a lot of Christians have really warped views about people from other religions. They don’t even know how to interact. They can’t even be human with someone who isn’t exactly like them. That’s a humanity issue and God calls us to respect the image of God in all of God’s image bearers. So we need to challenge the theology that wants to label all the world into these nice neat boxes and that wants to condemn these people because we’re so great. We need to challenge something because it gets in the way of the very thing Jesus calls us to be. Love your neighbor. If you can’t even conceive of your neighbor outside of this giant label, if you have never read their sacred texts and you can make these grand statements about their eternal destiny then how are you ever going to love your neighbor? You have no voice with them and Jesus called you to have a voice with them. So I am going to challenge that because I am trying to be obedient to Jesus.Jesus told us to go the all the world and take to Gospel to everyone, because it's only in believing Him that they can have eternal life.
Rob Bell, interview at theooze
Bell wants us to do...what? Not see people in other religions as they really are, people being deceived and needing to know about Christ? People who really are under God's judgment if they do not repent and believe in Christ?
Does the fact that a Christian may not read the Koran mean that it's ok that Muslims have many incorrect beliefs about Christ?
It's a shallow argument Bell has here, and seems to be more about accepting people in those religions as being ok then in trying to tell them to repent and believe in Christ.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Is it possible that Jesus was intentionally keeping his message of the kingdom a secret so that it wasn't obvious, wasn't easy to grasp, wasn't like a simple mathematical formula that can quickly be learned and repeated?
The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 34
Because if Jesus spoke plainly, we wouldn't have any books about His "secret message"; thus, He couldn't have spoken plainly.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
If you see nothing there (or only something saying that it is no longer there) then be afraid.
Remember towards the end of "Batman Begins", where Batman and Gordon talk about escalation? How ironic that the week after the sequel comes out, escalation happens on the internet.
Here are two sources for what is going on, sites for the two main protagonists.
It's a common enough ploy, one used far too often--the accusation becomes more important then any substance behind it. And now, accusations alone have resulted in the taking down of a website.
A frightening precedent has been set here, and I fear we'll see where it leads.
Friday, July 25, 2008
So any attempt to talk about God being close, involved, and integrated with humanity smacks of taking the deity right out of God, of turning God into little more than a really great guy. As if that weren't enough, the language of integration also brings with it concerns of glorifying humanity, of ignoring our supposed filth and sin and brokenness that goes along with the idea of the pure, unsullied God. Perhaps that's why Christians tend to get a little weirded out by the suggestion that God might be something other than up and out.
Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 108
I like the phrase "supposed filth and sin and brokenness", as if man's state of original sin and fallenness are not among the most blindingly obvious things in Creation, not to mention something the Bible tells us about a good bit. Thus, if Pagitt wishes to assign the word "supposed" to this doctrine, then there is really little left to say--he's playing to the crowds, letting the age have his head.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The God I learned about was, to be blunt, a God I wasn't sure I wanted to know.
Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 99
I wonder if I could play the Pharisee card here. After all, the God they saw in Jesus wasn't one that they wanted to know. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, didn't lead a political rebellion, and called them hypocrites and blind.
The point is, this statement has almost nothing to do with whether "The God (Pagitt) learned about" is the true God or one made up. It's merely opinion.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
To the contrary, nothing roots out heresy better than a group.
Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 185
I can think of all kinds of 'groups' (Mormons, JWs, Christian Science, Oneness Pentacostals, and dare I add emergents into this list) that are heretical despite being a group.
All a group really does is allow the members to affirm each other in their beliefs, it says nothing about whether those beliefs are good or bad, true or false.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
It's easy, because it's self-contradictory. If theology is "temporary", then even this statement about theology being "temporary" is itself temporary. One must make a non-temporary theological statement in order to state that all theology is temporary, just as one must make a universal and transcendent theological statement in order to say that theology is not universal and trascendent.
Take a look at these statement, from page 114...
...emergents reject metaphors like "pin it down", "in a nutshell", "sum it up", and "boil it down" when speaking of God and God's Kingdom, for it simply can't be done.
But even in saying those things, is he not "pinning down" things about theology? Even in saying that God and God's Kingdom cannot be "pinned down", does that not "pin down" something about God and God's Kingdom?
Now, one question that could be asked is, how far do they or would they go with this idea? For example, what about the fairly simple statement "God is love". Does that statement "pin down" God and our ideas of God? What if someone says "God is not love"? Is that statement as equally valid as the first?
If all theology is temporary, then what can we say that we really know about God? Can we even say "God is love" if we do not, cannot, have some sort of real non-temporary idea of what that means? If everything in our theology is only temporary, then how can we even say that there is a God? Because isn't saying "There is a God" a theological statement? And if that is so, then isn't it also a temporary statement?
Now, why is theology being temporary such a big characteristic of Emergent "theology"?
Because then, theology can be changed. If the Bible forbids something, like homosexuality, then if theology is temporary, then the theology in the Bible is temporary, Thus, one can posit that despite what the Bible says, things change, including theology, and that now we can think up reasons for saying that homosexual sex is now not forbidden.
Or, what about issues about beliefs and how they relate to salvation? While Jones does say that he believes in the Trinity and in Jesus being fully human and fully divine, he and other Emergents seem to consider someone like Marcus Borg to be a Christian, too. This is the same Borg who said that he would bet his life that Jesus did not rise from the dead, which belief would disqualify him biblically from any consideration as being a Christian. Did not Paul say that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins? How, then, can one who teaches the Christ was not raised by considered a brother?
But if theology is temporary, then Paul's statement was maybe temporary, and we are not obliged to take it seriously today (though who knows what tomorrow will allow)? And so, is Borg, whose beliefs are miles outside of any measure of orthodox biblical Christian doctrine,welcomed with open arms by these "temporary" theology people?
Monday, July 21, 2008
For example, on page 113, we have this statement...
They (Emergents) are in conversation with two thousand years of Christians theology and four thousand years of Jewish theology before that).
Now, how does that differ from any other Christian education? After all, learning from the Bible, from history, from the early church, from the writings of Christians through history, what about that is necessarily all that new?
But then comes the next sentence...
Some are in conversation with Islamic and Buddhist and Hindu and various other theologies (and a/theologies).
And right about now, we can start getting an idea of where this is heading.
Thesis-antithesis-synthesis. The idea that we start out with an idea (thesis), run into an idea against it (antithesis), and when the conflict is over we come away with some kind of a melding of the two, or a middle ground, or a compromise (synthesis).
So, Christianity is an idea, a thesis. In our world today, we are knocking heads with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, athiesm, and other religions (antitheses). If a claim to absolute truth on the part of Chrisitanity is by definition rejected by postmodernism, then what we have left is finding some way of compromising and blending together these various religious ideas (synthesis).
(Btw how is our situation any different then what the Apostle had to deal with, going from city to city knocking heads with the followers of Greek and Roman false gods? Did they compromise with the idol-worshippers? Can we find anything in the New Testament tell us to synthesize with the followers of idols?)
Which brings us back to things Emergents are saying and doing. Faith House, for example, where the attempt is being made to synthesize Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (and since last I checked they now have a Hindu on staff, we may well think that Hinduism and even Buddhism are being brought into the mix there). And statements by people like McLaren that people do not have to leave their religions and gods to be a follower of Christ.
Emergent Christians hope to avoid the danger of solo theology by intentionally placing themselves in theological communities, and the more diverse the better.
But is this really so? Look at this statement, from page 48...
Sitting on panel at a Seattle event in 1999, he (Mark Driscoll) vehemently stated that women should not be pastors. Everyone else in the room was dumbfounded, since he was breaking an assumed consensus in the group.
And a bit further down the page.
This resulted in a couple of meetings and conference calls, an attempt to quell his vituperations. Driscoll's increasingly conservative theology and his unrepentant attitude led to an eventual distancing from the rest of the group.
So, what's going on here? What was Driscoll's sin that he was unrepentant for? Cussing? Or going conservative?
I'm not defending any bad language Driscoll may have used (though if you want a repentence about it, check out what he says at one point in his 2007 Convergent Conference speech), but given that Emergent seems to have no problem with churches having gay members and their people using some forms of bad language, I suspect a bit of bad language on Driscoll's part would not have been that big a deal. Rather, it's his "increasingly conservative theology" that he remained unrepentent of and that led him away from them.
And I, for one, am glad of it. I've listened to audio files of many of his sermons, and recommend them. I don't agree with him on all things, especially in some end-times things, but he preaches the Gospel in a place that sorely needs it, and does it with boldness, and I have nothing but respect for him. And in all of the sermons I've listened to, I don't recall once having heard him cuss.
At any rate, one can see that Driscoll's views were rather less then welcomed by Jones and those on his side--they had already made up their minds (isn't that un-postmodern of them?), and Driscoll's going conservative and expressing it was again their trajectory.
Or, to point to another example, check out this, from page 207. Things in brackets are added by me for clarification.
Those who hold degrees from Moody Bible Institute (fundamentalist) and Seattle Pacific University (evangelical) are allowed to hold their final verdict on homosexuality in abeyance because the church's [Church of the Apostles in Seattle, WA] position on sexuality is not central to their identity, nor is Karen [Ward, pastor of the church] going to let either of her denominations thrust that issue to the forefront of her congregation (For the matter, the gay members of her church are allowed to hold their opinions of the Moody and SPU grads in abeyance as well!)
So, by that statement, Church of the Apostles already has gay members. Thus, the issue has already been decided, and homosexual activity is fine with them (really, do you think they would let people be members who openly did things they thought were wrong, like, let's say, kill baby seals for their fur?). One can suspect that it's not so much that the people from Moody and Seattle Pacific can "hold their final verdict...in abeyance" as that they are politely or not-so-politely, whatever the case may be, allowed to shut up about it. It's already a done deal, so live with it.
One could wonder what would would happen if one of those people, or a group of them, were to stop holding their verdicts in abeyance, and try to force the issue. I have little doubt they would soon find themselves not part of the conversation.
Which is the point. The Emergent conversation is, in the end, a conversation among Emergents. They have their own people, their own language, their own codewords, their own concepts of right and wrong, their own agendas and propagandas. Jones and McLaren have both come out hard against Dispensationalists, so we can pretty safely figure people with those views are not welcomed to express those views in the "conversation", and do so at the risk of being ridiculed and shot down with simplistic and emotional arguments. McLaren has come out in favor of almost every liberal social idea one can imagine, so we may well think that social and religious conservatives and people who can, for example, point out that that global warming is tripe will not get a hearing among them.
In other words, Emergent theology is "conversational" only insofar as anyone in the conversation already agrees with certain Emergent ideas. Don't rock the boat, as Driscoll did.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Dispatch 10: Emergents believe that theology is local, conversational, and temporary. To be faithful to the theological giants of the past, emergents endeavor to continue their theological dialogue.
Tony Jones, The New
Christians, p. 111
Ok, so, Jones gives us three characteristics of Emergent theology. Now, what do those things mean, and are they true or not.
Jones, on p. 112 of the book, gives three paragraphs of something like an explanation for what he means by theology being "local". I'm not going to give the full content of those paragraphs, but excerpts.
...everything that emanates from me (like this book) is essentially local in
that it proceeds from the locus of my person...As my attempt to reflect on
notions about God, theology is inherently local
To put it in the converse, theology is not universal, not is it transcendent. The God about whom we theologize is transcendent, but our human musings about God are
not...Professional theologians...are sometimes tempted to write and speak with
the confidence that their theology is somehow clean or sterile or untainted...But of course, they're just as local as the rest of us...
...Recently, I received an e-mail announcement that a local group of
emergent Christian leaders was gathering in Pittsburgh. Their desire? To begin a
conversation about "Pittsburghian theology"...
So, what does any of this mean?
For example, what does "local" mean? Or, to try to be plainer, how big or small must or can an area or a group be to be "local"? For example, looking more at his Pittsburgh example, what if the people of a certain area or district in Pittsburgh thought that having a theology for the whole city was too broad and big, and they wanted to have one for their district or neighborhood that may have differences from what the big city theologians would want? What if it came down to a neighbor, a street, a city block, or even an individual home or even an individual person?
Similarly, what about those who would think that having a theology for a city would be too small? What about surrounding counties and towns? Or a region in the state of Pennsylvania? What about the whole of Pennsylvania itself?
And no matter how big or how small a "local" may be, what about when differences come about? What if the Pittsburghian theologiy is different in some important ways from the Pennsylvanian theology? What if the theology of Export, PA, which is close to Pittsuburgh, has some important differences from the Pittsburghian theology?
What about non-emergent Christians? Will the Pittsburgh Emergents allow non-Emergent Christians to have their theology without criticism, even if it is vastly different from their own?
What about any kind of agreement/disagreement with neighboring theologies? If, for example, the Philadelphian theology adheres to an end-times view that is Dispensational, and the Pittsburghian theology is Full Preterist, how will that effect their interactions? Or if the Ohioan Theology holds fast to Substitutionary Atonement while Pennsylvanian theology thinks that SA makes God into a child abuser, how will those differences effect their relationships?
Also, If the Pennsylvanian theology goes Full Preterist, while the Philadelphian theology believes in Dispensational, how will that effect their relationships? Can the Pennsylvanian state theologians allow the Philadelphian city theologians to have such a different view? Will the state theologians not try to put pressure on the city ones to change their views?
And none of that deals with relationships out of their Emergent groups, with Baptists and Lutherans and Muslims and others, or even an individual Emergent group or person that simply will not buy in to any larger group's local form of theology.
And what if someone moves from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia? If they agreed with the Pittsburghian theology and had disagreements with the Philadelphian, would they have to change their minds to fit in with the Philadelphians when they moved to that "local"?
As well, if theology is merely "local", what does that do to the Bible and how any particular "local" may interpret and use it? How, for example, are they to take such commands as "You shall not steal"? Is that a statement of merely local theology, and we do not need to worry about it now? Or does any particular "local" have to determine what is for them stealing? What if there are differences in what particular "locals" think of as acts of stealing?
I would contend that the word "local" as Jones uses it here is ill-defined, perhaps even essentially meaningless. It is used more for its 'feel good' effect then any other reason.
I would further contend that it is self-contradictory. To say "theology is not universal, not is it transcendent" is itself to make a universal and transcendent theological statement.
Also, Jones himself does not really believe that theology is merely local. If he did, he would not make, could not make, any statements of either praise or criticism to the theological teachings or practices of any other group or church or individual. But he does so, which puts paid to any notion that his theological ideas are merely "local".
I'll have to get back to the other two characteristics later.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
What a lot of well-meaning, committed evangelical Christians don't realize is that the view of the end-times that they believe is biblical and the historic Christian view is actually a newcomer and an anomaly in Christian history.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
McLaren should really read the early church fathers, he'll see that people like Irenaeus and Justin Martyr had views not very different from Dispensationalists and futurists.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, p. 452
Chapter CX.—A portion of the prophecy already fulfilled in the Christians: the rest shall be fulfilled at the second advent.
And when I had finished these words, I continued: “Now I am aware that your teachers, sirs, admit the whole of the words of this passage to refer to Christ; and I am likewise aware that they maintain He has not yet come; or if they say that He has come, they assert that it is not known who He is; but when He shall become manifest and glorious, then it shall be known who He is. And then, they say, the events mentioned in this passage shall happen, just as if there was no fruit as yet from the words of the prophecy. O unreasoning men! understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,— our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage, —and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine, i.e., each man possessing his own married wife. For you are aware that the prophetic word says, ‘And his wife shall be like a fruitful vine.’ Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us. For the vine planted by God and Christ the Saviour is His people. But the rest of the prophecy shall be fulfilled at His second coming. For the expression, ‘He that is afflicted [and driven out],’ i.e., from the world, [implies] that, so far as you and all other men have it in your power, each Christian has been driven out not only from his own property, but even from the whole world; for you permit no Christian to live. But you say that the same fate has befallen your own nation. Now, if you have been cast out after defeat in battle, you have suffered such treatment justly indeed, as all the Scriptures bear witness; but we, though we have done no such [evil acts] after we knew the truth of God, are testified to by God, that, together with the most righteous, and only spotless and sinless Christ, we are taken away out of the earth. For Isaiah cries, ‘Behold how the righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart; and righteous men are taken away, and no man considers it.’
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book V
Chapter XXV.—The fraud, pride, and tyrannical kingdom of Antichrist, as described by Daniel and Paul.
1. And not only by the particulars already mentioned, but also by means of the events which shall occur in the time of Antichrist is it shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he (Antichrist) being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one; as an apostate, iniquitous and murderous; as a robber, concentrating in himself [all] satanic apostasy, and setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising up himself as the only idol, having in himself the multifarious errors of the other idols. This he does, in order that they who do [now] worship the devil by means of many abominations, may serve himself by this one idol, of whom the apostle thus speaks in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Unless there shall come a failing away first, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.”The apostle therefore clearly points out his apostasy, and that he is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped—that is, above every idol —for these are indeed so called by men, but are not [really] gods; and that he will endeavour in a tyrannical manner to set himself forth as God.
2. Moreover, he (the apostle) has also pointed out this which I have shown in many ways, that the temple in Jerusalem was made by the direction of the true God. For the apostle himself, speaking in his own person, distinctly called it the temple of God. Now I have shown in the third book, that no one is termed God by the apostles when speaking for themselves, except Him who truly is God, the Father of our Lord, by whose directions the temple which is at Jerusalem was constructed for those purposes which I have already mentioned; in which [temple] the enemy shall sit, endeavouring to show himself as Christ, as the Lord also declares: “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, which has been spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains; and he who is upon the house-top, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: for there shall then be great hardship, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.”
This isn't meant to really determine the truth or not of any particular end-times theory at this time, but only to show that McLaren's claim that the futurist's and Dispensationalist's view is "a newcomer and an anomaly in Christian history" is simply not true; rather, there seems reason to think that the futurist view was a major view of the early church--that they anticipated a coming antichrist ruler, a time of great tribulation, and the second coming of Christ.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Journey doesn't have an "official statement" about homosexuality, but there's obviously enough freedom in the community for Courtney to wear her beliefs on her shirt.
Straight Chrisitians for Gay Rights
(My Bible Teaches Social Justice)
Tony Jones, The New Christians, pp. 198, 197
Umm, my Bible teaches homosexuality is wrong and very much against God's will. Funny, I don't recall the words "social justice" being in it anywhere. And when it does mention justice, it doesn't mean legalizing immorality
In regards to this non-decision concerning homosexuality, I agree with what Mark Driscoll said at the Convergence Conference, "A huge percentage of the people who attend my church have all kinds of sexual sin, including bisexuality and homosexuality, and no answer is an answer. An inability or unwillingness to answer the question is in and of itself, by virtue of silence, permission."
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received , how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4. And that he was buried , and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep .
7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
So, for the sake of holding on to some kind of 'logical positivism' viewpoint (which seems to mean that miracle do not occur and that God does not interfere in the world), Borg is willing to say that people like Peter, James, , all the Apostles, Paul, and the 500 fellow believers who saw the risin Christ are actually liars.
And Butler Bass wants us to believe that Borg really does believe in Jesus?
I know that saying this is going to raise some hackles, but I think there are people who argue for an "inerrent" authoritative understanding of the Bible to support their prejudiced feelings about homosexuals.
Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 63
And I think there are those who would argue against an "inerrent" authoritative understanding of the Bible to support their own acceptance of sexual activities that the Bible plainly states to be sinful.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Tony Jones--When I spoke at the National Cathedral in May, at a conference around Diana's book, that they were nice enough to invite me to, the evening before I spoke, Marcus Borg spoke, and Marcus Borg for the umpteenth time was asked in the Q&A an old--I remember this so vividly--an old man came up to the microphone in the center aisle of the nave of the national cathedral, and said "Dr. Borg, what about the empty tomb?". And he said, probably for the umpteenth time, verbatim, this is what he said, "If I had to bet a dollar or my life, I would say the tomb was not empty, or there was no tomb." I was in the back, sitting around a circle with people my age who came from a mainline church in Wichita, and if you're a mainliner in Wichita, you're not really a mainliner in the way that people on the east coast think of mainliners, or people in Minnesota think of mainliners. In the fly-over territory, you don't get to be a liberal mainliner at a big mainline church in Wichita. You are a bit evangelical, even though you're a mainline church, because you're in Wichita. And they were extremely distressed by this response, and it got me to thinking, that emergents don't have a problem with paradox. And it seems to me, and this is the risky thing that I do in the book, I really think that Marcus Borg and John Piper, who's a right-wing baptist pastor in Minnesota, very five-point Calvinist reformed hyper-reformed guy, that they're basically doing the same thing. They're both looking for an air-tight Christianity. For Borg it's logical positivism, it doesn't make sense that God would upset the laws of physics and do things like resurrect people or have miracles or things like this, so let's do away with those things and make Christianity more believable. For Piper, it's a purely fideistic system, in which the laws of physics matter not at all, and what matter is you know what the Bible says and that's it. And so leads to Creation Science and leads to you know these kinds of interpretations of scripture of which we're all familiar. Those are both part of the modern enterprise, modern apologetics on the evangelical side is built on, and the modern ecumenical movement on the left side is built on it--looking for rock-solid indubitable foundations not to be questioned. And it's this search that emergents find no interest in. And so yes, indeed, the six questions that Scot talks about that he hears his students in evangelical university asking...
Diane Butler Bass--I really, I just have to jump in real quick, and then we can go to larger questions, but Tony, if Marcus Borg was sitting here and had misquoted you, I would jump in and defend you. Marcus did indeed say exactly what you said, but then three minutes later, he said that "but that in no way undermines the confession of the early church that Jesus lives and Jesus is Lord" and so then he went on to say that he does indeed--I mean I remember how startling it was there in the great high alter of the national cathedral, we got this incredible faith statement, personal faith statement, from Marcus Borg, saying that he does indeed believe in that confession and that he makes that confession proudly with the early church, and so what he actually did was although the way that he got about it was perhaps logical positivism, he came to a place himself of incredible paradox, that he made a faith statement that in a way contradicts old style liberalism and he did it in front of a crowd of some 350 people. And so you both were actually working out of your point of tension or wanting to work out of a paradox its just that your paradoxes where in different places and I wasn't entirely sure that that you were--there were a couple of people who blogged about that as well, heard the second part of what Marcus said and I did hear it because I went downstairs and was attacked by somebody from the Institute of Religion and Democracy and they were going on about how you know this was just old style liberalism and it's the same old same old and on and on and on and I said "Did you just hear what Marcus Borg said upstairs, if you weren't listening, Marcus Borg just said that he believed in Jesus Christ." And he said "Oh yeah I heard that but it just doesn't matter"
I Corinthians 15
15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain.
15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.
15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept.
6. But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down)
7. "or 'Who will descend into the deep?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8. But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
9. That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
11. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
So, here's the deal--Marcus Borg basically bets his life that Jesus did not really resurrect from the dead (even though Butler Bass says that "he does indeed believe in that confession", which I suppose means he's saying that he does believe in Christ's resurrection in some non-literal sense). Paul makes the resurrection central to our hope in Christ and our salvation. And Paul leaves no doubt that "now is Christ risen from the dead", and not in some metaphorical of 'spiritual' sense.
Borg tells us that it is only in this life that we have some kind of hope in some kind of still-dead Christ. Butler Bass' contention that Borg believes in Jesus Christ is wrong. He may have constructed some imaginary or mythological "jesus christ" in his own mind, much like how cults take the name Jesus Christ and add and take away from what the Bible says about Him, but the "jesus christ" Borg believes in is not the one in the Bible, and the person from the Institute of Religion and Democracy was right to say that what Borg said didn't matter.
For my part, I think I'll stick with Paul. After all, he actually met the risen Christ on the Damascus road. Plus his writings are scripture and true, while Borg is just, well, another crank.
Sorry, but Borg will not assimilate me.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Our image of God as the all-powerful, removed, holy king is really much more influenced by Zeus and other gods than by the story of our faith.
Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 100
32:17 Ah Lord Jehovah! behold, thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thine outstretched arm; there is nothing too hard for thee,
19:26 And Jesus looking upon [them] said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple.
6:2 Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
Pagitt's image of God as some kind of warm fuzzy seems more influenced by those who practice postmodern deconstruction then on what the Bible says.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Jesus was not sent as the selected one to appease the anger of the Greek blood god. Jesus was sent to fulfill the promise of the Hebrew love God by ending human hostility. It was not the anger of God that Jesus came to end but the anger of people. This world God created is one of peace and harmony and integration. Through Jesus, all humanity is brought into that world. And that is the point of the resurrection.
Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 194
So, Jesus came to end the anger of people. It's almost like Jesus was the first coming of Oprah.
In response to this, here is what Wayne Grudem says in the book Christian Beliefs, p. 32.
God intensely hates all sin. God's wrath burns hot against sin, and it is this wrath that will eventually consume those who reject Jesus and continue in their sin. As Jesus said, "Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36). It is the "wrath of God," Paul says, that "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18).
So, on the one hand, we have Pagitt's supposed feel-good take--a kind of "God is not angry" type of thing--that has no real Scriptural basis. On the other hand, there is Grudem's Scriptural-based contention that God does indeed feel wrath towards those who do not obey Christ, who are ungodly and unrighteous.
The Bible does tell us that at the end men will find for themselves teachers who will scratch their ears, telling them what they want to hear. God's wrath is not a popular subject, not something people want to hear about, but as with all true things, denying it will not make it go away. The hope for each person, then, is not in pretending that God's wrath does not exist, but in repentence and belief in Christ.
Friday, July 11, 2008
So what I'm advocating is for us, first, to acknowledge that good Christians disagree. Some of us are open and accepting toward gay people. Some of us are accepting of gay people, but we don't affirm their homosexual behavior. Some of us are neither open nor accepting. So, what we need to do is say that there is diversity and that good Christians disagree. And then we need to have some charitable and intelligent dialogue rather than the name-calling and polarizing discourse we've had in recent years.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview, Jan 26, '08
(Here's a hint--you can tell when a liberal is trying to pull the wool over your eyes when he or she starting talking about "polarizing discourse", particular in regards to blaming those opposed to them and their ideas. It really just means that they want people to 'play nice' so they can sneak their agendas in.)
Sure, never mind what the Bible teaches, never mind all the places God says homosexual sex is sinful. We just need to sit, talk, "converse", be nice, and not judge and call such actions sinful.
Isn't this the whole dialectic method (mythos)? Thesis to antithesis to synthesis? Instead of trying to determine right and wrong, take all of that and try to reach some kind of agreement?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Regarding homosexuality: I think that the entire issue is badly framed and that the entire argument has become so combative and spoiled by a cultural wars mentality
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
Translate: If only those biblical moralists weren't so intent on calling sin sin, then we could all get along.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I believe in the sanctity of life, but I believe that our efforts should be toward reducing the need and desire for abortion on the front end by way of persuasion and education rather than putting our efforts on the side of legislation.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
So, yeah, he's willing to play politics to raise taxes to get money for his social programs, just don't bother him about the murder of the unborn, it's just not that important.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Q. What's your view of homosexuality and abortion? I know that's a big question.
The first thing I'd want to say is that I don't think they're the two most significant moral issues in the world.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
Yeah, sexual immorality and murder, God really couldn't care less about those things, could He?
Monday, July 7, 2008
Those who hold degrees from Moody Bible Institute (fundamentalist) and Seattle Pacific University (evangelical) are allowed to hold their final verdict on homosexuality in abeyance because the church's (Church of the Apostles) position on sexuality is not central to their identity, nor is Karen going to let either of her denominations thrust that issue to the forefront of her congregation. (For the matter, the gay members of the church are allowed to hold their opinions of the Moody and SPU grads in abeyance as well).
Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 207
Who is he trying to fool? The fact that he can refer to "gay members of the church" already tells us that a decision has been made, and that those who may be against it are kindly(?) told to shut up and accept it.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Is truth a question to be answered, or is it beauty to be sought?
Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 157
Truth a question? We ask questions in order to learn the truth, not to think that the questions are themselves the truth.
Truth is beauty? Not all truth is such that all would judge it beautiful, and not every falsehood and lie is such that it's ugliness is readily visible.
we make a big deal about issues that Jesus said absolutely nothing about.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
Like global warming? Like class warfare and the redistribution of wealth? Like legalizing immorality? Like gun control?
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The central Hebrew prayer, Deuteronomy 6, says, "Hear O Israel the Lord you God, the Lord is One," so we live with the awareness that all of reality is one. We are connected with all thing everywhere...
Rob Bell, Relevant Magazine interview
This statement brought to you by all those new-age teachers who have been saying all along that, yes, we are all really one.
The problem is, we have to account for the differences between the first century and the 21st century. So if Jesus went from one place to another, he would walk and take a donkey. We take a bus or a plane, maybe.
Mclaren, Charlotte, NC newspaper interview
Because there's a whole lot of pastors saying we should go back to riding donkeys, this is such a big and relevant issue. Not something we're not already taking into account day in and day out.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I remember the first time I (Winston) was there (an ec church called Journey)--there was some couple that was pregnant and they had made a plaster cast of her naked upper torso and brought it to Journey and donated it to be used as a chip bowl.
Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 198
That's...grotesque? Gross? Sick? Pornographic, maybe? At the least, indecent?
Is this what EC means by using art in church? Spare me, please!!
I've grown tired of regurgitating answers that some guy decided were fact 500 years ago.
The New Christians, p. 107
So, does he care whether that guy 500 years ago was right or wrong? If he found a guy 500 years ago who agreed with him, would the fact that he lived 500 years ago matter to him?
Well, considering that emergents go "ancient" when the ancient agreed with them, especially in regards to mystical practices, then I think those questions have been answered.
And what about the Bible? The latest parts of it were written roughly 2000 years ago. Is that suddenly invalid because it's "old"?
So many emergents have become disheartened with a Christianity in which all the answers are already known, all the orthodoxies already reified. Instead...they're looking for a Christianity that's still exploratory, still adverturous.
Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 108
I think I'll use a quote from G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" (an appropriate enough name, considering what Jones said above) to answer this.
People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom--that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.
This emergent 'adventure' is actually weakness and indecision. The fact that they complain about the answers already being known merely shows that they do not like the answers, not that they are interested in whether those answers are true or not. They are letting the age have their heads.
There is an absolutely mind-blowing passage in Isaiah 19 where God calls Egypt His son and Assyria His beloved. Egypt and Assyria where the enemies of Israel. Today, that passage would literally be "Taliban My son, Al-Qaeda My beloved".
Rob Bell, Relevant Magazine interview
19:23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians.
19:24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth;
19:25 for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
The context of the passage means nothing, it would seem, just so long as he can make his political commentary with it.
"What would you say the gospel is, Brian?"
I answered by quoting the apostle Paul in the New Testament--statements about justification by grace through faith, the gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice for me sin. "That's exactly what most evangelicals say," he replied, letting the tension hang for what seemed to me like a long, long time.
The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 91
2:8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God;
2:9 not of works, that no man should glory.
3:18 Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
10:45 For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
5:6 For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly.
5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die.
5:8 But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath [of God] through him.
5:10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;
5:11 and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A shared reappraisal (with Islam, Hinduism, Buddism, and Judaism, and maybe others?) of Jesus' message could provide a unique space or common ground for urgently needed religious dialogue--and it doesn't seem an exaggeration to say that the future of the planet may depend on such a dialogue.
The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 5
A shared reappaisal of Jesus' message from those who have incorrect beliefs about Him? From Muslims, who don't believe Him to have been God in the flesh? From those in Judaism, who still do not accept Him as their Messiah? From Hindus, whose beliefs include things like reincarnation and karma? From Buddhists, who believe in detachment?
I think this "shared reappraisal" has more to do with politics then religion, about trying to set up some kind of 'utopia' then with trying to get the Gospel correct.
6:14 Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness?
6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?
6:16 And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
6:17 Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you,
6:18 And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty
In an age of global terrorism and rising religious conflict, it's significant to note that all Muslims regard Jesus as a great prophet...
The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 5
The question of any "age" does not in the end mean anything (and how is this age different from any other in regards to religious violence). The truth is, while Muslims may regard Jesus as some kind of prophet, they do not believe that He is the Son of God, they do not believe that He was crucified, and they do not look to Him for redemption from sin and for salvation.
I John 4:1-3
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess the Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God...
I John 5:10-12
He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.