Sunday, January 29, 2012

Points of Agreement

Mark Driscoll posts abound on the internet these days. I don’t usually “beat the bandwagon drum”….and instead often opt for topics that might have been the latest news….a few years ago.  But Driscoll has piqued my curiosity. 

Last night I listened to a dozen or so of his You Tube videos..listening to  him talk about the Twilight series, The Shack, Thomas Kincaide paintings, TULIP, how to know if you are one of the elect, yoga…the movie Avatar. You won’t find his videos on God Tube.  He is a bit too….ahhhhh…..irreverent for God Tube.  

in spite of myself, I found myself actually liking him.  Believe me I was all set not to based on the quotes I read beforehand... some were included in my last post. 

The guy has a gift for public speaking…for preaching.  He is hilarious.  If his career as a preacher ever falls through, he is shoe in for stand up comedy.  I was entertained by most of what he had to say.  And challenged.

Challenged because I disagree with him on  many points.  Eternal conscious torment, penal substitution, God hating sinners, his opinion of The Shack as bordering on demonic immediately come to mind. 

Although I would rather look for points of AGREEMENT, the points of DISagreement are, oftentimes, what clarifies what I do believe and why I believe it. 

Did I find any points of agreement?  Well in a roundabout way I did….

In a sermon about why God is just and hell is right….

We are all hypocrites.  We all want to receive mercy and give justice.


And sometimes I hear them declaring…buried within their sermon..(what I believe to be) truth….in spite of themselves….

In another sermon, while explaining the gist of the 5 Points of Calvinism versus the 5 Points of Arminianism…concerning Irresistible Grace, Driscoll says this:

if God wants to love you, God wants to save you, God wants you to meet can fight and argue but eventually he's going to change your heart and you will meet Jesus.

Is that not the heart of Christian Universalism? If God wants you to meet Jesus…you will meet Jesus. Eventually, he will melt the hardest heart, bend the stubbornest knee….and every tongue will (joyfully) proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What we need to apologize for?

Right about the same time I was pondering Thomas Merton’s gracious message to unbelievers, I ran across a blog post about Mark Driscoll’s recent interview with Justin Brierley on a blog called Cognitive Discopants
The interview turned into a my church is bigger than your church because there is strong male leadership…namely….”me” (Mark Driscoll)  Your church (Brierley’s) is a wussy church because there are no strong male leaders. Your church is pastored by a….WOMEN….who just happens to be Brierley’s wife.  In fact, according to Driscoll, there really aren’t any strong young leaders in all of England who are preaching the true gospel. 
And the true gospel?  Well, of course the true gospel is a belief in penal substitution and a literal hell with eternal, conscious torment.  Otherwise….you are wishing for a God who is a mom….who embraces everyone. 
Driscoll: Do you believe in a conscious literal eternal torment of hell?
Brierley: What has that got to do with the issue of women in leadership, if you don’t mind me asking?
Driscoll: It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.
There is so much offensive in this quote…where do I start?  How about with another quote?  Not from this interview but from a sermon series at his church…Mars Hill.  From Jesus Took Our Wrath (Propitiation)
You have been told that God is a loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs a day care in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we're all good people. That is a lie... God looks down and says 'I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you,' and we say that is deserved, right and just, and then God says 'Because of Jesus I will love you and forgive you.' This is a miracle.
I could (should?) stop here…but here’s another
There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in his hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity. Mark Driscoll, Relevant Magazine, 2007
The above quote is well known and oft repeated.  While I was  looking for the original source…when and where it actually came out of the “horse’s mouth”….. I came across a post on Justin Scott’s blog that had not only the source of the quote but also an interesting post about being a “chick-ified” Christian man.  Well worth a visit to read the post from last July. I added his blog to my Google Reader feed. 
Yes, indeed…penal substitution….eternal conscious torment…..two of the more heinous doctrines associated with Christianity held up as benchmarks of the faith.
Check out the whole Driscoll /Brierley interview HERE.  And check out Driscoll’s response to some of the backlash HERE.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Merton’s Aplology to Unbelievers

While surfing here and there the other day….not sure what I was looking for or researching….but I happened upon a blog post from “yesteryear.”  Yesteryear as in 2008…Thomas Merton’s Apologies to an Unbeliever on a blog still “open for business” The Other Journal – The Intersection of Theology and Culture. 

Like Merton, I often feel Christians owe nonbelievers (not to mention followers of other faith traditions) a big, fat apology.

Merton died shortly after he wrote the essay and the conversations that might have taken place with unbelievers never happened.  In fact, the ensuing years saw an uprising of religious fundamentalists like Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum, Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority,  Pat Robertson and The Christian Coalition, Anita Bryant and Save Our Children. The list goes on and on…Focus on the Family, American Coalition for Traditional Values, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Christian Right

Robert Inchausti, the author of the article, sums it up

But in the years following his death, the late seventies and eighties, religious people launched an offensive against secular society, science, and atheism. Their primary weapon was a rigid, reductive, Biblical literalism. This new passionate, doctrinal rigidity ultimately gave birth to the backlash of militant atheisms we are now currently experiencing.

 And it goes on to say….

In recent years Christopher Hutchins, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others have published best-selling polemics challenging Christianity with little or no recognition of the apophatic tradition. The combative tenor of these books is no doubt a response to the onslaught of twenty-plus years of know-nothing pop apologetics that has so polarized and dumbed down the national conversation concerning faith that when I read these books, I find myself agreeing with everything they say.

And no wonder these guys…the atheists with the loudest voices… are so pissed about some of the things these right wing, fundamentalist groups have tried to implement and enforce through the years! (check out some of the links in the list of right wing organizations)

And yet at the same time, I also find in them the flawed logic of the straw man fallacy. The God they do not believe in is not a God I ever believed in.

Me, neither!! I’ve long believed that militant atheists and militant Christians have a lot in common in the way they read the Bible.  Both groups take it literally…at face value.  One group picks away at its inconsistencies and contradictions,  The other group goes to great linguistic gymnastics in order to reconcile the obvious inconsistencies. 

But Merton wrote about a new day that he hoped was dawning.

Quoting the article’s author again….

This is the culture where every practicing contemplative, mystic, and true scientist has always labored, and now that the skeptics have vented some of their resentments and the magic Christians have had their say, perhaps a real conversation about our place in the cosmos can begin free from invective, straw man arguments, and polemical grandstanding.

Free from polemical grandstanding and invective straw man arguments? For some of us…not quite yet.  More in my next post…after this bonus quote from Merton

“The dread of being open to the ideas of others generally comes from our hidden insecurity about our own convictions.  We fear that we may be “converted” – or perverted – by a pernicious doctrine.  On the other hand, if we are mature and objective in our open-mindedness, we may find that viewing things from a basically different perspective – that of our adversary – we discover our own truth in a new light and are able to understand our own ideal more realistically. Our willingness to take an alternative approach to a problem will perhaps relax the obsessive fixation of the adversary on his view, which he believes is the only reasonable possibility and which he is determined to impose on everyone else by coercion…This mission of Christian humility in social life is not merely to edify, but to keep minds open to many alternatives.  The rigidity of a certain type of Christian thought has seriously impaired this capacity, which nonviolence must recover.”
From Passion For Peace by Thomas Merton

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Job Security? Not Unless You Believe in Hell…

Rob Bell recently made a big splash with his book Love Wins.  Firestorm might be a more appropriate way to describe the ensuing reaction. 

He was lambasted by fundamentalists like Justin Taylor in a blog post written before Taylor even read the book.  The post was linked to via Twitter by John Piper….with the sentiments

“Goodbye, Rob Bell.” 

Take note. That is how quickly some Christians will kiss your ass goodbye if you don’t share the beliefs they hold the nearest and dearest. 

People wrote books refuting his book.   Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, Mark Galli’s God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins, Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven written by a group of theologians including J.I. Packer. 

None of the ensuing controversy seemed to affect Bell’s employment status.  Even though he resigned from his church near Grand Rapids, Michigan to move to L.A…..and peddle his wares on a broader scale, it was his own choice.  He wasn’t handed a pink slip for his beliefs.

Others have lost their ministries….their jobs….for questioning the status quo.  

Most everyone knows about Carlton Pearson….former megastar of the charismatic chuch and Azuzu Street fame.  One day while watching a program on TV, God tapped him on the shoulder and changed his entire belief system.  He naively thought that if he simply educated the church folk, they would skip along in lock step belief.  Ah….no. 

He lost a huge chunk of his membership….lost his church and finally ended up in a mainly gay congregation.  Now he is the pastor of a mega new thought church in Chicago. 

Another pastor, Chad Holtz, posted a supportive note on Facebook about Bell’s book and ended up fired over it.  From Marrow’s Chapel…a United Methodist Church no less.  Perhaps his congregation missed the official United Methodist stand on the very question Bell raises in his book….right there on the official United Methodist website for all the world to see…..

There are persuasive arguments that include the faithful, thoughtful, and respectful use of Scripture on both sides-- affirming and denying universal salvation. The Book of Discipline, which is the only official printed voice of the UMC, does not make a statement specifically about universal salvation. This places the question in a possible gray area, but the Discipline says what it says. One must read the doctrine there and attempt to understand it as well as possible.
Rev. Dr. Diana Hynson Director of Learning and Teaching Ministries in the Congregation General Board of Discipleship

And now today, an acquaintance on Facebook, Jackson Baer, posted a video on his wall talking about how he was fired from a church where he ministered for 3 1/2 years as a youth pastor.  How come? Because he refuses to renounce his belief in universal reconciliation.  He has a new book out called “What the Hell”….and he is wondering that exact thing….what the hell just happened?  He loved his church, he loved the people there….and now he is on the outside looking in.  

Christians are loathe to let go of their hellfire and brimstone….and they are quick to kick to the curb anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs about an angry, vengeful God who is more monster than savior…..

Next post, I’ll include links to several other books I’ve come across that discuss the nonexistence of an eternal hell.  It’s a question God settled in my heart a long time ago, shortly after I became a Christian at the ripe old age of 40 something.  Once you see it, you can’t unsee it….and like William Barclay, I Am a Convinced Universalist…..

Sunday, January 1, 2012

11:05 pm….12-31-11

11:05....on New Year's Eve.  55 minutes until the ball drops. For me it's not New Year's until the ball drops in Times Square. Even when I lived in a different time zone....when the ball dropped in Times Square….that signaled the start of the new year.

This night has always been very sentimental for me. Memories of  New Year's Eves past...spent with family...many long since gone.  Memories of little kids, sound asleep in their beds..., stroking chubby little legs in terry cloth sleepers and pj's with plastic feet.  Whispering, "I love you" and "I'm so glad I have you." Memories of bigger kids...struggling to stay awake to ring in the New see the ball drop. And now....bigger kids still.  Two at babysitting.

Keith and I spent the evening here at home...wouldn't have it any other way.  His brother's family makes a yearly trek to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to ring in the New Year.  Not me.  Not Niagara Falls....not the bars...not Times Square with an estimated 1.5 million people (can you imagine the traffic jam??)

I've been going through some of the articles I've annotated at the gym on my kindle. (I love my kindle) One in particular that talks about all this 2012, the world is ending stuff. The article points out that it is not the world ending...but an era.  An epoch....a mindset, a way of looking at things....a halt, an about face...perhaps a new beginning. Hopefully a new beginning.

Things are a bit mixed up right now....with the kids, and school, and vehicles and questions like "how the hell will we afford to help them with all these expenses?"

A quote from one of the articles (Navigating an Uncertain Future: Guidance for the Unpredictable Road Ahead ~ Alan Seale from The Evolutionary Mystic blog) stands out....

We really have to tune in every day and say, what am I to do now? Today? This period of life? This month? This cycle? This season? And then go and find the tools, the resources and the people to be able to do that work. We need to all be supporting each other in that.

and if you are afraid?

When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision—then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.