Saturday, April 21, 2012

Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell….

Everyday I check the kindle freebies.  I’ve downloaded quite a few books that way…totally free of charge…all neatly stored on my kindle.  I probably tote around close to 500 books in my purse every day.  500 and counting. 

And sometimes the free books are written by popular mainstream spiritual authors. I have books by Gary Smalley, Deepak Chopra, Beverly Lewis, Adam Hamilton, Brennan Manning, Lee Strobel, Paramhansa Yogananda….free Bibles (love the HCSB) and devotionals….and a couple Qurans.  All free.

Last week there were three free books by Francis Chan.  All on the same day. I know he’s had several books on the New York Times Bestseller List….and is a well known pastor.  A while back, I happened upon a You Tube video of him promoting his latest book…Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up. The book is written as a rebuttal to Rob Bell’s very popular, very controversial book, Love Wins. I watched a few of Chan’s other short videos. Not bad…interesting…witty.  But that was it…the extent of my exposure to Francis Chan. And that probably would have been it….but then I saw his three free books on amazon. 

I read most of Erasing Hell at the gym.  On the treadmill.  Walking fast.  Even forgetting to keep an eye on the timer.  30 minutes came and went. I lost track of time.  So many “yes, buts” to so many of his points.  And I am no scholar…and I am certainly not a well known Christian pastor/author….but I can (and will) shoot holes in many of his arguments. Or at least present another possible explanation to so much of his theology.  The book pretty much…ahhhhh… pissed me off.

It wasn’t so much that he believes in hell. Some of my favorite preacher/teachers believe in hell (or lean in that direction) It was his “buddy buddy, I know how you feel….and oh, man, I don’t want to believe in hell either.  Who does!!??”  It felt like he was trying to schmooze his readers.  Pull the wool over our eyes by leaving out important facts and information.  Manipulative is the word that keeps popping into my head. He said he was approaching the whole thing with an open mind and really taking a look at the scriptures….but his mind was anything but open.

To set the tone he cites the following experience early on in the book.  First chapter….first few pages. 

For some, this discussion will open up old wounds. It certainly does for me. The saddest day of my life was the day I watched my grandmother die. When that EKG monitor flatlined, I freaked out. I absolutely lost it! According to what I knew of the Bible, she was headed for a life of never-ending suffering. I thought I would go crazy. I have never cried harder, and I don’t ever want to feel like that again. Since that day, I have tried not to think about it. It has been over twenty years. Even as I write that paragraph, I feel sick. I would love to erase hell from the pages of Scripture.

Good news Francis….you don’t have to erase it because it’s not there….not the way you envision it….or explain it….or encourage your readers to embrace it.  Your grandmother knows the truth….and someday…you are gonna’ know the truth too. 

More to follow….

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wurmbrand on Truth, Burning Hearts and Finite Crimes

I’ve been listening to Wayne Jacobsen’s multi part series, The Jesus Lens.  Today, while hoofing it around the neighborhood, on a perfectly gorgeous, sunny Easter Sunday, I took note of a quote he used to illustrate his point….a quote by Richard Wurmbrand. 

I know who Richard Wurmbrand was. He came up a time or two in discussions with Keith during my five or so year stint of wrestling with theodicy and the suffering that abounds all around us. The, if there is a good God, how can there be starving children question. Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured For Christ, moved here with Keith ten years ago and is in the bookcase…along with a few other books he authored.

The short version of his life story can be found on the Voice of the Martyrs website….an organization he founded after he was finally released from prison….the second time. He spent years in a Communist prison…enduring tortures that defy the imagination.

So when I got home from my walk…and settled down on the couch with my I Pad, I looked up the quote on Google.  I came across several other quotes that struck me…and I am sharing them in this blog post…..

On Truth…the one Wayne used:

The Bible is a wonderful book. It is the truth about the Truth. It is not the Truth. A sermon taken from the Bible can be a wonderful thing to hear. It is the truth about the truth about the truth. But it is not the truth. There have been many books written about the things contained in the Bible. I have written some myself. They can be quite wonderful to read. They are the truth about the truth about truth about the Truth. But they are NOT the Truth. Only Jesus Christ is the Truth. Sometimes the Truth can be drowned in a multitude of words.

On the flame in his heart:

"In solitary confinement, we could not pray as before. We were unimaginably hungry; we had been drugged until we acted like idiots. We were as weak as skeletons. The Lord’s Prayer was much too long for us—we could not concentrate enough to say it. My only prayer repeated again and again was, 'Jesus, I love You.' And then, one glorious day I got the answer from Jesus: 'You love me? Now I will show you how I love you.' At once, I felt a flame in my heart, which burned like the coronal streamers of the sun. The disciples on the way to Emmaus said that their hearts burned when Jesus spoke with them. So it was with me. I knew the love of the One who gave His life on the cross for us all." Tortured For Christ

And how all crimes….no matter how horrendous….are crimes of a finite nature.  Sheds a bit of light…perhaps… on the age old, “What about Hitler” question.

"God sees things differently than we see them, just as we see differently than an ant. From the human point of view, to be tied to a cross and smeared with excrement is a horrible thing. Nonetheless, the Bible calls the sufferings of martyrs light afflictions. To be in prison for fourteen years is a long period to us. The Bible calls it 'but for a moment,' and tells us that these things are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2Co 4:17). This gives us the right to suppose that the fierce crimes of the Communists, which are inexcusable to us, are lighter in the eyes of God than they are in our eyes. Their tyranny, which has lasted almost an entire century, may be before God, for whom a thousand years are like one day, only a moment of erring astray. They still have the possibility of being saved." Tortured For Christ

Lots to ponder in those three quotes.  More quotes can be found HERE.  Some of his books can be found HERE and HERE

Monday, April 2, 2012

Optimists are right…..

In my last post, I included some quotes and statistics that indicated extreme poverty may be eradicated in our lifetime.  So I am following that post with another optimistic post that I happened upon in Reader’s Digest this month.  A post that points out 17 reasons why this is a great time to be alive.  Reason #17 says this….

17. Optimists are right

For 200 years, pessimists have had all the headlines—even though optimists have far more often been right. There is immense vested interest in pessimism. No charity ever raised money by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever got the front page writing a story about how disaster was now less likely. Pressure groups and their customers in the media search even the most cheerful statistics for glimmers of doom. Don’t be browbeaten—dare to be an optimist!

As I’ve mentioned before, optimism is not my default setting….and with all the doom and gloom and dire predictions we are bombarded with day in and day out, it’s hard to “look on the sunny side.”

But this article gives us 17 reasons why we should…and why it is better to live today than at any other time in history.  The good old days weren’t really all that good….except in retrospect…with all the rough edges smoothed out by our selective memory. 

Check out the article HERE…and below is a partial list of some of the stuff the author talks about

        • The important stuff costs less
        • Poverty is nose-diving
        • Storms are not getting worse
        • Great ideas keep coming
        • The environment is better than you think
        • Urban living is a good thing
        • Oil is not running out
        • Population growth is not a threat

Check out the article in its entirety on the Reader’s Digest website.