Jesus

Francis Chan on Rob Bell’s Love Wins

Francis Chan has joined the ranks of Christians responding to Rob Bell’s recent New York Times Bestseller Love Wins.

Here is Chan’s video, with his book-length response coming this summer:

Chan has a genuine concern for the people involved; for him it’s not just a doctrinal issue, it’s a serious human issue, though his doctrine is much the same as several other Christian leaders who have disagreed with Bell’s book.

Unfortunately Chan commits a classic college freshman-level philosophical error. He points out (though not by name) that Bell is appealing to his own sense of right and wrong while he himself (Chan) is simply looking at the Bible. The glaringly obvious shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but since Chan bases much of his argument on this error, here it is:

Francis Chan is not unbiased. Rob Bell is not unbiased. Both Chan and Bell approach the Bible with conceptions of what God is like, and their reading of the Bible further shapes their understanding. Bell has searched the Scriptures and decided God is like this, while Chan has searched the Scriptures and decided God is like that. Neither are unbiased. Neither are relying only on what they think God is like or what they want God to be like.

Chan is saying that he’s just reading the Bible for what it says and taking God at his word, but this isn’t true at all, and here’s one of many reasons why: Jesus said that if your right eye causes you to sin you should gouge it out. Does Francis still have two eyeballs? Yes. So he is either disobeying Jesus or he doesn’t sin, right?

No, this passage must be interpreted. Chan has read the words of Jesus and interpreted that Jesus doesn’t actually mean what he says, not literally anyway. He gets to keep his eyeballs. Is Francis putting himself above God by saying, “Surely Jesus couldn’t have meant what he said?” No, he’s making interpretations.

This says nothing about Chan’s or Bell’s interpretations on Hell. It’s possible that Bell is completely wrong about Hell, but unfortunately the crux of Chan’s argument rests on a simple, blatant error: that he himself is simply reading the Bible and taking God at his word while Bell is only relying on his own mental faculties.

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What Does Rob Bell’s Love Wins Reveal About Evangelicals?

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, one thing has given me pause above everything else, and it involves the reactions from the Evangelical Christian world.

The release of this book is a good thing for Evangelicals, and here’s why:

Thousands of us are having our faith held under a light and exposed for what it is:

Fear.

It has become apparent that what has been masking as faith, as Christianity, for some of us for a very long time, is revealing itself in Twitter updates and Facebook links for what it really is:

We’re actually quite a frightened group.

Our theological systems, constructed over the years with bricks of books from authors we agree with, is being tampered with; holes are being poked in our houses of theology; a strange wind is blowing in and we don’t know what to do, and so we react in the only way we know how: attack. Make fun. Look to friends who are saying the same thing for affirmation.

“Defend” God and the Bible.

Who is this weak God needing defenders?

Amidst all the Scripture that comes to mind throughout this ordeal, one has continued to press upon me.

The setting: a few men were preaching about God in a new way, and this angered the religious gatekeepers of the day, the ones who defined Orthodox theology. So much, in fact, that they wanted them killed (they’re preaching heresy, afterall!)

And then something amazing happened.

One of the religious teachers, a man named Gamaliel, stood up to reason with his Orthodox clan. He did not point to the Scriptures in this instance; he did not cite Bible verses to back up his argument. He did not try to defend God. He simply said this: Brothers, before you continue in your tirade against these new teachers, carefully consider this:

“Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.  After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you might even find yourselves fighting against God.”

This is calming wisdom.

Not, “These are heretics!” (Though they may be)

Not, “These people are misinterpreting the Bible!” (Though they may be)

Simply this: Leave them alone. If this is not of God, it will pass away soon enough. But if by chance it is of God, your efforts are in vain. In fact, you may soon find that you could even be fighting against God.

Are there religious gatekeepers–that group that defines what Orthodoxy is–in our day?

Saved But Not Whole

“What happens when it all becomes about some other life is we end up being very fractured, broken people. I began to discover that you could be a Christian in a nice Christian church and be saved and be singing all the right songs and actually be miserable. And to have anger and rage and people you haven’t forgiven. I discovered it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person. I want to be the kind of person who’s pursuing wholeness and allowing every single area of my life to let the light get shone in, and let God make peace where there wasn’t (peace) before.”  –Rob Bell

“Though today some Christians believe that Jesus came to enable us to escape this creation and live eternally in an otherworldly and heavenly dwelling, such an understanding of salvation would have been entirely foreign to Old Testament prophets, to first-century Jews — and to Jesus himself.  Salvation is not an escape from creational life into “spiritual” existence: it is the restoration of God’s rule over all of creation and all of human life.  Neither is salvation merely the restoration of a personal relationship with God, important as that is.  Salvation goes further: it is the restoration of the whole life of humankind and ultimately of the nonhuman creation as well.  This is the scope of biblical salvation.” —The Drama of Scripture

What is Mars Hill About?

There’s risk in pointing out to the world one 15-second snippet of a 30-minute teaching.  There’s more risk when that teaching comes forth from a specific community rooted in a specific geographic location with a specific history.  And there’s even more risk when that community is often criticized either fairly or unfairly.

That being said, there are some people who are genuinely curious about what kind of place Mars Hill (Grandville) is.  The teaching from yesterday by an elder, David Livermore, gives an excellent, albeit brief, peek into what’s going on amidst the Mars Hill Community.

“Mars Hill is not first and foremost an edgy, cool, hip, trendy church.   Mars Hill is not first and foremost about Rob Bell.  Mars Hill is not first and foremost about our wonderful staff or our faithful volunteers.  It’s not first and foremost about some great guest speaker that we might have come in.  It’s first and foremost about Jesus.  Last I checked Jesus is still on the throne.  Jesus is still working here.  Jesus still has good things for us to be about.”

The entire podcast can be downloaded here.

Thinking Through the Big Picture

I’ve been thinking through the big picture of the bible and wrote down some stuff from books that I’ve been reading, and also from Adam Ellis’ summary on these blogs. Ellis’ words are in bold.

WHO ARE WE?

We are the people of God, created in his image. That image is distorted by the Fall but is still there.

“God created people in his own image.” 1

“You made us only a little lower than God.” 2

“They will be masters over all of life.” 3

“God made human beings precisely in order to care for the earth. We were made to serve this purpose. It is built into our very being; it is our very design.” 4

“Humans were made to reflect God’s creative stewardship into the world.” 5

“To image God, then, human beings are charged not only with care for earth and animals (‘subduing’ what’s already there) but also with developing certain cultural possibilities (‘filling’ out what is only potentially there). 6

 

WHERE ARE WE?

We live in God’s world which he created and loves. God loves creation simply because it exists. We believe that this world was created “good” (in the “loaded with potential” sense) and not perfect (in the “complete” sense). We believe that God created us and this world to live in harmony with each other and with him.

“The first act in the world’s drama is God’s act of creating and sustaining ‘all things visible and invisible’ out of a generous desire to enlarge the realm of being, to bestow life and goodness on others, and to assist others to flourish in the realm created for them.” 7

“God leads a very interesting life and is full of joy. Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the universe…We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it…but God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys.” 8

“God loves creation. God celebrates creation. God even plays with his creation.” 9

“It was good…it was good…it was good…it was good.” 10

WHAT IS WRONG?

Human beings make an extremely destructive choice very early on in the narrative. That choice has far reaching consequences and knocks the entire creation project off course. The shalom, or harmony that is supposed to exist between God, people and creation is shattered. The world is not what God dreams for it to be, and all creation seems bent on moving in the opposite direction.

“The glory of God’s good creation has not been obliterated by the tragedy of the fall, but it has been deeply shadowed by it. The history of our race is, in large part, the interplay of this light and shadow.” 11

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?

God does not give up on his dream for creation. He enacts a plan to bring about the “restoration of all things.” This plan involves covenanting with a cummunity of people to operate as agents of shalom in the midst of a broken world. God becomes a human being whose life, death and resurrection open the door for a renewed creation of shalom between a) God and human beings; b) human beings and other human beings; and c) human beings and creation. God calls a group of people to live in his reality now in the midst of a broken world. He calls us to partner with Him to make it more and more the place he always intended it to be. He promises that one day Jesus will return and that heaven and earth will be renewed. He insists that we will be resurrected so that we may enjoy the fulfillment of his promise and his dream for all creation.

“The Christian life is a quest to recover our humanity.” 12

“You have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.” 13

“The principalities and powers that kept us in exile have been defeated; they need reminding of this, and we need reminding of it too, but it is a fact – if it isn’t, the cross was a failure.” 14

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

“Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” 15

“The story of Scripture is the story of ‘Emmanuel’, for it describes how God progressively comes to live with us on our planet, at each appearance staying longer and in more permanent form.” 16

“Our destiny is an earthly one: a new earth, an earth redeemed and transfigured. An earth reunited with heaven, but an earth, nevertheless.” 17

“Scripture appears to teach not only that there shall be a new heaven and earth, but also that it shall be this earth, renewed. In Revelation 21 the city of God descends to us. We do not go to heaven; heaven comes to us.” 18


__________

1 Genesis 1:27
2 Psalm 8:5
3 Genesis 1:26
4 Heaven is Not My Home by Paul Marshall pg. 18
5 The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright pg. 184
6 Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga pg. 33
7 Plantinga pg. 44
8 The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard pg. 62,63
9 Plantinga pg. 24
10 Genesis 1
11 Plantinga pg. 53
12 Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer pg. 83
13 Colossians 3:9-10
14 Wright pg. 185
15 Revelation 21:3
16 Wittmer pg. 205
17 Marshall pg. 11
18 Plantinga pg. 32

Rob Bell: God wants to come down

bell.jpg

For many people, entire theological systems are built around us getting out of here. And so many presentations of the gospel are, “Do you wanna know how you can get outta here?” And yet the Scripture is the story not of people going up, the Bible is the story of God coming down. God wants to come down and he wants to take up residence in the midst of his people.

See, we have whole theological systems built around scaring the hell out of people so they won’t be left behind.

Alright…nobody got out a stake and set it on fire…I’ll keep going.

Be honest. Let’s be honest. Many presentations of the gospel are, “Hey, do you wanna know how to get outta here?” And the center of Jesus’ teachings is bringing God here.

Maybe you could say it this way (and this is not like either/or): Is the question, “How do I get into heaven” or “How do I get heaven here?” See, you have whole theological systems that are built on, “Some glad morning when this life is o’r, I’ll fly away.” Now what happens – and if that’s your favorite hymn, I’m sorry…kind of – what happens? And obviously we believe that when we die we go into God’s presence in heaven, this is obviously not some sort of denial of heaven, but nevertheless, if your theology is getting out of here, what subtly happens over the years?

And we need to just be brutally frank about this. What happens over time is this life becomes irrelevant, correct? If our message is “Hey, do you want to join us in getting out of here?” then what happens subtly over time is our message is really about some other places and we really have less & less to say about life now. And we have less & less the kind of eyes to see a whole world right here within this one, right here, right now.

And so we have to understand that the Bible is the story of a God who wants to come down and wants to inhabit this place, and take up residence in the midst of his people.

–Rob Bell, We’re Over Here teaching at Willow Creek, November 14, 2002