You are the Gospel!- Rob Bell and the Anathema of “The Resurrection Rescue”

July 27, 2009

Clicking a link to something called “the Good News according to Rob Bell” is like hearing an episode of Friends is on TBS– you’ve already seen the show a hundred times but you watch anyways just in case.  So, I clicked it, pretty sure what I’d get, but attentive to see if there was anything redeemable.  Alas, it’s the one where he says Rachel’s name at the wedding again.

The video opens with Bell doing what he does best: standing still in Weezer-glasses, giving a “history lesson” on Judaism and the Roman Empire, denying all of the things evangelicals say and playing the tune of oppression of the poor and powerless.  Actually, it ends pretty much the same way too.  However, I did grab a bit of the transcript just for us to look at:

The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it. And so yes, this has a deeply personal dimension to it. Jesus is saving me. He’s saving me from my sins, from my mistakes, from my pride, from my indifference to the suffering of the world around me, from my cynicism and despair. The brokenness I see in the world around me is true of my own soul, and so he’s rescuing me, moment by moment, day by day, because God wants to put it all back together—you, me, the whole world. And so he starts deep inside each of us with our awareness that we need help, that we need saving, that we need rescuing. And then he begins to show us step by step what it looks like to put flesh and blood on this gospel. Because we all fall short, and that’s the beautiful part. Broken, flawed, vulnerable people like you and me are invited to be the hands and feet of a Jesus who loves us exactly as we are and yet loves us way too much to let us stay that way.

I believe. I believe because I see. I see the resurrection all around me. If people only had your life and they were asked the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?,” how would they answer? Has he? May you be a “yes” to the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?” And may you come to see, may you understand, that you are the good news. You are the gospel.

Where to begin?  Well, let’s start at the beginning.  ”The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it.”  I wonder where he got that from?  Empty tomb?  Okay.  God hasn’t given up?  Sure.  Resurrection rescue??  No atonement??

Rob Bell amazes me.  In a day when everyone wants to attack the atonement and what was accomplished on the cross, he just avoids altogether.  Honestly, I have listened to Bell enough to know that to him Jesus’ death on the cross was just a way to get him dead.  Nothing else.  At times he tries to add some sort of atonement in there, but it’s never very sincere.  Nope.  For Bell, the rescue is accomplished at the resurrection, and now that Christ is resurrected, “[he] is saving me.”  That’s funny, since Hebrews 10 tells us that,

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (vv.11-14)

So, who’s right?  Is it Bell who tells us that Jesus is raised from the dead to go around saving us “step by step”, or is it the Bible which says that Christ offered “a single sacrifice for sins [and then] sat down at the right hand of God” waiting for the second coming?  Is our salvation is “moment by moment, day by day” rescue, or is it the case that “a single sacrifice has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified“?

Clearly for Bell there are only two options: either he out and out denies what the Bible says about the atonement and Christ’s completed work of redemption, or . . . wait, I guess there’s only one option.  If our rescuing requires Christ’s continual work, then Hebrews is false and salvation is not secured by the cross.  Is that a bet you wnat to take?

Which of course leads into my other issue, namely that “You are the gospel.”  Really?  Is that what we’re told to do?  Are we supposed to be pointing to ourselves to lead people to God?  Are the claims of the Bible only as good as my witness?  I’ll concede that there may be good intention here, but the execution is very poor.  Right from the beginning the point is to minimize ourselves and point to Christ (cf. John 3.30), so to place the final emphasis on the believer and not somewhere more biblical, like say, Christ on the cross (cf. Galatians 2.20), is probably a bad course of action.

But like I said, what do you expect?  Everyone knows they we’re on a break, and everyone knows that each new Rob Bell production brigs us one step closer to universalism.  At least he looks cool distorting the gospel though.

Faith in the Time of Pluralism- Obama Communicates the Mantra of the Masses

June 1, 2009

Last week Al Mohler posted a column entitled “Talking About Talking About Abortion” in which he confronted the rhetoric being used by President Barack Obama to address the issue of abortion during his controversial commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame.  While Mohler’s point was to look at the substance of Obama’s public position on the abortion issue, there was something seemingly insignificant in the quote he pulled that got me thinking.  I have reproduced the quote in an extended form below so that you may see what I’m talking about:

“[W]e must find a way to live together as one human family. . . . For the major threats we face in the 21st century — whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease — these things do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.” (Barack Obama, 17 May 2009, University of Notre Dame)

Did you see it?  Look again:

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone (!)

No one person can meet the challenges of recession, extremism, nuclear proliferation, disease?! Does not our president claim to be a Christian?  And doesn’t the Christian Scripture speak clearly on just this issue?  Is not Christ the reconciliation of all things (2 Corinthians 5.19)?  Is not all of creation groaning in anticipation for its renewal that Christ’s redemption will bring (Romans 8.18-25)?  Does God not guarantee that one day He will wipe away every tear and pain shall be no more (Revelation 21.4)?  

But how does this occur?:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)

“And there is salvation in no one else [but through Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3.36)

So, according to the Bible, the book which contains all the knowledge of Obama’s faith, there is but one person who can meet all these challenges, that being the God-Man Jesus Christ.  Yet instead of acknowledging this it is far safer to hide under the political hem-and-haw of pluralism.  

But Obama is a politician, not a theologian, so possible it is just the case that understanding the sufficiency of Christ is something which is above his pay grade.  However, looking to the theological world it doesn’t get much better, as our good friends Rob Bell and Brian McLaren demonstrate:

“Jesus at one point claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are…. Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain with their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” (Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy)

Very nice!  As you can see, this type of pluralistic, double-speak heresy is not just political posturing, it is also the blasphemy du jour in the emergent church.  

We must be on our guard.  What Obama said was so slight and yet is so pervasive in our culture.  The fact that a statement denying the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel can simply fly under our radars speaks volumes to how poor an understanding of Scripture most people who claim to be “Christians” really have.  This should be offensive to us, this should cause an outrage.  Instead we just cheer and cover our ears until the day comes when we are confronted with the truth, no matter how un-p.c. it turns out to be!

Wine and Strong Drink: What the Masses Desire- Micah 2.11 and the Contemporary Landscape of People Pleasing

May 3, 2009

For today’s post I want to elaborate a little further on what I said yesterday, talking about how the psychologizing and softening of the biblical message is leading to many false gospels in the popular culture.  I would like to do this in light of the following verse:

If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people! (Micah 2.11)

The moment I read this verse it pierced my mind as a clear evaluation of Christianity in America today.  I’m not going to dialogue much, at least not yet, but I just want to pin this passage up against three quotes from three popular teachers espousing three weak, feel good, pandering theologies in best-selling books and media.  The three theologies are the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, contemporary justification by good works (or modern pelagianism), and Christian universalism.

  • Health, wealth and prosperity

[Y]ou can accomplish your dreams before you go to heaven! How can you do that? By tapping into God’s power inside of you. . . .  Please understand that [sin, mistakes, bad attitudes, &tc.] are all things from which you have already been set free. But here’s the catch: If you don’t appreciate and take advantage of your freedom, if you don’t get your thoughts, your words, your attitudes going in the right direction, it won’t do you any good.

 You may be sitting back waiting on God to do something supernatural in your life, but the truth is, God is waiting on you. You must rise up in your authority, have a little backbone and determination, and say, ‘I am not going to live my life in mediocrity, bound by addictions, negative and defeated. (Joel Osteen, Become a Better You, p.41)

  • Modern pelagianism

Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which version of reality we trust. . . . Jesus measures [people's] eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived, specifically in regard to the hell around them (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.146, 148)

  • Christian universalism

Here’s what I’d say. Judgment is real. Accountability is real. A good, just, reconciling, loving, living God is in everybody’s future. The danger of wasting your life and ruining other people’s lives is real. Whatever road you take, you’ll end up facing God, and that means you’ll face the truth about your life– what you’ve done, who you have become, who you truly are. That’s good news– unless you’re a bad dude, you know, unjust, hateful, unmerciful, ungenerous, selfish, lustful, greedy, hard-hearted toward God and your neighbor. You know, if God judges, forgives, and eliminates all the bad stuff, there might not be much left of you– maybe not enough to enjoy heaven, maybe not enough to feel too much in hell either. (Brian McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That, p.137)

Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell] . . .   Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I’d rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important. (Brian McLaren, Christianity Today, 5 May 2006)

What We Believe- Article II, God (part 2)

January 15, 2009

Following the prologue and general overview of God that we looked at previously the BF&M moves into a subarticle concerning God the Father:

A. God the Father

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.

I do not believe that this statement could be improved upon. They accurately represent as God as sovereign over “human history,” directing things “according to the purposes of His grace.” I particularly like how they emphasize the nature of adoption, saying that “God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

The final comment, that “[God] is fatherly in His attitude toward all men” is interesting in the fact that I think there is an increasing movement among evangelicals to include more here. Just look at all of the arguments around for “God the Mother,” drawing off of brief images and nuances of speech in certain OT passages (cf. Isaiah 49:14-15; 66:13; Psalm 131:2-3). Even supercool Rob Bell has a supercool Nooma video out entitled She which asks “”When we omit the feminine, are we missing a very fundamental part of [God's] nature?” However, what I think people are missing here is that the idea of God the Father is most prevalent from the way that Christ relates to him. Yes, God may and does have “feminine” characteristics, but in relating to his people, say for instance in “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6.9-13), God is portrayed as Father alone. There is a major difference between displaying feminine qualities and assuming a feminine role and when we overlook that or ignore it we begin to venture off into awkward, if not bad, theology. It is simply a symptom of our hyper-perverse and scatterbrained culture that we become so adamant to force this secular egalitarian philosophy into everything, even places were it clearly does not belong.

The second subarticle has do with God incarnated as Christ:

B. God the Son

Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.

Again I believe this is a wonderful description of the life and workings of Jesus Christ. The writers make sure to emphasize his virgin birth and full deity, two aspects of Christ which many Christians throughout history have felt were up for debate, particularly in our current period of modernity and “scientific enlightenment.” We are also treated to the triple picture of Christ as prophet (he “perfectly revealed and did the will of God”), priest (“He is the One Mediator . . . in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man”), and king (“He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God”). As well, his second coming in glory, “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 12.28 ) among other things, is foretold.

One important addition that we find in the 2000 revision of the BF&M is in the passage that talks about Christ’s death. The 2000 version reads, “in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.” Where this differs from the 1963 version is in the inclusion of the word “substitutionary.” Such a small word but such a big deal. There are so many theories abounding today which proclaim Christ’s death on the cross as simply an example of suffering or as a mistake which God later turned to his good, all the while trying to deny a substitutionary atonement on claims that to necessitate Christ going through such a thing would be nothing more than “cosmic child abuse” by the Father. We can breath a sigh of relief then knowing that, at least on paper, the standard of orthodoxy in the SBC recognizes that not only did Christ die on the cross, but that it was foreordained and necessary for him to do so in order that he might be “made to be sin” on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5.21a) and so “the record of debt that stood against us” may be canceled (Colossians 2.13-14), allowing us to “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21b).

New Calvinism as News- Article on Driscoll in the NY Times

January 12, 2009

One of my friends brought this article to my attention. It seems good ol’ Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church out in Seattle have managed to make it onto the radar of the national news media with a long piece dedicated to him and the church in this Sunday’s issue of The New York Times Magazine. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

On the one hand, this article reads much more intelligently about Christianity and evangelicalism than just about any piece I’ve ever come across in the mainstream media. There is a point in it where the journalist even casts a not so positive light on media darlings Joel Osteen and Bill Hybels, associating them with what Ed Stetzer is quoted as saying is “the atheological, consumer-driven nature of the modern evangelical machine.” It also spends a decent amount of time playing up the values of Calvinism and speaking of complementarianism as something more than just a sexist power grab.

However, on the other end, the article doesn’t always make Calvinism out to be what it really is, focusing more on a cold, hard determinism than on a loving God who sovereign elects and works to complete the salvation of people who were undeserving of any such grace. And when it comes to Driscoll they make him out to be “the cussing pastor,” the strict authoritarian, the guy who gets down and dirty talking about sex, and in the end even as a Big Brother-type character peering down on the seven Mars Hill locales.

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and believing in a sovereign God I know that he can use an article of this nature to open eyes. I fear such a thing getting into the NY Times, since usually this only happens to evangelicals when they are lining you up to watch for your mistakes. However, it being there at all is a clear sign that good theology and biblical orthodoxy is on the rise is America, and I will take a less-than-favorable article about a preacher like Mark Driscoll over an article proclaiming Rob Bell as being the next Billy Graham any day.

To read the article yourself click here.

Welcome Words from the 1600′s- Richard Baxter on Every Generation’s Battle

October 8, 2008

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” -2 Timothy 3.16

As I have written before, echoing the words of men like Al Mohler and John Piper, it is every generation’s battle to determine whether they will stand on the authority of Scripture or not. In light of this thought, I found it refreshing to see the call to arms for standing on God’s One Inspired Word, turning away the philosophies and ponderings of imperfect man, tucked inside of a classic work of Christian thought.

The piece I am talking about is Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. I am about two-thirds of the way through this treatise right now and already I know that it will be a book I come back to for years as a guide on the pastoral ministry. Baxter speaks with such clarity and passion on the issues he sets out to deal with that it is hard to imagine him fitting the mold of the cliched stuffy-shirt Puritans.

In the close of his discourse on how ministers should exercise the oversight of their flocks (taken from Acts 20.28) Baxter says these words:

The Scripture sufficiency must be maintained, and nothing beyond it imposed on others; and if papists, or others, call to us for the standard and rule of our religion, it is the Bible that we must show them, rather than any confessions of churches, or writings of men.

This is such an incredible declaration. How often do we find Christians trying to define their faith by pointing to the current fad in Christian publishing (think Blue Like Jazz, Velvet Elvis, A Generous Orthodoxy, or The Shack) when all that is need and sufficient is the collected Word of God in the Bible? Or even among my own Calvinist friends, how fast are we to want to bind people by their confessions of faith, the same confessions which Baxter is decrying here (This book was published in 1656, the Westminster Confession of Faith was written in 1646)? This is a stern reminder that there must never be anything which we would refer to in place of the Bible when we are looking to defend or guide or lives as children of God.

Everything May be Spiritual, but Only the Gospel Saves- A Commentary on Acts 10.1-11.18

September 2, 2008

And Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.” So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.’” -Acts 10.30-33

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” -Romans 10.14-17

One of the most overlooked New Testament stories, in my opinion, is the interaction between Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11. And even when we do focus on this it seems that all we say is “And here we see the Gospel opened up to the Gentiles” (which is true, don’t get me wrong, but just read on). However, I think in focusing on that we miss a really interesting commentary which speaks to a large objection to orthodoxy arising in our emerging culture these days.

It’s cool to be semi-universalist. On the heels of Rob Bell’s tour Everything is Spiritual and in light of past comments by figures such as Brian McLaren and Billy Graham, we see a swelling tide towards, if not universalism, at least a universalism where all “spiritual people” are saved. The idea from Bell is that the Gospel is Jesus telling us that we live in an “integrated holistic spirituality” and so, as in his title, everything we do is spiritual, and de facto, everything we do is worship to God (a thesis which, think about it for a minute, is completely false).

But, instead of fighting over the words of men, let’s look at what the Word of God says in Acts 10 and 11. This passage presents us with the story of a non-proselyte Roman centurion who, though not officially a Jew, nevertheless offered devotion to and feared the one-true God (Acts 10.1-2, 28 ), and as a result of his devotion God decides to use him as the entry point of the Holy Spirit and salvation to the Gentiles. This we usually state and then move on to Peter’s vision and the eventual evangelization and regeneration of the Gentile gathering. But, let’s take a closer look at the setup.

Who are we presented with? A non-Jewish Roman who through some set of circumstances and interactions has taken to worshiping the one-true God. We know that his worship is of the God of the Jews because the text states that he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household.” So, not only is Cornelius spiritual, but his spirituality is directed towards the living God, even though he is not a member of God’s covenant people Israel. And what does this spirituality get him? Under popular theology that is enough. Cornelius is a spiritual person, living a spiritual life, and doing his best to please whatever God is there. This seems to be the criteria in our society, and certainly in the theology expressed by people like Graham, for salvation. For all intents and purposes Cornelius should expect to find himself in heaven when it’s all said and done just by what he has already demonstrated.

Yet is it enough? Is his spirituality and devotion enough? Using no other text besides Acts 10 and 11 I would argue that the answer is a resounding “No.” Why do I say this? Well, look what happens. First, we see that an angel comes to him and delivers a cryptic message about sending men to Joppa to retrieve the apostle Peter (10.3-6). Then, when the men return with Peter we see that Peter’s response to why God called him was to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected to this gathering of Gentiles (10.34-43). Upon hearing the Gospel the Gentiles receive the gifting of the Holy Spirit and are baptized by Peter and the believers that accompanied him as a sign that they have gained salvation and been brought into the covenant people of God (10.44-48). Finally, after all of this, we see Peter testify to the fact that he was brought to give the message of how Cornelius “[would] be saved” (11.14).

Do you see it? Peter came to preach how Cornelius “[would] be saved.” As in, he wasn’t saved already. Regardless of his spirituality and devotion, it was not until he believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Cornelius was saved. He was even devoted to the one-true God and yet that still was not enough without his ascending in faith to the message of the Cross. If Peter or someone else had not come and presented the Gospel then Cornelius would never have been saved, no matter how spiritual and good of a life he led.

And still people miss this. It is clear as day. If Jesus saying “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” is not enough (as Rob Bell argues in Velvet Elvis) then hopefully this testimony will be sufficient to convince us. There is no salvation without faith in Christ. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). Please get this, lives are at stake. It may not be cool, but at least people won’t be going to hell because we wanted to feel good about ourselves and be liked.

Wandering in Wonderland- A Commentary on Emergent Motivations

August 9, 2008

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“- so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Continuing on the idea which I have been developing about the emergent attack upon identity, I would also like to point out that in fighting against identity the post-modern ideologies of emergent also seem to be fighting against ultimate ends as well.

In as much as emergent weakens identity by erasing lines of distinction and fuzzing out moral clarity, they also destroy purpose by viewing as their ends some sort of vague spirituality. In fact, all one needs do is listen to Rob Bell in his stage production Everything is Spiritual and you will hear the emergent drumbeat that the gospel is Jesus coming to tell us that we are living in an “integrated, holistic spirituality” and that we don’t need to seek anything or anywhere else.


Or, maybe we can see how Rob Bell handles the question “How do you learn to redeem yourself from a mistake? How do you learn to overcome that on the inside and continue being a compassionate person?”:

“I think that many people pick up along the way that life is about destination, so they are taught it is about arriving, it’s about having all the answers, it’s about creating a nice box that you can sit in and defend. But my fundamental understanding is that life is a journey and journey is a fundamentally different way to understand life than destination. And on a journey all I am responsible for is the next step, and that’s all I’m ever asked for is the next step. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have to defend it all. I don’t have to have it all nailed down. And if you can shift from destination understanding to journey it frees you to take life as it comes, let it be what it is, and then do the next right thing.”

So, to the poster boy of emergent, the “next Billy Graham”, we see that an “integrated, holistic spirituality” is not about the destination, but instead it is about the journey and about being “free” to “do the next right thing.” Those words are so devoid of any meaning that it is almost laughable. But what should you expect? These words, though completely useless towards anything, particularly for a Christian, are also so dainty that they are sure not to offend anyone or polarize any conversation that they occur in. Which, of course, is the point.

Now, I’m as big a fan of Jack Kerouac and On the Road as anybody else, and I agree that Christ teaches us to be concerned with the journey and what we do in this life (Matthew 25.34-36, 28.18-20), but the thing we must recognize is what Lewis Carroll says in the opening quote, which he summarizes more succinctly like this: “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” To me, this is the error of emergent. They have become so focused on “the journey,” so focused on “compassion” and social justice, that they are open to taking any road to accomplish this, including roads which deny Christ.

In order to maintain peace those within the emergent circles have bent on the sin nature of homosexuality (either openly like Campolo or passively like McLaren). They have bent on the necessity of the substitutionary atonement (embracing the “cosmic child abuse” view of Chalke). They have bent on the existence of hell (through universalism like McLaren or by arguing that Hell is a state of living on earth like Bell). At any fork in the road where emergent would be forced to choose one way or the other, inevitably alienating some, they always try to take both. They do this because in the end, emergent is truly not concerned about the destination, they are not concerned with where you’re going. The only thing they ultimately care about is how you intolerant you are and how many trees you kill along the way.

Every Generation’s Battle- John Piper on the Correct View of Scripture

August 2, 2008

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” -2 Timothy 3.16

But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” -John 20.31

“The Battle for the Bible” often times is used in Southern Baptist circles to refer back to the period of debate in the 1970′s when the claim of Scriptural inerrancy was questioned strongly and evangelicals had to make a decision which way to go. Should we deny inerrancy and move more towards the liberal theology of many mainline denominations or should we uphold inerrancy and cement ourselves as the true conservative position in the church?

Today, more widely, the Battle for the Bible has come to mean the struggle over inerrancy along with debates over appropriate hermeneutics to use, how much authority does Scripture have over our lives, and is the Bible the only spiritual text which reveals God to us. It is in light of this type of continuing debate that leaders such as Albert Mohler comment that every generation must decide if they are going to stand on the authority of Scripture or not, every generation must fight the Battle for the Bible.

For our generation, I think the time is now. Look at the landscape: teachers like Rob Bell invoke trajectory hermeneutics to liberalize Scripture into accepting current moralities which are specifically opposed in the Bible; in their book The Lost Message of Jesus, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann refer to God’s crushing Christ for our iniquities (Isaiah 53.5) as a form of “cosmic child abuse”; Brian McLaren (the liaison to evangelicals for Barack Obama) runs around the country questioning the existence of hell and a literal second coming, at times even proposing a sort of universalism; multiple denominations are facing splits due to some ramifications of a refusal to stand on the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexuality is a sin. In all, our post-modern, post-Christian, emerging landscape is covered with major rifts which all center around the denying the inerrancy or supreme unique authority of Scripture.

To this effect, and to start our battle smartly, I want to give you guys a link to a wonderfully thorough handling of this material conducted earlier this year by John Piper. Over the course of 5 messages Dr. Piper argues what the Scriptures are, what we mean by their inerrancy and authority, why we should believe their message, and how this should inform our behavior. These messages are well researched and I believe will prove very beneficial to you as you begin to pick sides in this current Battle for the Bible.

This is important, please realize that. If we lose the Bible we lose God’s revelation of himself and any way of resting our church on the true authority of His Word over the broken philosophy of man. Put on the full armor, take up arms, and fight!

John Piper- Why We Believe the Bible

The Laodicean Project- Malachi Speaks to Our Emerging Bretheren

May 30, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me at how while reading the Bible you can come across certain verses that seem so appropriate for our modern/postmodern context that you almost forget they were written over 2000 years ago. It is such a reminder of how the problems we deal with today are problems that the people of God have always had to deal with. This is both comforting, because it helps you know that the things that are being said today have already been tried and argued and God has already come out on top, and frustrating, because you see that the church has really not come all that far in the 2000 years since Christ’s death.

The verse which spoke so heavily to me can be found in the book of the prophet Malachi in his prophecy to the Israelites as they continue working on rebuilding Jerusalem.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17)

This verse seems so pertinent to me in light of our last post concerning the emerging church and how they tend to struggle with losing their saltiness while out in the world. The reason why I think this is so is because in this one verse we see two claims that the emerging people are so frequent to make and we can see how God responds to them.

Working in reverse, the first statement we see is the question “Where is the God of justice?” So many are want to rail this claim against God, that he is unjust because he appears to be sitting idly by while people suffer and die in poverty and obscurity or from painful sickness and disease. He seems to sit by while families are torn apart by drugs and cheap cons. Emerging leaders such as Brian McLaren are so concerned with injustice that it becomes the focal point of who they are and what their ministry preaches, like his book The Secret Message of Jesus. Bart Ehrman wrote a book on this called God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer. Rob Bell is writing a book concerning social justice to be released in the fall called Jesus Came to Save Christians. The Emerging Church views God’s inability, or the inability of God’s people, to end suffering and promote social reform as the primary concern of the Church today. And yet, how does their evangelism prosper when they do such things? How does it help Brian McLaren’s ministry when he is arrested for protesting the federal budget?

The second statement made is that “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” This takes on various forms in the emerging church, but probably the most obvious is in their promotion of homosexuality. For whatever reason, the emerging church and gay rights have become inextricably intertwined. Whether it be the out-and-out acceptance of it by leaders such as Tony Campolo, or if it is the tacit acceptance by McLaren and his slippery line of “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” To me this type of response is beyond disingenuous. With the current climate of moral and social living in America, there should not be any person going into the ministry who is unsure where they stand on homosexuality. Go to the mountains like Jesus, or take three years out to study like Paul. But whatever you do, don’t go stand up in front of the people you are supposed to shepherd and tell them you don’t know what to do with probably the single most pressing moral issue of our time! It is the same with abortion, sex outside of marriage, alcohol and drug use, and manner of speech. The emerging church has decided that there are a set of things that they want to do, either out of their own desires or out of a desire to appease the world, and instead of calling things black and white as stated in the Bible, they hide under a cloud of cultural relativity and freedoms in Christ to maintain these behaviors. They pronounce what is evil as being good in the sight of God, even to the point that some consider God as being a universalist!

So what does the passage say is God’s response to all of this? “You have wearied the LORD with your words.” God says through Malachi that he has been wearied by these statements made by his people. To weary means to make jaded or exhausted. With their words, the people of God, and I believe the emerging church as well, have exhausted God. Not that he is tired, but that his patience and his exercise of mercy have been exhausted on them. And honestly, the last place I want to stand is on the brink of God removing his mercy. It is like when your mom says, “You’re getting on my last nerve,” only it is the most powerful being in the universe who is about to unleash his cosmic discipline upon you!

Of course, we may discuss the merits of these claims and argue over whether the things mentioned above are really sin, but as far as I see it, the emerging church needs to refocus their efforts on being the Salt and working to preserve God’s goodness and turn away from the attitudes which God has warned before lead to his weariness with them.