Saturday, 30 July 2011

Gems From Chesterton

From Here...

■“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”

■“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

■“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”

■“Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.”

■“All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive.”

■“What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.”

■“The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms.”

■“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”

The Last Rung?

"The emerging church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief."

A response to a review of Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins," from Here...

He (Bell)really does sound like a Unitarian pastor who thinks religion is a set of nice stories, all fictional but having literature's insights into human life (so contradictions are beside the point). People make their own hells or heavens, all purely natural, and eternal life is just a metaphor for the eternity of the present moment. God is a useful fiction, and we shouldn't disturb each other's fictions unless they cause people to behave badly, but there is never any actual supernatural intervention. And if somebody's stories cause them to start doing things that don't have useful consequences in this life--if they start fasting too much, or feeling too guilty, or making real-world decisions based on God's existence--then those are bad stories. Jesus is a good story too, because it is a story of love and sacrifice, and Jesus has saved many people by being the protagonist in a story that has caused such good. But not only is there is no substitutionary atonement, it does not even matter whether Jesus really existed or not--it is the story that matters, not any facts that might underlie the story.

Well said, I think.

Take Care

Monday, 18 July 2011

More Dishonesty From Rob Bell

In his chapter on Hell, Bell, as is his style throughout the whole book, doesn't really give a straight answer, but seems to go out of his way to say that there is no hell as we have understood it; that is, a place of punishment for the wicked after death. I'm not quite sure what his point actually is, but he takes the Greek word, "gehenna," which is translated as "hell" in the Gospels, and seems to trivialize it. He points out, quite rightly, that it refers to the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem, but says, in one of the silliest quips ever,
So the next time someone asks you if you believe in an actual hell, you can always say, "Yes, I do believe that my garbage goes somewhere."
I'm guessing (because as far as I can tell, he never does say) that he is trying to dispel the notion of a place of punishment for the wicked after death, whether eternal or not, pushing the notion that hell is something we create for ourselves in the here and now.

But in our gospel reading this past Sunday, we read Matthew 13, where, in both the parable of the weeds (vv 24-30; 37-43) and of the net (47-50) Jesus speaks very clearly about the punishment of the wicked in, "...the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Once again, Bell seems to quote only those verses he can twist to suit his point of view, while ignoring those he can't, all the while, I assume, hoping his audience will not exmine his arguments too closely.

Take Care

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Rob Bell; Love Wins; Credibility Suffers

Rob Bell is either naive, or intellectually stilted, having never progressed beyond an adolescent level, or completely dishonest. I can't tell which. In chapter 1 of his book, "Love Wins," he poses a number of what I can only assume he considers to be clever rhetorical questions. I assume he thinks these questions will have some point to their asking. These questions all relate to how one may be saved. After listing a number of scriptural examples, he asks, (I will place his scripture references beside each question.)

"Is it what you say that saves you?" (Luke 7; Luke 18; Luke 23) (Bell doesn't give the verses; only the chapter, throughout the whole book. I'm not sure why)
"Is it about being born again?" (John 3)
"or being considered worthy?" (Luke 20)
"Is it... who we forgive?" (Matthew 6)
"or whether we do the will of God?" (Mat 7)
"or if we stand firm or not?" (Mat 10)
"or is it what we say we're going to do?" (story of Zacchaeus Luke 19)
"or is it who your friends are or what your friends do?" (Mark 2)

Bell then seems to belittle the Apostle Paul's conversion, quoting Luke's recounting of Paul's recollection of it in Acts 22 rather than Luke's more detailed account of it in Acts 9. I quote from the book.
These questions bring us to one of the first "conversion" stories of the early church. We read in Acts 22 about a man named Saul (later, Paul) who is travelling to the city of Damascus to persecute Christians when he hears a voice ask him, "Why do you persecute me?"
He responds, "who are you, Lord?"
The voice then replies: "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting... Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that you have been assigned to do."
That's his "conversion" experience?

The punctuation and the quotation marks around the word, "conversion" are Bell's own. He then goes on to ask, regarding how one is saved,

"Or is it what questions you're asked?
Or is it what questions you ask in return?
Or is it whether you do what you're told and go into the city?"

He then remarks, referencing James chapter 2 and Luke 7;

"So demons believe,
and washing Jesus's feet with your tears gets your sins forgiven.

There is only one way one is saved; by coming through faith into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, being spiritually reborn and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Every example Bell gives in his attempt to confuse the issue is either a fruit , a result or shows evidence of this event and resulting relationship. I can only marvel in incredulity at what must be either Bell's naivety, blindness or disingenuousness in thinking these questions of his actually accomplish valid points.

Take Care