______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Baby with the Bathwater? November 29, 2010

Often, when I’ve heard the phrase “Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater,” I’ve thought to myself,
“Maybe the baby is evil. Maybe it needs to die!” I don’t know that I’ve actually ever said it out loud.
But, in that vein, here’s a Q & R from Frank Viola’s blog about that very thing:

Question: Frank, I gave Pagan Christianity to some friends and their response was, “Barna and Viola make a lot of good points, but they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I’ve heard this so many times that if I hear it again, I’m going to scream. What’s your response to that line?

Answer: I think there’s only one baby worth saving – it’s the babe of Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else can be parted with and most of it is clutter. To call the clergy system, the hierarchical/business-patterned leadership structure, the Sunday morning Protestant ritual, the billions of dollars we spend on church buildings and overhead “the baby” is ludicrous in my opinion.

From the place where I’m standing, it seems to me that what we’ve done is substitute the bathwater for the baby, tossing the latter and keeping the former.

In the words of biblical scholar Jon Zens,

It seems to me that we have made normative that for which there is no Scriptural warrant (emphasis on one man’s ministry), and we have omitted that for which there is ample Scriptural support (emphasis on one another) . . . we have exalted that for which there is no evidence, and neglected that for which there is abundant evidence.

But let me think about your question some more and I’ll tell you how I really feel about it. 🙂

Here’s a link to the Frank Viola blog:


Velvet Elvis November 18, 2010

Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith”
by Rob Bell

“Some people’s faith is like a trampoline ~ it bends & flexes & moves (springs = doctrines)… for others, their faith is like a wall of bricks ~ pull one out to examine it, and the whole thing becomes unstable & threatens to crumble (bricks = doctrines).”
— a Book Cafe paraphrase of page 26 of “Velvet Elvis.”

I’ve just finished my re-read of “Velvet Elvis.”  It was even better than I remembered!
I wish everyone would read this book.

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. On a scale of 1 to 10, “This one goes to 11“.

I found this to be an engaging, enlightening, and thought provoking book. There were many historical aspects that I had never heard before. “Real world” explanations of phrases like “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” There’s a great discourse on Jesus’ talk about hell (gehenna) referring to an existing valley in their area where “fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it.”

Knowing the actual cultural references totally changes how we understand Scripture. This book uses LOTS of historical context in approaching the Bible.

The historical aspects, though fascinating, were not the main attraction. This book is about making following Christ alive and real in this world, and in this time. It’s about engaging our culture, our neighbors, and even our planet in a living and vital way…the way Jesus did. Christ’s teachings about salvation were about how to live…NOT about waiting to die and “the sweet by and by.”

Velvet Elvis will challenge your preconceived notions. It will expand your understanding.

It is not the final word on Christianity, as the author makes clear. Beware of anyone else who thinks they have that final word, even if (or especially if) they “just believe the Bible.”

I’ve read a number of other reviews of this book. It seems to have very extreme reactions. People really like it, or they label Mr. Bell as a heretic. Of course, the institutionalized church has pretty much always killed the prophets.

Anyway, like it or hate it, it’s a very interesting read. One which I highly recommend.

Here are 3 reviews from other people:

Not sure why it took me so long to read this, but I am so glad I finally picked it up and made it happen. This book is a bit difficult to describe since Bell writes in a non-traditional format. It’s fitting though because for much of Velvet Elvis, Bell is asking the reader to step back from our tainted perspective of Christianity and reshape what it means to be a follower of Christ. He does this with personal insights, Biblical study as well as historical research.
Although this is a short book, it’s filled with powerful insights that every person will have to grapple with – whether you believe in Christ or not. By the end of my reading, having underlined and circled so many things, I was forced to go back and review all the statements and questions that had affected me both personally and theologically. Highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to dig deeper into their faith, truth and themselves.
— Jay Newland

This book will challenge the boundaries of your faith. You will doubt some of the things Rob says. I doubted some of his statements while reading the book, and in fact I still doubt some of them. I think that is the beauty of it.
We don’t have to agree on every point. Some of the things he wrote are extraordinary, and I wish I wrote them. I could not agree more.
We have a dynamic faith and will never have everything figured out and, yes, we will never agree on everything. But we are all part of God’s family. Can we not see that, stop fighting and start changing the world? Please.
Velvet Elvis is an excellent painting, beautiful to look at. It is a marvelous conversation. But it will challenge you to think. Long and hard!
Enjoy it!
— Dries Cronje

I love this book. Rob nailed point after point that I really feel are valid praises and criticisms of the church and the mindsets in which we tend to put ourselves. Ultimately, I think Rob wants us to be informed people. People thirsting for Truth. People who won’t just zombie around at the instruction of every “bible-preaching” pastor or church that claims good things. He makes his point clear: There is no such thing as a church who “just follows the bible,” as if God had intended the bible to be a reader’s manual like the one that comes with your toaster. Everyone is submitting themselves to biblical interpretation and biblical teaching. This is exactly why we should be vigilant, mindful, and truth-seeking. Thanks, Rob, for thoughtful Church culture exegesis and honest reflection. It is clear that the truths of God have sunk deep into the author and he’s writing from a place of deep reflection.
— Nathan Paul Verschaetse

And Some Quotes:

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

“What is accepted today as tradition was, at one point in time, a break from tradition.”

“Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

“God has spoken, and everything else is commentary.”

“Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.”

“[The Bible] has to be interpreted. And if it isn’t interpreted, then it can’t be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”

“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, “God shows no favoritism.” So we don’t either.”

“In the accounts of Jesus’ life…we never find him chasing after someone. If anybody didn’t have a messiah complex, it was Jesus.”

“…to be able to quote these [pagan] prophets & poets, Paul obviously had to read them. And study them. And analyze them. And, I’m sure he came across all sorts of things in their writings that he didn’t agree with. So he sifts & sorts & separates the light from the dark, and then claims & quotes the parts that are true.”

“God blesses everybody. People who don’t believe in God. People who are opposed to God. People who do violent, evil things.”

“I live with the understanding that truth is bigger than any religion & the world is God’s & everything in it.”

Paul sees their insistence on a reversion to the customs of Moses as a form of violence. When people are manipulated with guilt and fear, when they are told that if they don’t do certain things they’ll be illegitimate, judged, condemned, sent to hell forever – that’s violence.

Imagine how dangerous it would be if there were Christians who skipped over the first-century meaning of John’s letter and focused only on whatever it might be saying about future events, years and years away. There is always the chance that in missing the point, they may in the process be participation the and supporting and funding the various kinds of systems that the letter warns against participating in, supporting, and funding. [People then weren’t thinking] “this is going to be really helpful for people two thousand years from now who don’t want to get left behind..” It’s a letter written to a real group of people, in a real place, at a real time. Christians were being killed by the empire because they would not participate.

What [Jesus] is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers authority to make new interpretations of the Bible. He is giving them permission to say, “Hey, we think we missed it before on that verse, and we’ve recently come to the conclusion that this is what it actually means. – R. Bell

Read more reviews, and buy the book at:
Life Walk Store


Facts On Marriage Equality November 10, 2010

Marriage is about committed couples who want to make a lifelong promise to take care of and be responsible for each other—that’s true of same-sex couples, too. Straight and gay couples want to marry for the same reasons, to build a life with the person they love.

Ending the exclusion of gay people from marriage would not change the “definition” of marriage, but it would remove a discriminatory barrier from the path of people who have made a personal commitment to each other and are now ready and willing to take on the responsibilities and legal commitment of marriage. These couples are asking to be included in the current definition of marriage: love, commitment and security shared between two people. When same-sex couples marry, they don’t change the “definition” of anyone else’s marriage.

Extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples would not compel any church or clergy to marry gay and lesbian couples. It would allow clergy members who wish to marry same-sex couples to do so. Churches have long been able to decide who they would and would not marry whether it’s divorced individuals looking to remarry or interfaith couples.

Read more. Get the facts at:

Also read what Justin has to say at:
Justin’s View

And my Footnote from a previous article.


Bad Theology and Crazy Politics November 3, 2010

Bad Theology and Crazy Politics (Why the Republicans Won)
– by Frank Schaeffer

One reason the Republicans won on Tuesday is because many of their supporters have already given up on this world and are waiting for the next. I know, I used to be one of them.

Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of sixteen novels (so far) represents everything that is most deranged about religion. It also is a reason and symptom of the hysteria that grips so many “conservatives” in the Republican Party. Frankly: to borrow from Jon Stewart they do believe that these are the “End Times” not just “hard times.”

My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. My mother Edith was also a spiritual leader, not the mere power behind her man, which she was. Mom was a formidable and adored religious figure whose books and public speaking, not to mention biblical conditioning of me, directly and indirectly shaped millions of lives and ruined quite a few too.

For a time I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement. In the 1970s and early 80s when I was in my twenties I evolved into an ambitious, “successful” religious leader/instigator in my own right.

I changed my mind for reasons I describe in my book Patience With God (just published in paperback). I no longer ride around with the likes of Mike Huckabee (who named my Dad’s fundamentalist books his favorites) “saving” America for God, nor am I a regular on religious TV and radio these days.

I still see a religious connection in public policy though that I think a lot of commentators miss — for instance, that lots of the energy behind this mid-term election came from the ghosts of the Religious Right.

The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children’s books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the “other,” as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who do abortions, and possibly even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.

And now that the “death panel” republicans who also claimed Obama is the Antichrist are in power, maybe its time to take a look at the religious insanity that beats at the heart of their movement.

No, I am not blaming Jenkins and LaHaye’s product line for murder or racism or any other evil intent or result. What I am saying is that unless you take the time to understand the End Times folks you will never “get” the mid-term election result.

Feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals. It’s also one of the big reasons that the nutty fringe is now the “center.” If you believe the Bible is literal and true and that this is the “End” then the crazies look sane and the sane look crazy. Welcome to the new congress.

And convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos (or from the first black president) that will be the “prelude” to the “Return of Christ,” is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion. Glenn Beck cashes in on this when he sells gold on TV and survivalist gear.

But this End Times cult may also not be the best philosophy on which to build American foreign policy! The momentum toward what amounts to a whole subculture seceding from the union (in order to await “The End”) is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens.

Enter the “new” Tea Party candidates.

The evangelical/fundamentalists/Republican Far Right — and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008 and now in the mid-term lashing out, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then dominant Republican Party — are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. .

As I explain in my book Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion Revelation was the last book to be included in the New Testament. It was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during Advent. But both Rome and the East were highly suspicious of the book. The West included the book in the lectionary late and sparingly. In other words, the book of the Bible that the historical Church found most problematic is the one that American Evangelicals latched on to like flies on you know what.
Don’t stop now!
Read the rest of this VERY interesting and thought provoking article. CLICK HERE.


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