LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

faith_doubt

FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

SIN July 4, 2013

sin       [From “Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I’ve Crossed,” by Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer]


When people lose their jobs, aren’t promoted, are discriminated against, are treated differently, are described as “gay” as an insult, get kicked out of their churches, and are disowned by their families THAT is Sin!

The non-affirming of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the church is destroying families – at times with surprising violence – all in the name of God and holiness.
That is Sin!

Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.  A “welcoming-but-not-affirming policy is both self-contradictory and cruel.

________________________________________

The very notion of a “right” is that it places limits on the arbitrary power of the majority.  Equal rights shouldn’t be based on a vote. (via William Stacy Johnson)

The church historically has lagged behind government when it comes to issues of civil liberties.

The church should be on the front lines of the fight for the civil liberties of the oppressed.
The lyrics of the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ask, “How long must we sing this song?” How long are we going to cling to outdated notions of homosexuality and refuse to accept LGBTQ people into our midst?

_____________________________

Jay Bakker

Jay’s new book is, so far, fantastic! I’m just in 7 of 12 chapters (14, if you count the introduction and conclusion).
The above post is mostly about marriage equality, but that’s just this chapter. A lot of other issues are covered in these pages. This is my latest “Must Read” that I will be highly recommending to any and every reader, especially those who acknowledge faith in Christ.
[Of course, the “church” has often been the entity which has perpetrated the most vile and unholy sin, all in the name of God, and all while deceiving itself into believing it was the force attempting to eliminate sin.
To be fair, it has also been those of the Church (albeit the non-“fundamentalist” portion) who have fought for, and died for, the dignity, rights, and humanity of the oppressed. Who have, in fact, fought the sin of religious control and intolerance. – df]

For a different topic from the book, see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vvcr11lancq3see/Paul.docx

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

—————



Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Calling Evil Good February 21, 2012

I’m still amazed, amazingly, at how ones approach to scripture can flavor, alter, or completely reverse the meaning of a given passage.  I’ve heard countless sermons in institutional churches quoting scripture to defend the very religious system those verses were intended to condemn.  An instance that recently came to mind is Isaiah 5:20.

“Doom to you who call evil good and good evil, Who put darkness in place of light and light in place of darkness, Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Usually, I’ve heard this applied in a general “church vs. the world” context.  Reading the entire passage from a Christ-centered perspective we can begin to see how once again, the love of God has been perverted by religion.  True, this section does address “carousing.”

But its stronger focus is on spiritual insensitivity and social injustice.  Many often scoff at issues of social injustice, implying them to be of worldly concern.  In fact, as I’ve previously stated, these concerns are the gospel.  At least they are a large part of Jesus’ focus.


Back to calling “evil” good.
Could it be that once again our Western-world fundamentalist mind-set has clouded our vision?  Could it be that the ones condemning the world for calling evil good are those in fact guilty of this crime?

Consider these options:
– When we know that we are God’s house, could referencing any brick-and-mortar building as “God’s house” (something not done in the New Testament) be calling evil good?
– Isn’t emphasizing the avoidance of things like smoking and cussing, instead of focusing on how we treat others a form of calling evil good, and good evil?
– Is it possible that the very concept of a “just war” is calling evil good?
– And when we kill our enemies in the name of God and country, might that be calling  evil good?  Hey, I’m just asking you to consider the possibility.
– Are all the intensely “grace-a-phobic” religious people calling evil good when they relish in the idea that those who don’t see things their way are “going to hell”? (Don’t tell me you don’t know these people.  They’re very fond of believing that “They’ll get theirs someday!”)

– If the hate-filled, sign-carrying protesters constantly ignore the fact that, according to Ezekiel 16:49, the true sin of Sodom was the social injustice of ignoring the poor and the needy, are not they the ones actually calling evil good, and good evil, as they oppress our gay brothers and sisters in the Lord?
– Could insisting that old covenant tithing be observed by those under grace be calling evil good?


What other cherished teachings of religious institutions may share this unholy distortion?

I remember when I thought the term “fallen from grace” meant someone was involved in some kind of “gross sin.”  It was quite the revelation when I finally understood that, according to Galatians 5:4,  “falling from grace” meant living by the law!
Truly, that perversion of the good-news is calling “good” evil.

Like I indicated at the beginning, our preconceived notions bear heavy weight on what “we say ‘God says.'”
Once we begin the journey out of that religiously induced fog of legalism, we are free to start re-thinking our beliefs from a “Christ-centric” approach.

I can guarantee, that as we do this God’s grace will give new birth to our spirits, and new understanding as to what it means to “call evil good.”

–df

 

Frank Schaeffer On Michele Bachmann August 18, 2011

Ex-Evangelical Frank Schaeffer Denounces Michele Bachmann & Calls
Her Movement Anti-American.
This is a really good and informative verbal essay.
A man who’s “been there” exposes what “there” is all about.
He also wrote the book “Crazy For God,” which I’ve just started reading.





 

Love Wins March 31, 2011

Love Wins
A Book About Heaven, Hell, and
the Fate of Every Person Who ever Lived
— Rob Bell

NOW IN PAPERBACK!

Love Wins

The first thing that really needs to be pointed out:
Despite all the focus on the “hell” issue, this book, as it declares of itself, explores “a fairly vast expanse of topics.” Everything from “heaven and hell to God, Jesus, joy, violence,and the good news.”  Even the “age of accountability” is discussed.  It’s one of those issues where there are a lot of differing views. People like to agree that there is one, but no one knows what it is.  Mostly because it’s not in the Bible. We’ve created it so God has a good “out.” Now He doesn’t have to send babies to hell.

As with Bell’s previous books, there is plenty of historical and cultural context of the biblical narrative. I love that kind of material. It adds so much to proper understanding. It also tears down a lot of false beliefs.

We look at, not only the original language and meaning of words, but just as importantly, how the letters and stories of scripture were received and understood by the original audience. There is, to me, simply no true understanding of scripture without getting out of (as much as possible) the American Western mind-set.

I’ve said before that with over forty-thousand “Christian” denominations(1), most of whom disagree with each other, and still claiming to “just believe the Bible,” it should be obvious we’ve missed something major in our understanding and approach to our faith.

In “Love Wins” Rob asks which “God,” which “Jesus” we believe in. Some believe in a god who has them fly planes into towers. Some believe in a god who stands behind government sanctioned torture, if that’s what it takes to ensure our “freedom.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Love your enemies.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Blow them away in the Name of the Lord.”
I hear lots of Christians spouting things of which the God I know would NEVER be a part.

There’s much discussion of our responsibility to each other and to the Earth we were given to care for.  We see how much of the view “end-times” theology leads to disrespect and ill-will for others and our planet.

Then there’s this:  If I’m sent to “preach the gospel.”  What happens if I have a flat tire?  Will you go to hell because I didn’t get to you in time?
Is your salvation my responsibility?  If I’m to blame, how can you be held accountable.
(Reminder:  This is a book review.  Please do not send me responses to these questions without reading the book.  Thank you.)

Much of the religious furor and un-godly hatred toward Mr. Bell revolves around his writings about hell.
His discussion and views of heaven and hell are not new to me, so this book didn’t seem at all controversial. It probably would have at one time.
Early in this part of my journey, I felt disgust for ever being a person who could have believed many of the “monster-God” things I used to believe. This book addresses that, and helps us know that all of our journey is to be seen as necessary. It’s all a part of where we are now.
I’m not Samantha or Jeannie. I can’t instantly get to Indy from Fort Wayne. The only way to make that trip is to travel the space and time between here and there. Rob helps us see that all of that journey is sacred.

One of the things “Love Wins” does is help us examine the revelation of God in Christ in comparison to our various understandings of God. Will we believe “our version” of the divine story, or that of the Father?
In this context, we take a fresh look at the biblical story of the father and his two sons (often misleadingly called the story of the prodigal son). There are some truly great insights here.

This book is written in Rob’s usual style. Some have found fault with the very way he writes. I find it one of the things I greatly enjoy. His humor is also still intact.

Since so much has already been written about “Love Wins,” I’ve tried to keep this short; at least compared with my various “chapter by chapter” reviews.
This book is about so many things. But they all boil down to what kind of God we believe in. And, as Rob points out, whatever God we believe in, that’s the God we WILL be conformed to. That can be wonderful. That can be horrific.

PLEASE, don’t miss out on this book because of all the naysayers. I hope you NEVER avoid reading something because someone “warns” you about it. That may be one of the best indications you need to read it. Even if you don’t agree with it. Maybe, “especially” if you don’t agree with it.

Bottom line. I loved this book.
And I thank God that love wins.

-df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——————-

What Others Say:

Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this “good news”?

Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.

But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?

What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?

Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the “good news” is much, much better than we ever imagined.  (Amazon Product Description)
—————–

“One of the nation’s rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” (USA Today )

Buy the book. Click HERE.

—————–

Some Quotes:

There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous.

The discussion itself is divine.  Jesus responds to almost every question he’s asked with…
a question.

When we hear that a certain person has “rejected Christ,” we should first ask, “Which Christ?”
Some Jesuses should be rejected.

Honest business, redemptive art, honorable law, sustainable living, medicine, education, making a home, tending a garden – they’re all sacred tasks to be done in partnership with God now, because they will all go on in the age to come. In heaven, on earth. A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it.

The big words, the important words — “eternal life,” “treasure,” “heaven” — were all there in the conversation, but they weren’t used in the ways that many Christians use them.

“Here it is, a big beautiful fascinating world,” God says, “Do something with it!”

Jesus doesn’t tell people how to “go to heaven.”  It wasn’t what Jesus came to do.

In Jesus’s first-century Jewish world, they did not talk about a future life somewhere else.

Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have vastly different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives.

There’s a point to what the prophet interprets and understands to be God’s anger and wrath.”  It’s to teach the people, to correct them, to produce something new in them.

The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found.

We aren’t fixed, static beings — we change and morph as life unfolds.

A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all. It’s a cheap view of the world, because it’s a cheap view of God. It’s the gospel of goats, and it is lethal.

People choose to live in their own hells all the time.

Death, then resurrection.  This is true for ecosystems, food chains, the seasons — it’s true all across the environment.  Death gives way to life.

There is exclusivity [you’re in or you’re out].  There is inclusivity [Jesus doesn’t matter anymore].
Then there is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.  This kind insists that Jesus is the way, [but that not all] those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him.

We believe all sorts of things about ourselves.  What the gospel does is confront our version of our story with God’s version of our story.

Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue…that Jesus rescues us from God.  We do not need to be rescued from God.  God is the rescuer.

We shape our God, and then our God shapes us.

Our beliefs matter.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————–
(1) According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries, so there is overlapping of many denominations.
Center for the Study of Global Christianity (2011)

 

Jesus Wants To Save Christians January 15, 2011


By the end of the introduction I was hooked. Rob Bell remains one of the most insightful, intelligent, interesting, thought-provoking writers I’ve ever read. For this outing, he teams up with Don Golden.

“Jesus Wants To Save Christians” is rich, and I mean rich in historical and cultural context of the Biblical narrative.  I know that personally, once I put down the Bible as a rule book, and picked it back up as the narrative of God and man, it all started making more sense than ever.  This book continues my education in that vein.

This book starts off with the realization that we are “east of Eden.” Rob shows how the Bible repeatedly uses “east” for special emphasis. He speaks of how “something about how we relate to each other has been lost. Something is not right with the world.”

The Introduction talks about where we are as a people, as a nation, and as a world. He compares our current state of affairs with that of Jesus’ day:
“The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military might. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the “Son of God,” the “Prince of Peace,” and one of his propaganda slogans was “peace through victory.”
“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”

Chapter One is about Moses. It’s about Egypt, and the exodus. It’s about the “new Egypt” that God’s people, via religion, eventually created. “Egypt shows us how easily human nature bends toward using power to preserve privilege at the expense of the weak.”
We see Rob’s take on what it means that we are all called to be priests. We are called to be a holy nation “shaped not by greed, violence, and abusive power but by compassion, justice, and care for one’s neighbor.
We then look at the Ten Commandments, not as “strict rules given by a fire-breathing God to keep people in line,” but in their original context. In this light “the commandments take on all sorts of new meanings.” This is the most relevant, meaningful look at the often misused and misunderstood commandments given to Moses. It’s really amazing.
There’s a history lesson on Solomon like none I’ve ever thought of.  After the exodus, after God sets free the slaves, “Solomon is building a temple for the God who sets slaves free…
using slaves.
This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.” “Solomon is using his massive resources and wealth to build military bases to protect his…
massive resources and wealth.”
So much for “looking out for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.”
Chapter one also talks about the prophets God sent, the reaction to them, and exile in Babylon.

Chapter Two continues to discuss the Egypt/deliverance/Babylon themes. Still, “God always hears the cry of the oppressed.” We begin to see why the first exodus, and the first “marriage covenant” with God didn’t work out. “There’s an Egypt that we’re all born into, and that’s what we really need an exodus from.” This chapter takes us to the end of the Hebrew scriptures, also called the Old Testament. We see we need a new Moses, a new covenant, and a new exodus. We have all these unfulfilled prophesies, all these “suspended promises.” This new “way” will be much different. And instead of being for a select ethnic group, it will be for all mankind.

As Chapter Three opens, we are in early first century Israel.  Solomon was the son of David.  Now we have a new Son of David.  We begin to see the connections between Solomon and Jesus.  We see the weight and meaning of “Son of David” to this first century audience.  “A new son of David, leading the people into remarriage with God.”  “Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.”
We look at the expectation of Jesus’ followers,  and the shock when it all “fell apart.”  There a discussion of the “myth of redemptive violence,” and the propensity we humans have for bloodshed.  Of course, we also see that the death of Jesus was the beginning of new hope.

Chapter Four looks at, among other things, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Again, we get historical context that brings a new and deeper appreciation for what’s happening here.  We also see this encounter in light of Jesus’ stating that the good news should be shared “to the ends of the earth.”  There are more parallels between Moses and Jesus.  We look at Luke’s account of the day of Pentecost, when three-thousand are saved.  That’s the same number that Moses had slaughtered for the “golden calf” incident.
We also see, again, the inclusiveness of the gospel, and of Paul himself.

Chapter Five has an interesting title:
Swollen-Bellied Black Babies, Soccer Moms On Prozac, and the Mark of the Beast.”
This is an extremely important chapter that should be read by every one who identifies as a lover of Christ.
It should be required reading for “American Christians.”

First, there’s some frightening information about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  Man.  What a false bill of goods we were sold on that one!  We dropped bombs to kill Saddam Hussein.  We missed.  Lots of civilians killed and injured.  No “bad buys.”
I’ve had other readings where I learned that Bush wanted a war long before the “war on terror.”  The whole thing was really about control.  And oil.  Finally, he was handed an excuse.  (See “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”)
Anyway…
This chapter is about empire.  Egyptian empire.  Babylonian empire.  Roman empire.  American empire.  We’re reminded that blessings are not to be horded.  Blessings are to be used to bless others.  The consequences of forgetting the poor, the needy and the oppressed are both devastating and obvious.

This chapter also has great information on the book of Revelation, and the “mark of the beast.”
Again, we get relevant historical and cultural context, instead of all the twisted misuse and misapplications I’ve heard most of my life.
“Revelation is a bold, courageous, politically subversive attack on corrosive empire and its power to oppress people.”

Chapter Six is about lamb’s blood.  “In the first exodus, the lamb’s blood was place on the doorposts of the house” for those who lived there.  In the second exodus, the Lamb’s blood was placed “on the doorposts of the universe.”  This time “Jesus is saving everyone and everything.  Jesus is leading all of creation out of the Egypt of violence, sin, and death.
We also look at how Paul took offerings “for the poor.”  Not to grease the wheels of institutional religion.  The dividing walls of our differences have been broken down to usher in the “new humanity.”  One where access to God isn’t restricted to a religion, but is opened up, through Christ, to all people.  We get some good ideas about Paul’s “all things to all men” statements; especially, what’s noticeably absent in that passage.

Epilogue
The epilogue brings it all together and shows how our narrow definition of “being saved” has shortchanged Christians, and the rest of the world as well.   “God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.  That always involves hearing the cry of the poor and the oppressed and then acting on their behalf.”


Again, this is an amazing book.  Far too long we’ve seen salvation as an “afterlife” issue.  Salvation is here.  Salvation is now.  There is so very much from which Jesus wants to save Christians.  Religion.  Indifference.  Elitism.  Privilege.  Neglect of the poor and needy.  Oppressing others, especially in the name of God.
Do yourself, and the world a favor.  Read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

———————-

QUOTES:
The “whole world,” “all nations,” “all people,” “all things” are the biggest, widest, deepest, most inclusive terms the human mind can fathom.  And they are on the lips of Jesus, who is describing himself.

He’s bringing liberation for everybody everywhere and ultimately for everything everywhere for all time.

A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Exile is when you fail to convert your blessings into blessings for others.

The first exodus was just a hint of the redemption God has in mind for all humanity.

[Jesus started] A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethnic group, bigger than any one religion.

The central promise to the father of their faith, Abraham, was that God would bless his people so that they would bless the world.  It’s always about wealth, health, possessions, and influence being used to bless others.

Jesus’ death [was] an end to a whole system of “commands and regulations.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

If anything, the biblical story teaches us that no nation is entitled to global dominance, no matter how powerful their national myths may be.

Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.

What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God?

[Religious legalism] makes Paul furious.  In one letter, his rant reaches such a pitch that he says he wishes “they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

It’s a beautiful thing to learn from the journey of others.

If a sermon can be resolved in the time it took to deliver it, then it missed something central to what a sermon even is.

A church is not a center for religious good and services.

A church exists for the benefit of nonmembers.  This blessing extends even to our enemies.

Buy the book. Click HERE.


 

 
%d bloggers like this: