I just can’t understand why this movie wasn’t a hit…
…especially when Sister Anna was going along for the ride.
Thankfully They just don’t make movies like they used to.
This is the continuation of a post started yesterday on the necessity of relying on hell to preach the gospel.
The devil made me do it.
Ever notice how we never say “God made me do it”? It’s almost as if the devil is more powerful than God sometimes.
As Tripp York demonstrated so well in his book The Devil Wears Nada, as evangelicals we give the devil a whole lot of power. Satan, it would seem, is behind every bad thing that happens from a CD skipping in church, to the fender bender we got into on the way to the grocery store, to the great evils in the world like the Holocaust.
This demonic troublemaking is, we believe, part of a larger effort to disrupt our lives, cause us to doubt God’s ability and/or willingness to intervene on our behalf, force us into sin, and ultimately capture our souls for an eternity in hell.
In this narrative, Satan, as the antithesis of God, is essentially God’s equal. Like God, Satan wields tremendous power and like God, Satan has his own eternal domain. Therefore, Satan must be defeated in order for us to be saved from an eternity in hell.
But is that true?
Well, at the very least, it’s not very Biblical.
Despite common perception, the devil doesn’t have a major role to play in the Bible. In fact, outside of the apocalyptic language of Revelation and Jesus’ tempting in the gospels, the devil is barely a blip on the radar in the New Testament and in the Old Testament the devil one appears in two places: the book of Job and David’s counting of Israel in Chronicles.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what about the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit?
If you go back and actually read the account of the fall in Genesis you will notice that the devil is never mentioned anywhere. There is a serpent, and certainly popular church tradition has tended to interpret that serpent as being the devil, but the writer of Genesis never felt it necessary to actually include the devil in that story. Since Satan does appear in the book of Job, which was written before Genesis, and the writer of Genesis certainly would have been aware of the figure of Satan and could very easily have named him in the story of the fall, what does it say that there is no devil in that story?
I think it says a lot.
In fact, I think our entire understanding of salvation turns on the absence of the devil in the origin of sin.
Simply put, the writer of Genesis doesn’t include the devil in the origin story of sin because the devil wasn’t necessary. We didn’t need the devil to sin. The devil didn’t make us do it. We decided to sin on our own and are, therefore, entirely responsible for its creation, our own fall, and the horrendous evils we would prefer to pass off on the devil.
If that’s true, then we don’t really need to appeal to the devil or even the threat of hell when we talk about salvation, for it is not the devil and hell that we are saved from, but ourselves.
In the Garden of Eden, the sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t simply theft. It was idolatry. In stealing and eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve were attempting to place themselves, mere creatures, in the place of their Creator. This is why the serpent says “you will be like God.”
In trying to become like God, Adam and Eve were trying to take control of creation, placing themselves as the source of all life, power, and glory, and therefore the object of worship in all of creation.
But they were not the source of life, power, and glory which is why upon being banished from the privileged life of the Garden, Adam and Eve suffer the curse of death. God is the source of life. When we try to wrestle control from God and place ourselves on the heavenly throne as Adam and Eve attempted to do, we remove our source of life. Without that source of life, there is, naturally, only death.
As the heirs of Adam and Eve we continue to suffer the effects of sin, not because two people ate from a tree eons ago, but because we continue to eat from that same tree. We continue to try to snatch divinity away from God and place ourselves on the heavenly throne. Whenever we decide that we know better than God how to live our lives, whenever we decide that our knowledge of good and evil surpasses God’s, then we commit idolatry which is the foundation for all sin and the cause of our own death.
This, of course, puts Jesus’ mission in a different light than most of us have traditionally come to understand it. In his life, death, and resurrection Jesus isn’t defeating the devil, paying the devil off, or satisfying the Father’s blood lust. As Paul describes in Romans 5, by living a life of perfect obedience to God and love for others rather than himself, the very opposite of Adam, Jesus, who Paul calls “the new Adam”, reorders creation and puts humanity back into right relationship with their Creator by putting himself, in the place of humanity, at the feet of God in a posture of perfect worship.
The old Adam sought life on his own terms. The new Adam sought to follow the will of God. The old Adam served himself. The new Adam served others. The old Adam quite literally sought to snatch divinity from God. The new Adam, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.”
It is this act of worship that reverses humanity’s idolatry in the garden. It is this act of worship that saves us from the death that comes from our self-worship. And it is this act of worship that allows for the possibility of resurrection and eternal life.
In short, Jesus saves us, not from Satan or even from hell, but from ourselves and from the inevitable death that comes from self-worship and life apart from God.
This is why the New Testament appeals so much to resurrection. Jesus’ invitation in the gospels, like Paul’s challenge in the epistles, is not a get out of hell free card as if the eternal destination options are life in heaven or life in hell. Rather, Jesus beckons us to accept his offer of life and reject our pursuit of death.
For Jesus, just like they were for the old Adam in the garden, the options are only life or death. Through Jesus’ doxological life, death, and resurrection a life of worship leads to eternal life, just as it would have for Adam and Eve had they not tried to usurp the heavenly throne. Apart from that new source of life, there is only death. In just the same way that without being able to continue to eat from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve faced death, if we choose not to eat the bread and drink the cup we are offered from our Lord we too will suffer death.
And therein lies the problem with our “need” for hell in our evangelical salvation pitch.
We face death apart from God, not life in eternal torment. If hell is separation from God, and that certainly seems to be how it is described both in the gospels and even in Revelation, then hell is death because there is no life apart from God.
As Paul says in Romans, the consequence of sin is death – not eternal torture in hell. This is exactly in keeping with the Old Adam vs. New Adam motif that Paul uses 2 chapters later in Romans while simultaneously maintaing the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” language Jesus uses to describe the final judgment. For certainly there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when one discovers they face death.
In other words, there are not 2 different resurrections: a resurrection to eternal life in heaven and a resurrection to eternal life in hell. There is only one resurrection unto everlasting life or there is death. And if that is true, then we need not appeal to eternal torment for we are not saved from the grip of the devil or eternal torture, but from the death that comes from our own delusion of self-worship.
The good news of the gospel, then, is not a get out of hell free card, but the gift of God that is eternal life.
This is a much richer, a much more hopeful, and a much more Biblically faithful gospel message than the turn or burn gospel we have for so long proclaimed.
The God we should be proclaiming is a God who’s love drives out fear, not drives it to another level through the threat of hell. It is this sort of God who’s fundamental nature of love, not wrath, compels God to incarnate that love in the form of Jesus, so that creation, though it sought death through it’s own self-worship, might have the chance to live forever with the very Creator who stands ready to welcome humanity back with open arms despite our never-ending attempts to usurp the heavenly throne.
That is love.
That is grace.
That is forgiveness.
That is salvation.
And that is the good news of the gospel.
Grace and peace,
Abraham was a curious character.
Though he was the father of the world’s three major faiths, he was a deeply flawed man.
Even after he was called by God to be the father of many nations he was constantly screwing up. God told him to leave his family and go to the land God was promising him. Abraham brought the family along. Upon entering Egypt, he lied to pharaoh and tried to pass his wife Sarah off as his sister so that he wouldn’t be thrown in jail or worse, killed. In an attempt to take God’s promises into his own hands he slept with one of his slaves. When she got pregnant he kicked her and her son to the curb.
Those actions, particularly the one’s involving Ishmael, continue to have ripple effects to this day.
However, what I find particularly curious about Abraham is not what we read in his story, but what’s missing.
There is no mention of hell anywhere in the story of Abraham.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “there are plenty of stories in the Bible that don’t mention hell.” That is true. But as evangelical Christians this should be a bit of a problem.
We lean on the fear of hell every bit as much or more than we do the everlasting arms of Jesus.
You see, the gospel pitch that we give and have been giving for generations is that sinners should “come to Jesus” or “believe in God” so that they don’t burn in hell. It’s that fear of eternal torment, then, that pushes people into what the Bible would call a new covenant relationship with God.
Yet, hell plays no role whatsoever in the story of Abraham “believing in God” and then entering into relationship with that God. It is because God first chose him, blessed him, and took care of him that Abraham chose to follow God, not because he feared that God would torment him in hell for all eternity if he didn’t.
In fact, such fear of eternity in hell has no role whatsoever in any of the Old Testament characters and their relationship with God.
Instead, it is their love for God, never their fear of hell, that drives them to worship, devotion, and faithfulness.
Such timing, though, is out of sequence for the evangelical gospel. According to the evangelical gospel the foremost reason to “come to Jesus” is not because that Jesus first loved us, but so that God won’t send us to hell. Love for that God, then, should only come after our fear of hell has been quenched. We can “love” God only because we have “faith” that God won’t be sending us to hell.
It’s this gospel that gives rise to the fiery church services and turn or burn preaching that so many of us are so used to. It’s this gospel that leads us down to the altar, over and over again, to “give our hearts to Jesus” in order to ensure our eternal destination.
But is this gospel of fear really “good news”?
Or perhaps, in light of the story of Abraham, the real question is “Is this gospel of fear even necessary?”
I’m not sure that it is.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s not.
Fear of hell is certainly a powerful weapon to wield in the crusade to “win” converts. It’s brutally efficient in its ability to slash down deep into our innermost fear. But if that is what spurs us to “faith” then our faith isn’t really faith at all. It’s fear.
Abraham didn’t come to faith in God because God showed up one day and told Abraham he was going to hell if he didn’t enter into a covenant with God. Abraham came to faith in God because God first loved Abraham. It wasn’t fear of hell that drove Abraham to the sacrificial altar. It was love for a God who didn’t have any reason to love and bless Abraham but chose to do so anyway.
Now this is a God worth worshiping. This is a God to enter into covenant with because this God stands ready to bless, not to damn. This is the God who “demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
There is no need for turn or burn preaching when this is the sort of God who calls us into relationship. For as we see in the story of Abraham, he didn’t need to be afraid of hell in order to come to faith in God and it wasn’t fear of hell that kept Abraham going back to God whenever he screwed things up. It was God’s love that drew Abraham to his Creator and it was God’s love that kept him coming back every time he failed to live up to the covenant he made with his Creator.
If Abraham didn’t need hell, then I’m not sure we do either.
Now, as for what Christ died and saved us from, well, that will just have to wait for tomorrow…
Grace and peace,
There have been many valiant attempts over the years to disprove the theory of evolution.
When that didn’t work he tried “Crock-O-Duck”.
And, of course, there’s Ken Ham who built an entire “museum” to try and prove his point.
But now, we may have an argument for creationism that trumps them all: the Loch Ness Monster.
That’s right, the Loch Ness Monster disproves the theory of evolution and we know that’s true because it’s in a biology textbook.
By Erik Ortiz / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The Scottish legend of the Loch Ness Monster is suggested as truth in a biology book that a private Christian school in Louisiana is using in its curriculum.
But that’s only part of the outrage from critics: Students who are eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers will be allowed to attend Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake for the 2012-13 school year, according to reports.
The startling claim about Nessie’s authenticity is made to bolster creationism within the textbook, the Scotsman newspaper reported Monday. The Loch Ness Monster is described as a type of dinosaur, and if dinosaurs and man co-exist, then presumably there would be holes in the scientific argument for evolution.
The textbook, produced by Accelerated Christian Education, features a passage about the Loch Ness Monster in the Biology 1099 edition, Scotland’s The Herald reported.
“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence,” the textbook reads, according to the newspaper.
“Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
So this exists…
Apparently it was part of a collection of pieces by an artist named David LaChapelle that he exhibited in galleries around the world after Michael Jackson’s death.
The name of the collection?
Seriously. I’m not making that up.
For good measure, LaChapelle also created a piece in which Jackson as the archangel Michael (get it? so clever) triumphs over Satan.
I can only assume that a velvet painting of Elvis feeding the 5,000 and a watercolor of Madonna hanging on the cross hung next to these masterpieces.
After almost year of pitching, revising, getting rejected, and pitching again I’ve finally found a publisher for my first book!!
I am incredibly excited to announce that I have recently signed a publishing agreement with CLC Publications!!
It’s been a long and winding road to get here, and there’s still a lot of work left to be done, but I am thrilled, grateful, and, honestly, relieved to have this milestone behind me.
I owe a huge debt of thanks to my agent, Blair Jacobson (and all the other wonderful people at D.C. Jacobson), for being willing to take a chance on random youth pastor from Tennessee and then relentlessly “knocking on publisher’s doors” until we finally found a publishing house.
Likewise, I am also incredibly grateful for David Almack (and everyone else at CLC Publications) who was also willing to take a chance on a first time author. I can’t wait to get to work with you guys!
And, of course, I would not have even gotten anywhere without the support of friends and family (not least of all my wonderful, supporting, and ever patient wife, Kim) who have been there to read, critique, and support me as I’ve begun to get my writing career off the ground. You have no idea how much I appreciate and love you all.
Ok, no more Oscar speech.
As for the book itself, it’s about reimagining what it means to be holy.
I grew up in a tradition in which the call to holiness was incredibly important. Unfortunately, for many of us in that tradition, and perhaps your tradition as well, holiness came to be defined by legalism and the things we don’t do.
As I read the gospels, however, I encounter a Jesus with a very different understanding of holiness, one which is not defined exclusively by separation and exclusion, but by how we incarnate the redemptive love and grace of God to a lost and dying world.
If you haven’t seen it already, this video that I posted last week is very much a jumping off point for the book.
If all goes to plan and I get the manuscript completed by this fall, then the book should be published sometime next spring.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing A LOT of writing and rewriting.
Of course, I’ll be keeping you updated about the progress of the book, especially as it comes closer to publishing time and there are more concrete details in place. So if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to the blog, follow me on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook….or better yet, do all three!
After all, without your support of the blog I wouldn’t have the all important “platform” necessary to get published. So, THANK YOU for every Facebook share, tweet, comment, and page visit over the past 2 years! I literally wouldn’t be here without your help!
Until next spring, I will covet your prayers, support, and feedback as the book progresses and I try to balance writing a book with writing papers for school.
Should be fun.
Grace and peace,
Well, we may have a new candidate for worst church sign of all time.
Now, for full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of abortion. However, I’ve gotta think there are better ways to “take a stand” than irrational, unsubstantiated, and, let’s just be honest, completely insane church signs.
I’m sure this will come as a shock, but, according to the local news, community members around this church aren’t big fans of the sign.
I love me some hyperbole.
Seriously. It’s like the greatest thing ever in the history of mankind.
But, there is no hyperbole intended when I say A Faith Not Worth Fighting For edited by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer is one of the most personally challenging books I have ever read.
The book is a collection of essays on Christian pacifism written by such notable Christian thinkers as Stanley Hauerwas, Thomas Long, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne. While the names of the essayists certainly caught my eye (along with the provocative title), what really grabbed my interest initially was the intentionality and specificity of the book.
Often times, theology books get stuck in the world of the abstract, never really dealing with the practical issues at hand, or worse they intentionally avoid those specific issues altogether.
A Faith Not Worth Fighting For, however, tackles the criticisms and practical implications of Christian pacifism head on. With chapter titles like “What About The Protection Of Third-Party Innocents?”, “What Would You Do If Someone Were Attacking A Loved One?”, and “What About Hitler?” this book cuts right to the chase, right to heart of the issue and the questions those of us who are not pacifists are always asking our pacifists brothers and sisters.
As someone who has always been a pretty firm believe in just war theory, I really appreciated the directness of this approach. These are the very questions that have always kept me from fully embracing Christian pacifism (the authors of this book make a clear distinction between Christian and non-Christian pacifism).
The authors of each essay are bold, honest, and open about their own struggles with pacifism, noting in particular the awkward tension that comes about when you are a pacifist, but your family and friends serve in the military. Whether you agree with their position or not, the direct, raw honesty of the writers gives their arguments a level of credibility that I don’t think would have existed if this book had simply been an exercise in the theoretical.
It was this openness and honesty about their own struggle with pacifism that challenged me to let my just war guard down and allow myself to really listen to what the authors had to say. And what they had to say was pretty simple: “Are you willing to take all of Jesus’ commands seriously?” and ultimately “Do you really believe in the resurrection?”
It is those two questions that seem to be the foundation which ties the book together and it is those two questions that have seriously challenged me to reexamine my long held just war position.
If I really claim to be a disciple of Jesus, how can I ignore the commands to literally, not figuratively, “turn the other cheek” and “love my enemies”?
Likewise, why do I feel the need to use violence as a means to avoid death if, because of the resurrection of Jesus, death is not the final answer?
As the authors in this book note, how we answer those questions will always look a little different and will certainly never been easy. If there was any point in the book that left me wanting more it was here. While there were many alternative approaches to violence described, and while I fully concur with the book’s premise that Christian pacifism will always look different in different situations, given the direct approach of the book I would like to have seen, for example, more concrete alternatives for the eternal elephant in the pacifist room, ie. how someone like Bonhoeffer or the Allies should have reacted to Hitler and the Nazi death camps.
That, however, stems from my own lack of imagination and not the credibility of the case for Christian pacifism which is made in the book, a case I’m not sure I have much argument against anymore.
In the end, the questions asked in A Faith Not Worth Fighting For are tough questions that I will, no doubt, continue to ask myself for years to come. If you take the time to give this book a read, and you really need to, I think you will find yourself just as challenged. Not just by the authors, but by the words of the rabbi from Nazareth we claim is our “Lord.”
A word of thanks in order to the good people at Wipf & Stock for sending me over a copy of A Faith Not Worth Fighting For and make sure you stay tuned next week for an interview with the co-editor of the book, Tripp York!
Grace and peace,
I’m sure pretty Mark Driscoll and Steven Anderson are twins separated at birth.
In this Driscoll-esque sermon “Pastor” Anderson explains “Biblically” how not singing (and preaching) loudly is “effeminate” and therefore sinful.
In what sounds like a Driscoll quote, Anderson describes contemporary worship leaders as “queer, little sissies.” (6:00 mark)
If they’re not twins, they’ve at least got to be possessed by the same sex demon.