Monthly Archives: March 2011
Follow the above link to a fascinating article on the endlessly interesting saga of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It’s good journalism because it carefully reveals thousands of years of history while explaining current tensions. To me this sifting project would be in my top 5 ultimate field trips. I’m especially interested in the 7th century figurines, the Herodian floor tiles, the inscriptions from Jeremiah’s period and the coins. These are all from decisive moments in the development of Judaism’s full understanding of God, which formed the foundation for the New Testament.
It’s more difficult than ever to claim that Solomon’s Temple isn’t under the Dome of the Rock. In a perfect world, modern excavation techniques could unearth treasures, while leaving existing structures and peace agreements undisturbed.
How amazing would it be to be able to take an elevator down to stand where King David stood, or raise arms toward heaven where Solomon did on Temple dedication day? But alas it would likely unleash such turmoil the price would be too high. Totally confirms in me that religion is not the world’s problem. The problem is the will to power, using religion as a front. Politically-minded men have too often ascended to religious leadership. This is a bad combination. Makes me think of the movie, Kingdom of Heaven… And so the creation groans, along with us, for the fullness of salvation to be revealed… How long, O, Lord?
It’s easy to judge from an armchair, but where are the growing edges of our own faith journey? John the Baptizer said, “I must become less, that he [Christ] become greater still.” In this Lenten season we’re reminded that we can’t always get what we want. And sometimes that’s for the best. Jesus emptied himself of all but love on the way to the cross. Are there artifacts we need to let go of? Do we need help from friends to sift through decades of “stuff”, to find the real treasures? Is the landscape of our journey defined by altars of worship or bloody battlefields of selfishness? Almost a month remains before Easter. What’s beneath your Temple Mount? What story is told from the artifacts of your journey?
Jesus of Nazareth Part Two, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection [Kindle Edition]
Pope Benedict XVI (Author)
Just started reading this book. I haven’t read any works by the sitting Pope, so it’s a first. I hope it’s not a last. The first few pages jump around quite a bit. He says he’s writing from a faith hermeneutic (doing interpretation unapologetically as a person of faith) but with due attention to historical exegesis, within its limits. He says his goal is to reveal Jesus in a fresh way, making him accessible to 21st century people. I like what he’s setting out to do. I hope I start enjoying what he’s actually done a little more…and soon!
Yeah, he’s, like ,Catholic and I’m, like, not. I’m Nazarene (an Evangelical Wesleyan-Holiness Protestant Christian denomination-similar to Methodist). But I share his desire to connect with the most essential aspects of Jesus. I’ll need to remember how different our concepts of authority are and hold onto my tradition. But it’s less of a stretch for us Wesleyans than say, Reformed people. We’ve always reached back to the early Church Fathers in interpretation. (Not that Reformed people don’t) Most of the time we’ve been pretty ecumenical.
He and I agree that what Jesus did in the last week of his life changed the world forever. Nothing is the same. There is now hope for this world. I hope this book avoids sectarian doctrinal detours and simply helps the reader follow Jesus all the way to the cross & resurrection!
I’ll let you know what I learn!
Grace and Peace
Just a few minutes left on St. Patrick’s Day, but tonight I’ve been revisiting his story. Now, so far I haven’t uncovered any green beer or Leprechauns, but I did come across some very good stuff!
We can’t recover a lot of A.D. fourth-fifth century details, mainly due to a lot of sixth century legends of his magical powers. What we do have is his Declaration or accounting for his life or Confessio (not a typo, but a cognate straight from Latin).
It’s Patrick’s 2 Corinthians. Here he answers his critics and gives a very personal accounting for his spiritual journey and ministry. We can trust it’s his, because it’s not all positive, but it is all accounted for in God’s mercy. Few people in ministry are this honest about their journey, fears, and failings. It’s the age of spin now, but not then.
Don’t know that he drove out snakes. Do know that he was held captive 6 years. Don’t know that he held magical sway over any who threatened. Do know that God gave him favor and speed in several key situations. There appears to have been nothing special about him, but a simple, radical obedience to God in all things after faith. God said, “Do it,” and He had him a man in Britain who would.
God called him through dreams to go back to the land of his captivity and spread the good news. Thousands answered his invitation. He saw as validation that many were called away from deep immorality to compassion, service, ministry, and even celibacy.
He had settled on his faith while away (people saw a huge difference) and actually came to love his captors and desired for their full freedom in Christ. 30-40 of Ireland’s 150 tribes were converted. And not by traditional means. He used indigenous forms to tell the old story. He listened to their stories and told his in a way they could understand. He apparently worked within families soon after conversion. With contagious faith, these families would then start a church. Others then branched out right away to extend the faith outward, starting another church. It happened amazingly fast, all in the later years of his life.
Here’s his advice to us:
“According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger, to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear…”
“Confessio” (pt 14)
I have a Confessio to make. It’s to and for everyone I meet. Today and always, where I live, may I make known this good news to everyone who will listen. It’s so amazingly precious. How can we not share? People are so valuable in God’s sight. How can we not love them with our lives. Every one of them.
For further reading: The Celtic Way of Evangelism, by George Hunter, III (2010 Abingdon Press-recently revised and updated)
Follow the above link for a fresh take on Bell’s book and the curious controversy surrounding it…
Just a quick note with my Final Four Picks. With my beloved Hawkeyes out of the picture, I’ll be following Notre Dame, who’ve had quite a season.
East Region: North Carolina (UNC)
West Region: Duke
Southwest Region: Notre Dame
Southeast Region: Florida
North Carolina is my overall pick.
BYU will have something to play for. MSU can never be counted out. Michigan may go farther than most think. As always it will be a fun ride!
For those who aren’t yet sick of the Rob Bell-Love Wins controversy, I think I’ve found BOTH a good way to finally make sense of the LOST finale AND visualize one of the theories of heaven/hell/Kingdom in Bell’s book.
Using the metaphors of Luke 15 (Father w/2 sons parable) and the always-open gates of the heavenly city (Revelation), this view suggests that free will continues after death. There is only one true story of grace. The prodigal son chose to live a false story, but when it ran its course he traded it in for the true one. Result: enjoying the party forever! The elder son also chose to live a false slavery/obligation story, even just outside the party. His stubborn refusal to accept the grace story keeps him from enjoying the party. But the invitation is always there for him to relent and kick up his sandals inside. When he’s had enough of his good boy creepiness (=hell), he can come inside (=heaven). So, goes the theory, will it be in the fullness of the Kingdom. The gates are open. Whenever the LOST get ready to be FOUND, they leave the ultimately dissatisfying story-of-their-own-making and come on in to the ultimate reality.
The LOST finale features a doesn’t-quite-ring-true post-island storyline. One-by-one the survivors feel called to meet at a church. As they gather, they sense they’ll have to leave something behind. At least one decides, he’s not ready yet. The rest gather in the church. They’re told they’ve been living in a pseudo world they mutually created so they could still be together. But it wasn’t real. Their time together on the island was real and what’s next will be even more real. But they have to leave this intermediate world behind. They rise. The church doors open to the most glorious light imaginable. They follow their guide into the brightness of their intended, but resisted, destiny. The implication is, eventually, everyone will make this choice.
It’s not exact, but there’s enough inter-textuality here to shed some light. It’s interesting. Again, this is not my view (because too many other Scriptures aren’t accounted for-see my previous post.) I’m not even sure it’s Bell’s personal view. But some Christians have believed it. So…
Makes me wonder 2 things:
1. Did the LOST writing team use this view of universalism to guide their finale? (Regardless of their own faith convictions, it made for one innovative narrative)
2. Did Rob Bell get this book idea at an amazing LOST party last year?
So maybe Bell is LOST after all! He-he!
Grace and Peace
If you’re a Christian leader you probably heard about Rob Bell before 2 weeks ago. But if you don’t live under a rock you’ve heard of him since then! His new book—Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived created a firestorm when a promotional video was released. It questioned traditional views on hell.
If I had to choose a Facebook category for my relationship with Rob Bell’s ideas, “it’s complicated” would win. I’ve really enjoyed some of his sermons and Nooma videos. He definitely has a pastor’s heart. He’s studied the Bible in the original languages. He gets our culture. He’s not afraid to offend. He’s a gifted communicator. All things I respect. But he’s a whipping boy for conservatives (and some of my friends.) He’s a hero to others (and some of my friends). So if I really liked or disliked something he said or did, I had to think twice to avoid offending someone. He’s a guilty pleasure one day (like brownies at 11:30pm) and big bother the next (like a zit on your chin!)
But he made his boldest move yet with Love Wins. The video was brilliant to create buzz. Last night he frustrated me with a live web event. At midnight I downloaded the book and finished by mid-morning.
Let me begin by saying Rob Bell is not a heretic. His personal views are not totally revealed, but the options presented are consistent with some ancient Christian teachers. Let me also say I can’t embrace all he presents about salvation and the afterlife. But who else could have gotten us all talking about such important issues? The book is clearly not written to debate with people like me. It’s written to engage with people outside of church life. I think it can do this well. It attempts to explain how heaven and hell fit into the good news of Jesus. He starts with the deep reservations many outside the church have with a God who eternally punishes most of humanity. This point can be offensive to Christians, but not to his audience.
He’s as controversial as he can be in the first couple chapters. He messes with our tidy notions of the gospel by showing vastly different metaphors Jesus (and Paul) used. He says a woman wrote Hebrews (not sure this is an actual conviction of his) and that traditional views of the afterlife have been used to oppress the masses through the ages. He calls his gramma’s cross-bridge painting creepy! But eventually he settles into examining the relevant Scriptures. He creatively (somewhat ambiguously) lets his views come through over time. More than ever it’s hard to pin him down at times. As usual, no footnotes. He supports his views only with Scripture references and stories.
Heaven is the fullness of God’s Kingdom on a renewed earth. In an important sense for Bell’s Jesus, heaven is wherever God rules. The goal of salvation is to reunite earth and heaven. Heaven ultimately won’t be another “place” we go, it’s another reality that comes here. This part can be strongly supported by Scripture.
One genius of the book is in the case he makes that salvation, heaven and hell have a lot more to do with this life than we may realize. We should listen to Bell on this. We’ve all known people who’ve made a hell on earth by rejecting God’s vision for life. Many Christians have experienced eternal life as peace on earth now. Often Jesus’ talk of hell is a warning to religious people to change their behavior. It’s surprising that he often says sinners may be in the Kingdom and religious people may not. He spends a lot of time explaining the behaviors and attitudes of people who experience heaven. Rather than implying a magical character change for Christians at death, Jesus implies the importance of letting grace change you now. (a view Nazarenes have always embraced.)
Bell says this change is what would allow us to enjoy heaven (the fullness of the Kingdom). But, bravely for a man in Grand Rapids, he emphasizes free will. It’s our choice. God’s love let’s us choose. Hell is essentially refusing to accept/trust God’s version of our story. We bring destruction on ourselves whenever we reject God’s love & forgiveness. 2 images dominate.
1. Luke 15′s parable of the father with 2 sons shows our options. Finally give up living a faulty story and come home to the party (prodigal son) or stubbornly refuse to enjoy it (elder brother).
2. Revelation 21:25 (describing the heavenly city coming down for God to finally make his dwelling among humanity.) “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”
Bell says “And then there are others who ask, if you get another chance after you die, why limit that chance to one-off immediately after death? And so they expand the possibilities, trusting that there will be endless opportunities in an endless amount of time for people to say yes to God.
As long as it takes, in other words.” (p.55)
This is a form of universalism, but Bell doesn’t exactly say it’s his view. He rightfully demonstrates that a minority of Christians in every age have believed this way. His motive is evangelism. He spends the rest of the book attempting to make a compelling case for accepting/trusting in God’s story now. Why miss a moment of eternal life? His goal is to reach those for whom one and done eternal punishment is the one barrier to accepting the Christian story. “You don’t have to believe this to be a Christian,” Bell says.
He hasn’t convinced me that this “eventually view” is the most biblical view. But neither would I be upset if this turned out to be true. I don’t want anyone to suffer the torment of hell. I want everyone to experience eternal life. (In the tradition of Wesley, Inclusivism is closer to my view, as in Wesley’s “On Heaven” sermon.) I have concerns that some could put this choice off, not feeling motivated to choose now. But Bell makes clear the destructive consequences of delay.
I reread portions of the book this afternoon and gained a less defensive perspective. I can’t embrace the book fully. But because he rooted this presentation in the Scriptures, demonstrated the centrality of Christ, and has a clearly evangelistic motive I’m glad he wrote this book.
I hope it creates an opportunity for more people to accept/trust God’s version of the story. Even if this “eventually” view is mistaken, once people are walking with Christ in the reality of the Kingdom, he can correct any errors. (Not that we should offer bait and switch if we don’t believe something has validity.)
Doctrine matters. Truth has boundaries. I’m more traditional than Bell. But at least we’re talking about heaven/hell. I hope more people find peace with God. I plan to engage people in conversation about the book. I pray this conversation gets us all in touch with eternal realities (saving/sanctifying grace) surrounding us every moment, offering to transform us in preparation for enjoying heaven forever. The Gospel really is good news and I can’t wait to experience it in fullness! It’s time we celebrated it. Easter’s right around the bend!
Still somewhat conflicting numbers arriving. If anyone can respond Japan can. They have some of the most technologically advanced systems in place. Offering up prayers for survivors who may still be trapped, for separated families, and leaders who must make difficult decisions.