By Eugene C. Scott
I’m coming late to the Rob Bell lynching. In case you’re coming in late too, Bell is swinging from the gallows for writing a book titled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”
Despite the megalomaniacal title, Bell’s book shouldn’t have earned him a golden noose. This is not to say that what Bell writes about heaven and hell is not controversial or important. Rather I believe the size of the controversy dwarfs the contents of the 198 page book. Others–Bell cites a few of them–have said and written similar things about “heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived” without stirring as much dust.
So why the excitement? Because Bell is part of the American Evangelical star-maker machinery: hip, good preacher, mega church, author of a previous best-selling book called “Velvet Elvis,” huge following, and conference speaker–though he won’t be speaking at as many conferences because everybody is mad at him. Bell is a Christian celebrity. If I had written this book–or you–only our friends and family members would have called us heretic.
To me the decibel level of the outcry says more about the state of American Evangelicalism than it does about Bell or theology. Evangelicalism has blindly bought in (pun intended) to consumerism as a cultural ideal.
Duck into any Christian book/trinket/Jesus-junk store. Based on most of the products there, we are a community 1,000 miles wide and an 1/8 inch deep. At our local store you can buy “Christian scripture candy” called “Testamints.”
One company sports a name and logo that is oxymoronic: “Not of This World: A Christian Clothing Brand All About Jesus.” As if slick marketing and a cool logo is not of this world. And notice the books in these Christian book stores. Authors having a “platform,” read sales potential, often outweigh artistic writing or powerfully poised ideas.
This focus on celebrity and consuming things supposedly representing our All Consuming God has done far more damage to our sad state of faith than Rob Bell’s debatable theories on hell. Consider how many of us go to church to get our spiritual tanks filled, or hear a good sermon rather than to encounter God. The former are all consumer ideas not found in scripture.
Second, Bell’s book is controversial because he may or may not–it’s hard to tell–believe in hell as eternal punishment the way most other American Evangelical stars do. This is similar to (though more consequential than) a Hollywood star, say Lady Gaga, declaring herself a Republican.
Two of Bell’s main ideas in “Love Wins” are that heaven is not a place in the clouds but living in God’s presence and creation both here and now and then and there (after death) and also that hell is not an eternal fiery pit but rather separation from God here and now and then and there. The after life hell he posits is a redemptive place where those who do not chose God in this life will be able to, eventually.
His first theory–heaven begins here–is not new. Nor is it controversial, despite how most of pop Christianity wrongly believes heaven is only the place we go when we die. Orthodox theologians George Eldon Ladd and Dallas Willard also pointed out that Jesus brought the kingdom of God (heaven) with him when he came to us as Incarnate God and did not take it with him when he left as Risen Lord. If this idea interests you–and it should–read more about it in Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy” or Ladd’s “The Gospel of the Kingdom.” They are not easy reads but they are worth the work. As Bell argues, living as if heaven begins here and now makes a profound difference in our day-to-day lives.
Bell’s second major theme, hell is redemptive, also is not new. It is, however, troublesome and controversial. Bell does incredible interpretive and linguistic gymnastics to get to this point. But he never dives deep into his reasoning nor into any of the competing arguments. Even his prose style feels as if it skims the surface. He uses short, incomplete sentences that read more like bullet points than flowing narrative. This has caused some to accuse Bell of setting up and knocking down “straw-men.”
Hell must be redemptive, Bell argues because he cannot conceive of God not getting what God wants. In other words, “Love Wins.”
Bell reasons this on the basis that God is good and loving and it is inconceivable that a good and loving God would torture his creatures for eternity. Therefore he says, those choosing hell will only be there until they finally choose God.
Aside from the biblical problems this raises, it trips over other issues. First, why is God more loving to–in Bell’s words–“torture” people for only 10,000 or 10,000,000 years? If hell is not compatible with a loving God, then it does not matter how long one suffers there. One second is too long. This solution only reframes the problem but does not solve it.
Second, will people who had incredibly hard and indifferent hearts to human suffering and God’s love here on earth have the same hearts in hell? If so, how much time would they have to spend there to finally choose God? Will Hitler spend 10,000,000,000 years while the woman who murders only her husband spends only 1,000 years in hell? How does that square with unearned grace?
Third, though Bell claims he believes love only lives in freedom and that that freedom allows us to choose or reject God’s offer of eternal love and heaven, Bell’s hell seems to be a place–full of suffering–where all there will change their minds. That sounds more like prolonged determinism not love inspired freedom.
One positive thread Bell wove into “Love Wins” is questioning many status quo, popularly held Christian beliefs. Are these beliefs, such as heaven is only where we go when we die and hell is a fiery place presided over by a horned devil, biblical or do our pictures and ideas for them come from other, less inspired places? But the book is not in-depth enough to answer these questions adequately. That said, I do not believe Bell chickens out in the end, as some have accused. I find Bell lets the infinite nature of these questions remain somewhat of a mystery. I want stronger answers. But we mere humans may not have been given them. Finally, I have read these same questions and answers before and better explored in other places–but by less famous authors.
25 responses to “Thoughts On Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and the Sad State of American Christianity”
& suddenly it pops up here!,…good morning!
Great blog post, Eugene. You packed a lot into it. Totally agree on everything. The irony of the NOTW stuff is astounding. Personally, I’m incredibly frustrated with the publishing industry, who values star status over any pertinent message. Granted, they’re a business, but they have sacrificed integrity on the altar of profits.
Michael J. Klassen
Thanks, Mike. I considered posting it in two sections but went ahead and hit send.
For all of Evangelicalism’s theological gate-keeping, we have let some very dangerous ideas dominate our faith. Piper and other Evangelical stars rail against Bell and other easy targets while ideas like Christian publishing (and sometimes the church) should be a business first and radical individualism and consumerism have hijacked and changed the Gospel. But I’m preaching to the choir here.
And the saddest thing of all is that no one has done this to us. It is us rank and file, non famous Christians who only buy the books of famous authors or who consume religion. We flock to the churches with the big-name dynamic preachers.
I think I’m beginning to sound like the news anchor in the movie “Network” when he shouted out the window, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” hahahaha
you have to start somewhere,…”despise not small beginnings,”…(-:
🙂 Thanks, Georgie!
the e-mail connection still doesn’t work, but coming here from another post does,…
Not being familiar with the person or book in question, I might end up saying some “real dumb stuff.” I’m asking for your forgiveness in advance! (-:
From what was described, I’m not a real big fan of the scenario surrounding the creation of this book, either.
I have personal reasons (which I will not describe/explain at this point) to be able to subscribe sympathetically to the Catholic version of a “purgatory” condition which may exist after death, from which ultimately people may attain release and heaven, but that is considered a separate condition from permanent damnation in hell. The people in purgatory have hope, (and can pray for others), but those in hell do not.
Not being a schooled theologian, especially in long-standing (about 2000 years worth!) Catholic-Christian reasonings, I would not even venture to represent their positions for them, but I’m sure their “chatechism” offers some explanation(s).
In these types of questions, I’m prone to “keep it simple.” And I really and truly dislike “sentimentalizing” God.
Would a good policeman not do “what had to be done” to protect the innocent? Why should a good God be any different?
God and satan are the antithesis of each other, and God is much greater and wins. I am not God. But I very much appreciate His friendship toward me. I feel safe with God, and am glad He has a way to separate Good from evil. I will not cry over the fate of evil.
…and I think this modern version of Glossy Christianity is barely worth the paper it’s printed on,…about as helpful for figuring out how to “get into heaven” as watching Disney cartoons,…dream on, world,…
just thinking,…& I’ve been thinking about this recently, anyway,…
It is much harder to admit our incredible weakness and brokenness and even depraved inclinations as humans the way we come into the world, needing healing from “original sin” and salvation from the “get-go,” than many of us “professing Christians” imagine.
These days, we use words, and lots of them, slick sounding words and phrases, over and over again, as if repetition of something we claim and “profess” and have “learned” outwardly, verbally, will really become more true indelibly on the inside simply by doing this.
We’re making all the “right” postures, moves and sounds, — but so also do actors learn to play their parts well, without ever becoming transformed into that which they have imitated.
We’re taught that our words and “confessions” have power, spiritual power. But without a corresponding grand (and complete) interior surrender, in all humility, before a God who is “Almighty” to us personally — and as this doesn’t come necessarily easily or completely just by simply “trying” — it is very possible to be in a position of claiming and representing things outwardly that DO NOT correspond to the true damaged nature of the inner conditions. This may or may not be consciously realized, or only in part, — we can easily be “in denial,” especially if we are afraid to really see or accept what’s “going on in there,” — and it can become a subtle, misleading and even dangerous situation.
Is there any “good news” in this? Sometimes you wonder.
If one of our problems has come from an over-emphasis on “trusting in the power and influence of (our own) words” alone, then perhaps some of the cure can be found in the practice of intentional silence before an awesome God.
As in: Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
As I have been envisioning this, it would, of course, involve complete, voluntary withdrawal from the electronic stimuli/input of tv, i-net, etc., and even too much reading, for a small, but significant, predesignated segment of “our” time/day to be “given”/surrendered back to God as our offering to Him alone, out of the demanding pace of this modern life.
It would be used for some real and honest soul-searching in a process of examining just how caught up with “myself” and these programmed “ideas” about God I have become, how dependent on all these influences “my” faith and what I believe (“for”) has become.
If everything is quiet, do I recognize myself, my personal connection to God, am I at peace? If instead, I find restlessness and anxiety, excuses and distractions, arguments or problems within that I want to drown out with another “preaching fix from the anointed,” or a trip to the Bahamas, etc., will I be able to face the fact that a lot of this modern hype hasn’t really been reaching into and communicating with the “heart of the matter?”
We’ve become “enchanted” with the supposed power of what “we” say, what “we” (want to) believe, what “we” pray for. We’ve begun to almost automatically “write our own tickets,” often even forgetting to consult God in the process anymore. After all, “we know what we want,” and it’s “not a sinful thing.” But are we really asking God to guide us anymore? If He said something different from what we have in mind, would we even hear Him? If we did hear Him, would we obey?
I think we might be developing “selective hearing,” and a lot of it seems to be focused in favor of decisions to fulfill our own desires, almost incessantly. Isn’t it possible that we’re starting to “fritter away” in continuous small self-centered excesses, the spiritual dynamic that should be our true inheritance?
If “our words” and impulses begin ever so subtly to diverge from God’s words and intentions for us, and we don’t listen carefully, being willing to make adjustments, couldn’t we miss out on some very important things?
Speaking of “being in denial,” (protecting ourselves psychologically from recognizing certain conditions about ourselves),…it has occurred to me how threatening “the Truth” must be to such a self-defensive mechanism! Even though it IS “the Truth (that will) set us free!”
John 8:32 “And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”
Perhaps this explains exactly why there is such resistance to “the Truth,” and why “they stone the prophets,” and why prophets are “without honor” in their own lands.
Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who continue to kill the prophets and to stone those who are sent to you! How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together [around Me], as a hen [gathers] her young under her wings, but you would not!”
Matthew 13:57 “And they took offense at Him [they were repelled and hindered from acknowledging His authority, and caused to stumble]. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”
Truth is threatening. Freedom is too. Is that why Jesus transforms us over a life-time rather than in one fell swoop? As we’re reminded in the movie “A Few Good Men.” “The Truth? You can’t handle the truth.”
Yes,…and I think that’s also the meaning of Paul’s references to the “milk” of the Word vs. the “meat:”
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
1 “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”
And the Lord, Himself, says:
7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
Spiritual growth (and healing) IS a life-long process. I imagine that it even continues “after we graduate!” Unfortunately, our culture of “instant gratification” does not help people “grasp this picture” very clearly.
However, once we realize how truly deficient our culture is spiritually, it makes it easier to turn away from it “in bulk,” and open ourselves to “new realities” — and the more so, the better.
We were taught that finding multiple evidences of a concept in Scripture was “a good thing,” as in:
2 Corinthians 13:1 ” … ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.’ ”
So, here are a few more concerning the “process nature” of spiritual development:
Proverbs 9:10 “ The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 7:8 “The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”
Isn’t this also part of a (“subliminal”) message that we notice, “encoded” in the spontaneous unfolding and renewal of life and growth that we witness in the exciting return of the spring season that is now with us?
First of all, anyone who uses a windows based computer should believe in hell!
Hell and Heaven are biblical concepts while having choice after death is not. We remember Lazarus and Dives, one in heaven, one in hell, and there was a great divide between that could not be crossed.
I am reminded of another pastor who suggested that since time as we know it comes to an end, what happens to those who have been in a time-bound hell?
I applaud those who attempt to discern the mystery of heaven and hell (more meditatively than publishing their thoughts), but think it is a bit like predicting the precise date of the rapture (if there is such a thing). Personally I was in the religious section of a book store at 6:00 PM Saturday (just in case) after asking the folks at the desk if it was eastern or pacific time that the end was to come. I admit to having a warped sense of humor.
One thought does bother me even more. After conducting hundreds of funerals, many for people who never made church, religion, faith or Jesus any part of their life, why are they comforted by the thought of going to heaven and being in God’s presence for eternity? After a lifetime of not wanting anything to do with God or Jesus or heavenly choirs, wouldn’t spending eternity in heaven be like hell?
Eeugene, as usual you have done a wonderful job in this posting. I think we need to consider if all our images of both heaven and hell need revision to be more in keeping with biblical images and not tradition or interpretive images. For example is it reasonable to believe that if we choose not to recornize God or worship him in this life that he will simply premit us the freedom of our choice and let us remain for eternity in darkness? The chaff Jesus spoke of being thrown into the fire gets burned up. It is the fire that is eternal, not the stuff burning. Alas we don’t want to give people a wrong image or a false hope and scaring people into heaven is quite impossible even though it has been used for centuries at revival meetings.
While errors in our theology are all wrong, to err on the side of grace is better, I think, than to err on the side of condemnation. It isn’t that God doesn’t care. He forgives. This is what is amazing about grace.
Mike: That’s why I switched to a Mac.
Well said. Bell does ask more questions than he answers. Some have said this is him not wanting to admit what he believes. I believe it is because he can admit that the Bible is pretty mysterious on what heaven and hell are. He does not go into the time conundrum. That would have been fun.
Yes, in a redemptive hell theology (or no hell) I too am bothered by the idea that people who choose distance from God in this life would then somehow be tricked into spending eternity with him. Bell tries to deal with that but does not get there. He simply says that God love will finally convince them. But how?
But as you say, these ultimate questions–where you or I will spend eternity are in the hands of a good God of grace. By that I don’t mean all will get there but rather that good will be done.
Thanks, Mike. Eugene
As much as it is fine to speculate about “ultimate things,” speculating is all we are able do. I have “no problem” leaving the True Reality of the “fullness of all things” squarely in God’s hands.
He has chosen what and how much to reveal to us at this point in time, and in what ways. This is plenty “good enough” for me. I have no plans to argue and complain about how He works it all out “in the final analysis.”
Not only is He GOD, but He is absolutely a God I trust to do and resolve everything in all the best ways possible, ALL things considered.
Who is the created to argue with the Creator?,…the pot to argue with the potter?,…what can these subsidiary entities possibly know in some better way than the Master?
Isaiah 29:16 “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’? ”
Of course Love will “rule,” but who understands all the “ins and outs” of Love? Are we too proud and/or too presumptive and impatient to simply “take God at His Word” for now, and be content to “wait and see” all the glorious things that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard” that are promised to those who love Him?
1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ”
I have a feeling that some preachers try to make somewhat desperate efforts to rationalize and anthropomorphize — (remake God “in man’s image” — which is, of course, backwards) — the implications of the Scriptures, attempting to translate/mediate concepts — (dare I say, “dumb down,” assuage , placate?) — to the level of resistance and argument that they encounter both in the nay-saying culture, and even in stubborn-minded and opinionated (and unhappy) “believers.” Perhaps they are also placating themselves!
Romans 10:2 “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”
I’m not alarmed, as I’m sure God’s got it all “under control,” and I do not presume that there is anything perfect “under the sun.”
18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
23 “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Um,…yeah,…so be it.
By definition it seems that “ultimate things” can only be fully known by God. Yet we keep making claims and trying.
And you are so right about defining love. It seems to me that Rob Bell, myself at times, and many of us in modern America want love to mean–as the old Love Story movie said–“never having to say you’re sorry.” Or really never hearing the word no or face the consequences of our choices.
… or “grin and bear it,”…?
Thanks very much, Oogene, for that “disclosure” into another generation’s “take” on a Very Important word,…love.
I heard an old (Revolutionary?) War quotation (if my memory serves me even semi-correctly) in school that went something like this: “I would not love you half so much, my darling, if I loved not honor more.” I believe this was part of a “good-bye” message to a loved one, from a departing soldier. And I don’t know any particulars about identities, or how their personal situation “turned out.” Sorry about that.
Anyway, I never really “liked” that saying, but — as you can see — I never really forgot it either. Hmmmm,…would I love God half so much, if I didn’t think He was 100% honorable??? You can “bet your boots” that “I don’t THINK so!!!!!”
Another Very Important concept that “came my way” early on, was through the Kenneth Hagin, Sr. –(a very beloved servant of God, if you ask me) — Ministries. It was in a pamphlet called something like “The Force of Righteousness.” Righteousness. This a Godly quality that is tightly bound with His Love. You can’t have one without the other. When we seek God’s Love, we have to also “hunger and thirst” for His Righteousness as well.
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”
Is Righteousness some kind of “one-way spiritual street” through which God funnels “down” to us — (because He is “so perfect” [and thus “so privileged”], and He — [that He, therefore, “needs” to] — “feels so sorry for us” in our limping-along earthly “condition” of uncurable patheticness?) — some kind of undefinable overflow of His own personal righteousness into our vicinity to “make things all better,” kind of like a band-aid, or a temporarily highly-charged “worship atmosphere?” Does He just gratuitously “do this for us” once in awhile, so that we just have to keep on asking and asking and asking for Him to “do it again?”,…(so we can “get our [temporary] fix” of “righteousness” from Him?),…or,…is He not also expecting “something” from us????
Do I really have to tell you the answer? Of course, He expects us to “turn from our wicked (and pathetic) ways,” and from our compromised and “crooked paths.” And this DOES, by the way, take some force of EFFORT and vision and choosing, clarity of mind, purpose, determination, etc.,…”something” a little bit like continuous “WORK,”…and it IS “spiritual work” that must be “believed in” AND continued in, like creating and maintaining a situation of “positive pressure” on a system that depends on it to “function properly.”
James 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you!” [exclamation point mine]
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This sounds like choosing personal righteousness to me.
Isaiah 42:16 “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.”
If God re-straightens the “crooked places” for us, do you not think that He expects us to straighten ourselves out as well?
I don’t know who or what is “more to blame” for these “new interpretations” of “love” that have arisen,…Barney or marijuana. Both have been very influential additions to the psychological landscape since the very venerable “old days,” in which character (i.e., “backbone”), purpose, intention, values, goals, self-respect and respect for God and others, voluntary self-control, quality, self-sacrifice, and actively choosing “good” while resisting “evil” were not only sought and admired, but also had a highly visible and observable contributing part to play in carrying out daily life, in both the local and wider realms.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”,…truly an appropriate lament for our times!
I DO “feel sorry” for the generations who have missed having a taste of this kind of quality permeating their atmosphere, both in the people they’ve known personally, AND in the examples portrayed by the Media and the world-at-large.
It’s a God-quality, and God can inspire and re-teach it. After all, didn’t He work a very long time, both in the Old and New Testaments, to introduce His ways to many very “lost” generations of mankind?
Yes,…He did. And the slow-learners and stubbornly resistant, earned for themselves the appellation of “fools” in Proverbs, and there were even some very long-standing “hold-outs” who also earned His very visible wrath, eventually.
God’s Love IS Righteous. And His Love and Righteousness, and thus His effective Power (Kenneth Hagin, Sr.’s “Force”), is 100% triumphant over the devil and any of his co-operators.
The Choice is yours,…Who do you want to “learn” from?,…(Who ya gonna believe?),…Barney, or marijuana, or God?
Barney is weak because of being “sentimental.” Marijuana deludes, substituting “illusion” for reality, and breaking down the God-given natural instinctive ability of the living human system to discern and “make choices” that will maintain its integrity and healthful vitality. Both of these sources spawn a system of “lies” that are methodically and relentlessly “sold”/purveyed and woven into this generation’s experience.
Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.”
I recommend following Joshua and therefore, God.
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.
17 “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
God gives us His Absolute Best, and it surely isn’t sentimentalized, “feel-good”, saccharine “sweetness,”… which is really quite “yuk,”… and nevermind that it would “never get the job done.”
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Excellent post Eugene! Speaking of hell, I feel like I’m in hell the few times I darken the door of a christian bookstore- sorry if that offends some. My hunch is if Jesus were on earth he would walk through many of those stores, as he did the money changers district, and uproot a few tables. I’m embarrassed that so much gaudy stuff is for sale in those stores under the guise of christianity!
That’s funny and true. And if there are levels of hell, then being in a Precious Moments Chapel is deeper still.
I wonder if most of the tacky Jesus-junk is not secretly invented and marketed by atheists to make us look as stupid as they think we are.
But you are right. I think Jesus would have had a similar response to the money changers if he walked in one today. That’s my point. Jesus takes this seriously. People are so up in arms about Bell’s (or whatever the Evangelical alarm of the day is) askew theology and yet Christianity becoming market driven, business based and completely consumerist has changed the gospel. Too many believe if you “get” Jesus (Got Milk?) the same way we get a product, then we have our ticket to heaven and are done. And that is not the message of the cross.
Thanks for reading and writing. Eugene
“tacky Jesus-junk” as in emails with the nicest biblical messages…and then it ends with …’ if you send this within the hour to (some magical amount ) of friends ‘this’ and ‘this’ will happen to you.’
I have often wondered if there is some atheists laughing his ass off while composing this garbage for christians to send out.
By the way, this is the easiest way for me to wipe out any gooey ‘christian’ e-mail, although I…. ‘love God and only 3% of true christians will spend the time to send this along’
I had not made the connection with junk email. I just delete it before opening it. But you are right. Eugene
… (continuing),…(one of these days,…eventually,…I WILL get to planting my little garden!),…
Barney is ok for very young people, of course,…category: “milk,”… very milky milk,… I like Barney,… but I don’t like the aspect of childishness being overly perpetuated into the society-at-large, when other things should be rightfully taking its place,…
Sorry,…I didn’t mean to be offensive and hard-hearted about things,…it’s very difficult to “follow a train of thought” and “cover all the related bases” at the same time!,…
I guess some younger folks would probably prefer for the “elderly” and “antiquated” to “pipe down” already,…but we elderly only have so much time left, and still so many thoughts to offer “before God,” while it is “yet day,”… (for us, anyway), … … … & the Bible DOES encourage kindness and forbearance and respect toward the aging,… & this in many places, …
Proverbs 23:19-26 (excerpted)
19 “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way [of the Lord]. …
21 ” … the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, …
22 “Hearken to your father, who begot you, and despise not your mother when she is old.
23 “Buy the truth and sell it not; not only that, but also get discernment and judgment, instruction and understanding.
24 “The father of the [uncompromisingly] righteous (the upright, in right standing with God) shall greatly rejoice, and he who becomes the father of a wise child shall have joy in him.
25 “Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice.
26 “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe and delight in my ways, …”
So, it is in this spirit, that I carry on a bit more,…I only intend to share from my particular vantage point,…age and observations and experiences,…I am NOT God, and am not claiming to be speaking for Him,…although sometimes I have,…but even then:
1 Corinthians 13:9 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.”
In case any reader has found “themself” — (I just LOVE this new vernacular grammatical twist!,…it “fudges” the him/her problem,…) — caught up in the fallen mores of the times, — (like THAT “might ever happen” to anyone!) — and might be wondering what the Bible says about things like “other spirits” than the Holy Spirit, I intend to go looking for some verses right now to share with you:
Ephesians 5:18 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.”
That is a great nutshell version of God’s position on these things. To invite the Holy Spirit into one’s life is a fairly grand topic. It is a free gift offered “to us who believe.”
Acts 2:38 “And Peter answered them, ‘Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ”
Further clarification about competing “false” spirits, does exist in Scripture, but because of the vocabulary used, it is not instantly recognizable:
19 “Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency,
20 “Idolatry, SORCERY*, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies),
21 “Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
As I have been taught, “sorcery” in the meaning of the times, involved the use of drugs and “divining” by what could only be classified as un-holy spirits. Certainly not Godly, and a dangerous position to put one’s unsuspecting soul in. And these are not easy spirits to “chase away” once they have gained entry to/(made contact with) the dabbler’s opened soul. Hence Paul’s serious warnings.
How do we “do the work” of keeping ourselves “filled with the Holy Spirit” and resisting the devil with “positive pressure”?,…prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with the faithful, guarding our thoughts, guarding our hearts:
Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
Decide to agree with God, and do the mental work necessary to align/re-align your thinking patterns, in order that your plans and intentions can help in influencing and guiding your daily “walk before the Lord.” This does not mean that we will never have struggles, by any means, but we’ll be equipping ourselves to handle things more successfully.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.”
As our good friend, Oogene, — (my very very very childish”pet name” for him,…I admit it,…) — has said in here somewhere, this is a project “for a lifetime.”
In that vein, I will offer one more Scripture:
Matthew 5:48 “You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Garden planting sounds fun and productive. Enjoy. Eugene
Awesome post, Eugene! Loved this line….”That sounds more like prolonged determinism not love inspired freedom.” And, I agree about the “popular authors vs. less popular authors” point. I kind of thought similarly about “The Shack”. Good book, but nothing new regarding the idea of the Trinity being with us. Worldly status does seem to sway too many people without them doing a little research on their own and really hear what God is saying to them individually…they tend to just go with whatever is being said by the popular author/person, etc. God bless!
Thanks, Tammy. You’re right too. Is this why we are referred to as sheep sometimes in scripture? Though I think people in the secular world do the same thing. I’ve heard someone say most of us have a short attention span. God bless you too.