Archive for the ‘Despair’ Category

The Cracks Are Showing March 15, 2011

The Christian blogosphere (and larger publishing world) has been hopping for the past two weeks with the controversy surrounding emerging church pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. This has been essentially a  discussion about the doctrine of eternal punishment and the question of what happens to those who exit this life without Christ. In my view, at least, it’s been a very needed debate about something very important to orthodox theology that is so often ignored because of its very uncomfortable, unsettling nature.

Our humanity recoils when we read passages like Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” Do we really want to serve that God? If what He says is at all true, we ought to be deathly afraid. God is not threatening us, but rather reminding us of our earned destiny without His interposition of grace through the shed blood of Christ. In context, that particular passage contains Christ’s words to the disciples when he sent them out to bear witness. It is an exhortation to boldness–don’t shrink back from those who threaten you because the fate of their eternal soul is in God’s hands. Be bold for your sake and theirs. Just from that snapshot, we see very clearly how central the truth of hell is to our joy in the sacrifice of Christ and our zeal for evangelism, in short, the Gospel.

That said, this post is not intended to be a review of systematic theology. Others have written better and in more depth about the subject. Rather it is to call our attention to the fractures in that theology that has historically tied Christians together. Kevin DeYoung encapsulates this angle of the current storm (and why it matters) in the midst of his extra-long review of Bell’s book:

“The primary intended audience [for Love Wins]  appears to be not so much secularists with objections to Christianity (á la Keller’s Reason for God), but disaffected evangelicals who can’t accept the doctrine they grew up with. Bell writes for the ‘growing number’ who have become aware that the Christian story has been ‘hijacked’ (vii). Love Wins is for those who have heard a version of the Gospel that now makes their stomachs churn and their pulses rise, and makes them cry out, ‘I would never be a part of that’ (viii). This is a book for people like Bell, people who grew up in an evangelical environment and don’t want to leave it completely, but want to change it, grow up out of it, and transcend it. The emerging church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief.

“Over and over, Bell refers to the ’staggering number’ of people just like him, people who can’t believe the message they used to believe, people who want nothing to do with traditional Christianity, people who don’t want to leave the faith but can’t live in the faith they once embraced. I have no doubt there are many people like this inside and outside our churches. Some will leave the faith altogether. Others””and they are in the worse position””will opt for liberalism, which has always seen itself as a halfway house between conservative orthodoxy and secular disbelief.

“But before we let Bell and others write the present story, we must remember that there are also a ’staggering number’ of young people who want the straight up, unvarnished truth. They want doctrinal edges and traditional orthodoxy. They want no-holds-barred preaching. They don’t want to leave traditional Christianity. They are ready to go deeper into it.

“Love Wins has ignited such a firestorm of controversy because it’s the current fissure point for a larger fault-line. As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions””back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism. The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.”

When I was growing up, it was a lot easier to believe that everyone who called himself a Christian, went to church, read the top-selling Christian books, attended the big Christian conferenecs, etc. believed pretty much the same things. We all read the Bible, we all fought against abortion, we all thought the world of Billy Graham and Steven Curtis Chapman. Sure there were different denominations, but that had more to do with preferences in worship and the “secondary stuff” than theology, right? Looking back, I can see that it wasn’t that simple even then, but it felt like Christians were such a unified group.

What Bell seems to be proposing is that that unified group was too insular and exclusive, missing the bigger picture of what God was up to. What DeYoung points out is that the “unity” we thought we had didn’t really exist. We put aside some very significant differences (some bordering quite literally on “life and death” issues) to confront a larger secular culture, and in the process we diluted what it really meant to be a Christian to the point where it was nearly impossible to define. Today, more and more, the cracks are showing, as we begin to realize that many of the people we thought “got it” need to be re-taught some of the hard truths of Scripture (as we all do, often) or perhaps to be told the Good News in its totality for the first time in their lives.

We’re wired to dislike conflict, but if what comes of this kerfuffle is a renewed focus on the truths of Scripture and a renewed proclamation of the whole Gospel (including the hard parts) to Christians and non-Christians alike, then God will be glorified. If that’s what it takes for revival to come, I’ll take the conflict over that false sense of unity every time.

Posted by Justin Lonas

Friday Thoughts: Great is Thy Faithfulness July 9, 2010

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

“Summer and winter and seedtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to lead and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine and ten thousand beside!

“Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

© Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923

Chisholm’s hymn is dear to many of us, but perhaps so near that we forget the power of its meaning. This is not just a hymn praising God for His abundant blessing or His steadfast support. In point of fact, the text for this songbook standard comes not from Psalms but from Lamentations – from the lowest point of the lowly life of Jeremiah. And the affirmation of God’s faithfulness comes not after a blessing, or even after deliverance, but after God’s chastisement of Israel. So confident was Jeremiah of God’s purposes in His punishment, that he echoes Job’s cry, “œThough He slay me, yet will I hope in Him“ (Job 13:15a).

“œMy soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “˜My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my sould remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness“ (Lamentations 3:17-23).

That is the true test of our faith – do we trust God enough to know that even the troubles we encounter are part of His plan? Do we believe, as Jeremiah did, that “œWho is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the most high that both good and ill go forth?” (Lamentations 3:37-38).

Posted by Justin Lonas

© 2017 Disciple Magazine. All rights reserved.
6815 Shallowford Rd | Chattanooga, TN 37421 | 800.251.7206 | 423.894.6060 | fax 423.894.1055

Sponsors: