Book Review: Love Wins

I think it might be an internet rule that if you are a Christian and a blogger you must write a review of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins.  I don't want to run afoul of the internet so here is my review.  I know that many of my readers have not read other reviews but I should say, there's probably nothing too original here. Much ink has already been spilled in reviewing Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell, so I will not be offering a traditional review here.  Rather I will be answering some of the questions that people have heard about the book.

What is the thesis of Love Wins?

Rob Bell’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to clarity.  Any time he is getting close to a conclusion, instead of saying what he believes or even what he means, he asks leading questions.  But it seems that the thesis is as follows:

God gets what He wants. Because he is loving, God wants everyone to be saved. Love wins.

Again, he never comes out and says that everyone will be saved, but he makes that implication strongly.  Apparently they will be saved even if they desire nothing of God.  Although he doesn’t reconcile this tension.

Is Love Wins at least careful with the scriptures.  Does he come to his conclusions Biblically?

In short, no.  One would have to strive to mishandle the scriptures as much as Bell does in Love wins.  He is a pastor and one charged with preaching the word.  He should have a basic grasp of hermeneutics, but he is utterly irresponsible with God’s word.  One brief example is quoting John 12:47 [pg 160] to say that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world.  However, in that very same sentence Jesus says that His words will judge those “who reject me.”  There are so many examples of either terrible hermeneutics or outright mishandling of the scriptures that it would be hard to list them all.

What about the holiness of God, does he care about that?

The word Holy appears on page 182. That’s it.  And on page 182 he describes substitutionary atonement correctly and follows it by suggesting that it teaches a false message.  So yes he does deny the holiness of God.  The god of Love Wins is loving, but he is not holy.  That is not the God of the Bible!

I have to also say that Bell is very loose with the way he speaks of the Trinity.  He doesn’t deny the trinity, but he is not at all careful in the way he speaks.  It is extremely off-putting to hear somebody say Jesus and God.  It implies that Jesus is not God.

Does he really deny the atonement?

He does in fact describe the crucifixion as a powerful metaphor. And he says that “most of us do not understand sin, guilt, and atonement in those ways.”  He says the first Christians, “put the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand.”  I wonder if he has read the book of Hebrews?  I said at that outset that His style doesn’t lend itself to clarity.  Bell never actually says anything.  What he does is imply it in a way that only an idiot could deny what has been said.  So yes, he strongly implies that the atonement is just a metaphor.

Is there anything good about the book?

I will give him credit for understanding Heaven as a physical place.  Many times in many evangelical churches, heaven is seen as this ethereal place that neither seems heavenly or particularly real.

Also the book is quick to read.

Would you recommend the book?


My thoughts on the Ground-Zero Mosque

I think all bloggers are required by the law of the internet to comment on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” so this is my attempt.  You are welcome to comment but I will be moderating.  Please keep it civil.

Now to my actual commentary -

There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion, so I will lay my bias out there at the beginning.  First, I am a Christian.  I don’t mean that merely as a title.  I mean that I have chosen to place my faith in Christ, and it is the most important thing that I have ever done.  Further, I consider myself a Christian apologist.  (Although I am still a bit shy of making this list) I have a strong desire to defend Christianity and the Christian worldview from all opposition in whatever form.

Secondly, I am a conservative Christian; meaning that I believe the Bible to be true in all that it declares.

Thirdly, I am a proud, patriotic American.  I am crushed with sadness when I think about the events of September 11 2001, and I know with certainty that the perpetrators of those events are opposed to what America stands for.

Those are my biases, so know that before you read any further.

I truly wish there were no mosques anywhere.  I believe that Islam is a false religion that involves worshipping a false god.  I believe that in many cases Islam is not merely a false, empty religion but that it encourages violence.  If not encouraging, at the very least it condones violence in a way that other world religions don’t.  (Though, if I were in India, I may feel the same about Hinduism.)

However, we live in a country where the freedom to practice religion is guaranteed by the constitution.  It is one of the beautiful things about our country; that people with such opposing convictions can come together and make a mostly peaceful nation.

In part, the first amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  The way I read this it means that as a country we will not have an official religion, nor will we prevent anyone from worshipping in a way that their religion requires.  (I know there are exceptions, e.g. human sacrifice, but for argument’s sake let’s leave them out.)

Politically speaking, I do not want to be involved in anything that tells other people how they can or cannot worship. Nor do I want someone telling me how I can or cannot worship.

I would definitely question the wisdom of those who want to build this prayer center when so much controversy has arisen.  It definitely does not seem like a good PR move for Islam in America.  And I clearly understand the irony that religious freedom is utterly incompatible with Islam yet religious freedom  is what will allow an Islamic center to be built there.

The most important part of this issue from my standpoint is not the political, but the spiritual.  I believe that God has given mankind moral free-agency.  In other words, humans make actual moral choices.  This fact means that we are free to choose wrongly.  There are consequences for all choices, and there will be a judgment that gives those consequences, but we are free to make them.

I believe that Islam is a false religion.  I would expect any Muslim would say the same about my religion.  The wonderful thing about the USA is that we are both free to say so, and I hope it stays that way.

One Week

And it will be over.  Commercials will be on TV that are about products, not just candidates.  The news will have something new to talk about.  And we will have a new president-elect. I am personally of the opinion that, however the election goes, we get what we deserve.  Maybe I'm overly pessimistic about politics (I am after all truly thankful to live in a democracy) but I do not see anything substantial changing, regardless of who is elected.  Our country is set up in such a way that no one really has all that much power.  In truth, who you vote for for governor makes much more difference than who you vote for president.

That is not to say your vote doesn't matter.  As Christians we absolutely have a duty to vote, and to vote according to the Bible.  To do anything else would be irresponsible, poor stewardship, and make us bad citizens.

Please vote.  Pray, read your Bible, and vote.

Here's a list of all my political polls from this blog's history

[polldaddy poll=1052412][polldaddy poll=929433][polldaddy poll=946871]

Classic Blog Post - Still My Favorite Post Ever

One year ago today I was stricken with a very odd (but scary at the time) affliction.  I wrote a blog post about it on myspace (this was before I even considered this awesome wordpress blog), and I decided to repost it today on the anniversary of the event.  I only did a minimal amount of editing to correct the gross errors from before.  I was entertained as I reread it, and my regular readers probably will be too.  For many of you it will even be new.  Tomorrow I'll give an update on what It is like a full year later.

The Adventures of Jeremy in the Emergency Room: The world’s longest blog post

Prologue:  How I got to the ER

On Tuesday October 9th 2007 I developed a headache while crappie fishing with Jack Pate. It seemed like a sinus headache at the time. I took Advil cold & sinus like always, but it didn't go away. I also rode my exercise bike that night, because I've been doing that a lot lately, trying to drop a few lb's since I've never been fatter. The headache never went away. Wednesday I still had it.  I worked out like crazy hoping that would make the headache go away, it didn't help. Then on Wednesday night after church I helped this guy move, making for even more exercise. I made a comment about my head hurting and Jack said, "You were complaining about that yesterday." I told him that it is exactly the same headache. On Thursday, I was beginning to get concerned about having the exact same headache for 3 days. Plus, it was worse on Thursday. It is completely localized behind my right ear. Thursday I took a variety of medicines and drank a lot of Mello Yello for the caffeine and tried to sleep it away.  (Really I was just sleeping to try to hide from the hurting of my head.) The headache is not that severe, but it is relentless. It's there when I go to bed and when I wake up. Sometimes it throbs and sometimes it is dull. I made up my mind that if I woke up with it on Friday, I would go the doctor.

I don't have a regular doctor so on Friday morning I went to the express care of the Cape Fear Valley Hospital. It opens at noon I was there at 10 till, and was the second one to sign in. I thought I had a sinus infection and that he would give me antibiotics and help me feel better soon, but the PA who saw me said that there was nothing wrong with me, he gave me a shot of Tordol and a prescription for Fioricet and treated me as if I had migraines. He asked me if I was under stress I said no, he continued his course of migraine treatment anyway. He also scheduled me for a head CT on Thursday.

This is the first time I began to freak out a little. I truly considered every horrible possibility, from brain tumor to aneurysm. In case you wondered, I am still fully confident in my salvation in Christ. Even though I seriously considered death I was only reassured of my belief in Him and not the slightest bit afraid of my slightly less hypothetical impending death. Being hypothetically disabled was much more disconcerting.

Part One:  Why I went to the ER

The headache medicine that the PA gave me didn't help at all. It made me throw up, but didn't help with the headache. When I kept it down it made me extremely tired. But I was going to just tough it out until my CT on Thursday. Well things changed on Sunday morning. I got up early to make pancakes for the Baptist Men's Breakfast, and at breakfast I noticed that my mouth was weak. It felt like my eggs were going to fall right out as I chewed. By 1 pm I noticed that I couldn't smile fully. The right side of my mouth wouldn't raise all the way. I took a nap, went back to church and taught DT. The youth laughed at my inability to whistle. At the conclusion of church, the pastor named me as a prayer request, and a group of ladies prayed over me as soon as we dismissed. I truly felt loved and ministered to. That feeling was only beginning. After church I was watching TV and playing with my new X-box (an awesome gift I got for pastor appreciation month) and took a break to go to the bathroom. I smiled at myself in the mirror and noticed that my mouth was worse. This was the most nervous I'd been. So I took a picture of myself, sent it to Mom over yahoo messenger, and asked her should I go the the emergency room, cause I can only smile like this. (Just as a quick aside, can you imagine what this would have been like 10 years ago before digital cameras or instant messengers. The internet is awesome sometimes.) This is the pic I took. Mom said to call her, she said I should go the the ER because, "Your face shouldn't be drooping."

Part Two:  The Trip and the Waiting Room

I went through a mental list of who should take me to the ER, because I knew I shouldn't drive myself. I decided on Frank Acevedo. Frank is new to our church and will be here for about a year. He was the best candidate because he lives close and his family is back in Tennessee. He said he'd be here in 10 minutes. I got myself ready loaded my pockets with the prescriptions and my phone charger and stuff, and was just about ready when he arrived. On the way to the hospital I called Mom, Granny, Jarred, Pastor Weeks and Brent Highfil. Dad was in Mexico so I didn't even attempt to call him.

When I arrived at the hospital, I went to the check-in desk and told them, "I've have had a headache since Tuesday, and when I smile I look like this." They wrote down "facial drooping." Me and Frank took what seemed like the last 2 seats in the waiting room, and began the long wait. About 20 minutes later, the Pastor arrived and he stayed there nearly all night as well. I was called into the preliminary diagnosis room, and answered a bunch of questions. They took my blood pressure, weighed me, (I reeealy have to lose a lot of weight) <--update-->(I still really need to lose a lot of weight) <--update--> and asked me a bunch of questions. One of the questions they asked was rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10. All I could think of was this. (The line comes at the 2 minute mark) Which is so funny you have to watch it…now before you continue reading this. What are you waiting for, go ahead watch it. (I just didn't want to get attacked by the guys from the femur ward.) They sent me back to the chairs. We arrived at about 9:45, and slowly watched the room empty out. At 1:15 or so they called me back. Apparently 3½ hours is not all that long to wait at the emergency room. If it had been a stroke, who knows what would have happened.

Part Three: The Exam

They called me back and told me to put on the hospital gown. It was the first time in my life that I've worn one of those. I asked the nurse if I could go to the bathroom before I changed, and she told me to pee in a cup if I was going, "just in case." It's always awkward peeing in a cup, you don't know how much to put in the cup and you don't really have enough hands for the whole operation to go smoothly. But I came out of the bathroom with a cup of pee and changed into the gown with no back in it.

Then came the IV. The IV nurse stabbed the crap out of my left hand, then moved on to my right forearm. She was able to get one syringe of blood, then she moved to my left arm. The left arm hurt the most, but the right arm is much more bruised. She never did get an acceptable stab in, just as another nurse was about to give it a shot, I was moved. A girl was coming in and needed my room for an exam. She was writhing and crying in her bed, I was glad to give her the room. I didn't really want to walk down the hall with my backside hanging out, so they wrapped another gown around me like a cape and I walked down the hall following a nurse who had all my clothes in a yellow bag. They moved me to a trauma room and hooked me to all the machines.

Part Four:  My Diagnosis and Relief

A trauma room is exactly what you think of when you think of an emergency room. It is a large room with 3 "rooms" sort-of separated by a curtain. I was in trauma 2. First I'll talk about the diagnosis, then the fun part. Relatively quickly, remember I had been there for four hours already, the doctor came in and saw me. He looked in my ears and then asked me the same questions I'd already answered a hundred times, squeeze his fingers, when did it start, then he said smile, wrinkle your forehead. Then the words I was dying to hear. "You have Bell's Palsy. you haven't had a stroke or anything. We will get a CT to make sure everything is normal, but it will probably go away in a about two weeks. It is probably caused by the ear infection which seems to be pretty severe."

This was an incredible relief. If you have actually been reading this massive article you remember me saying in the prologue that I had considered everything horrible. Now I knew that the headache was actually an earache, and not my brain leaking out. At this point I could relax and enjoy the rest of my experience in the trauma room of the Cape Fear Valley Hospital. They took me next door for a CT, I nearly fell asleep during this part, laying down in a quiet room. But it only lasted about 10 minutes, and was kind of jerky once the machine kicked in. Apparently my CT was fine. You can read about the last part in part 6. Shortly after the head CT the pastor got to go home. Frank stayed around and drove me home.

Part Five:  Now Things Get Entertaining

This is the part you have all been waiting for. The trauma room is much more like ER the show than I ever expected. My roommates in trauma 1 & 3 consisted of a lady who had stabbed herself…wait for it...twice, and a man who accidentally shot himself.

First lets talk about Ms. Stabsalot. She was moaning periodically from the time I arrived. Then she would holler for a nurse and ask, "When will I get my pain meds?" The nurse would tell her that the film had to come back. Then at one point she decided that she wasn't going to get satisfaction. So she unplugged all her cables, wrapped up in her bed sheets like a dress and walked out of the room. She was quickly herded in by a nurse and told she couldn't leave because she was a psych patient. She decided then to only go to the bathroom, and came back to her bed, and returned to periodic moaning.

Then in comes Shooter in a wheelchair in real true pain, and clearly in shock. As the doctors questioned him they asked him his name, which I will leave out, and then they asked him where he was when it happened, (less than a mile from my house btw) and how he got shot. He said he dropped his gun (a .22 by the way, does that even count as packing heat?) and it went off. He also said he got rid of the gun, but he gave up his boys that he was with real quick. He was shot in the forearm. The police unwrapped it, and then the nurse pulled the curtain so that I couldn't see what was happening. I could still tell what was happening though because you can hear right through a curtain. They had some difficulty getting him to stay in the bed, and he was repeatedly saying, "I just want this out of me." The nurses wanted him to hold still so that they could give him an IV, pain meds and get an x-ray. They needed to see how the bullet was placed in his arm. As soon as he got the medicine he was a whole different guy, calm and cooperative. The doctor took the bullet out right there in the room.

When Ms. Stabsalot heard this she moaned really loud a few times, hoping to outmoan the shooter. Then the doctor started ripping into her. She said, "I've been waiting hours to get some pain meds and he just rolls right in and gets it."

"He's been shot," said the Dr.

She replied, "But I've been stabbed"

"You stabbed yourself," is the reply.

"So what, I've still been stabbed! Maybe I should have stabbed myself 3 times."

"You are a psych patient and I can't give you pain meds because they might interfere with your other symptoms. We are taking you to a mental institution for a better diagnosis."

This part of the night was truly entertaining and since I was not longer freaking out I just enjoyed the show.

Part Six:  Checking Out and Going Home

The doctor said the CT looked fine, he referred me to a neurologist for an MRI "just in case" and gave me antibiotics, antivirals, a roll of tape, instructions on using eye cream and taping my eye shut for bed, and a vicodin, to ease the pain of the earache and help me sleep. Here is me all taped up and ready for bed.

Went to the 24 hour CVS there near the hospital and filled all the scrips. Just as I was walking in the door of the house my alarm was going off, because I had to get up early the morning before. I took the first round of all the pills, ate some peanut butter on toast, took a shower, (but the vicodin was working good by then and I was staggering) taped up my eye and went to bed. Esau spent the first night of his life in the house alone, and seemed to survive it fine. I slept till about 10:30.

Epilogue:  Thank You

First of all let me say, when you are single and live 600 or more miles from where your family is, things like this could be extra scary. Then let me say thank you to my church. A major purpose of the church should be fellowship, and fellowship is more than eating together. Fellowship is having genuine concern for others. My church was awesome. I received prayer, and ministry galore. People have volunteered to drive me while I can't see and feed me. For all of you I say. Thank You! You have made it clear that everyone who loves me is not 600 miles away.

Finally, if you have read this whole manifesto-length blog post you deserve congratulations. You should at least comment it so I know I didn't totally waste my time. Also thank you to all the people who prayed for me and ministered to me through this ordeal.

Just in case you are wondering, this post is 2651 words.

More thoughts on Atheism

Last week I wrote a blog post about atheism, and it drew a couple of comments that got me to thinking.  Before I go on I'll restate the paragraph that brought about the comments and than the comments that began this thought process.  Here's the paragraph:

atheism always seems to have one of 2 causes at the core. First, the vast majority of atheists do not know how to deal with the presence of evil.  In other words, they cannot reconcile the existence of suffering in the world with the existence of a loving God.  (If anyone actually wants to read it, I can write a couple of posts addressing this problem.)  Secondly, the desire to be in control of one’s own life.  In other words the childish attitude that,”nobody can tell me what to do” extends even as far as to an all-powerful God.  And I again remind you of the words of Ivan from The Brothers Karamazov, if there is no god there is no morality.  (Somebody in Sunday School taught me this second one a while back and I’ve noticed it as a trend ever since.)

Here are the comments that came as a result of that paragraph. This one was first:

I’m sorry, but as an atheist I have to tell you that both of your reasons why people become atheists do not, at least, apply to me.

I’m an atheist because of the lack of evidence for the claims made by religions and religious people.

That’s it.

This one followed and agreed:

Neither of the reasons you give for atheists being atheists apply to me. It’s simply the lack of evidence for the existence of any Gods.

These comments coupled with the fact that almost everybody on the planet believes in a god in some form got me to thinking.   So today I would like to suggest to my readers that it seems to me the onus of proving a position falls to them.

To see the rest of this wonderful series, click this comic

What I mean by that is that virtually everyone on the planet, believes in some god, because God has made himself known.  I am not arguing for Christianity here, merely simple theism. (Theism is the belief in a god who is involved in His creation.)  People seeing creation from the very, very minute to the vastness of space realize that there must be something greater than us.  And science or naturalism, or whatever worlview you view the world through other than theism will never answer the most basic of questions.  Where did all the stuff come from?

There are those who are firm atheists.  They do not believe in any god, and do not see evidence for Him in creation, or beauty, or consiousness, or detail, but those people are a small minority.  And to me it seems that rather than them feeling the need to be convinced of the existence of God, they need to be convinced of his non-existence. To put it another way, they should not see a lack of evidence for God as a sufficient condition to doubt His existence.  They should need a preponderance of evidence of His non-existence to arrive at that position.  Let me try and say that a third, less-convoluted way.  Belief in God should be the default system of belief, with only overriding proof to change that position.  (I actually believe that this is the position of most and their "proof" is the existence of evil.  See the first paragraph.)

I don't want to be antagonistic or disrespectful of my commentors.  I am grateful for their comments and that they read my post.  But their comments got me thinking and I wanted to share those thoughts with my readers.

I leave you with this thought.  There are virtually no rural atheists.  Why?  Because in the country at night you can see 10 times as many stars as you can in the city.  Rural people are simply confronted by the vastness of space on a greater scale.   Every time I go back home I am astounded by the stars in the sky as I drive from place to place.  I urge you, if you are from a large city visit the country and be amazed.


*****Please read before you Comment*****

This post has drawn a few comments already.  Please before you comment understand that I am NOT arguing the existence of God based on His popularity. In fact, in this post I am not arguing the existence of God at all.  (The best arguments are very old and have been dealt with for a long time.  See Anselm's Proslogion, Aquinas's Five Ways, or even the Kalam argument)  I am merely begging the question - Why should the burden of proof not be with the atheists?  I beg the question because the prima facie position for most people when they look at the universe is that God exists.  If you want to argue for the existence or non-existence of God there are about a million places on the web to do that.  I don't want that in my comments section.  I would let it go on, but I am very concerned about the tone of the comments received so far.

Here's what I will moderate out of my comments-

  • Insulting the intelligence of anyone for either belief or disbelief
  • Insulting people who live in rural areas
  • making the point that popularity does not equal truth

Please do not do those things.  But feel free to tell me why the burden of proof belongs to the first blush position of the theists.

Another post about politics

Please be sure to read the * at the bottom for my disclaimer. Last Tuesday I wrote a post complaining about, among other things, covering elections by polls. Then I promptly went out last Wednesday and read this Zogby poll.  It is very telling.

Today I want to post about politics again, but this time from a different angle. Before I begin I want to say that I am certain that no hope for this world, or for our country is found in politics, but only in the gospel of Jesus. (You can read more of my thoughts on this subject here, in what I consider my best post ever.)   It does, however, matter how we vote.

So how should responsible Christians think about politics? There are those who would say that there is nothing to think about; we are Republicans, right? Then there are those others who would say that the Republican party is too ungodly they don’t care about the environment and they are only concerned about money so we are to be Democrats. My pastor says look at the party platforms and see which you are. (Here are links to the Democratic and Republican platforms 2008 version.) I must admit that at 123 pages I did not read both platforms.  I did, however, skim them both, and my conclusion is that although the two sides are in opposition on most major issues, there is plenty covered by both parties that I can disagree with.  (I disagreed with a lot more in one than in the other)

How are we, as responsible Christians, to vote?  It seems that it comes down to issues and how a particular candidate feels about those issues.  Let's imagine that there are only a handful of issues, even though in reality there are more like hundreds,  those issues include:

  • The economy (it's the economy, stupid) or see here
  • The war on terror, including the Iraq war
  • Technology issues, such as net neutrality
  • Sanctity of human life issues
  • Defining Marriage
  • Healthcare
  • Immigration
  • Energy policy, including climate change policy
  • Social security
  • Issues of privacy vs. security
  • Crime control

Here is where it becomes more difficult, it is not  as simple as merely dividing up the candidates by their positions, seeing who is on my side more often, and selecting that candidate.  The fact is, these issues do not all weigh the same.  If I am in agreement with one candidate in his view of net neutrality and another candidate in his view of the sanctity of human life, (which, in fact, I am) those are not equal issues.  Both are important, but it is more important to protect human life than to protect the internet from the greed of the telecoms.

For quite a long time evangelicals have been considered a two issue group. However, lately there is this notion in the media that evangelicals are no longer interested in the same issues.  This is largely brought on by Rick Warren’s movement to assist with AIDS in Africa and the recent statements by evangelicals on global warming. In response I will quote Dr. Daniel Akin, who said his [SEBTS] presidential forum last week, “We’re not looking for a different moral/social agenda, but we are looking for an expanded agenda.”

I would agree with that statement totally.  What I am saying is that Christians should still be committed to the issue of the sanctity of human life in all its forms, from the youngest to the oldest. Christians should still be concerned about defining marriage legally the same way that it is defined biblically. Those, however, should not be the entire list. We should be concerned about the poor in our nation and around the world.  We should be concerned about those in war-torn parts of the world.  We should be concerned about the AIDS epidemic both in Africa and in America, and we should be concerned about the way we care for our planet.

I guess, 700 words into this post, it's time to reach some conclusions.  So let's ask the question again; How should a responsible Christian vote?  At the very least a Christian should be educated about the candidates, know their views on the issues, and vote according to his or her beliefs.

It is also imperative that Christians know which issues are most important.  In the Zogby poll I mentioned earlier, the number one issue by a landslide was the economy, and that was before the disastrous events of last week.  I submit to you two things.  First, the president actually has very little control over the economy.  The current issues have arisen from corporate debt, and the next collapse is coming because of personal debt.  Second, don't sacrifice morality for money.  What I'm saying is; it's not the economy, stupid.

A final word. Vote! Don’t ignore your local elections. In all reality, your mayor, or governor or city councilman will have much more effect on your life than the president. Voting for president is important, but don’t ignore your local elections.

[polldaddy poll="946871"]

* Although I am a staff member of LaGrange Park Baptist Church, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not that of the church.  They may not be construed as an endorsement or attack on any candidate or party on behalf of the church.  They are my views as an individual.

Evangelism & Results

Note to all my non Southern Baptist readers: please don’t let all the big words in the first sentence keep you from reading further.

Three weeks ago I spent my days at an Intentionally Evangelistic Church Strategy seminar sponsored my local Baptist Association. In it, we focused on the need for our churches to be more intentionally evangelistic. In other words, we need to learn to make whatever we do as a church be focused on sharing the message of the gospel.

This seminar obviously got me thinking about my own witnessing habits and the effectiveness of my own ministry. I used to make this comment somewhat regularly:

“I always hear about all these churches that don’t baptize anybody and I can’t even imagine that. I’ve been in ministry since 1997, in nothing but small churches, and I’ve never gone a year without someone in my youth ministry being saved.”

It’s true. I have never gone a calendar year without anyone in my youth group getting saved.

So what brought about this post. No one in my youth group has come to Christ since July 2007. I have been blessed to lead two people through the sinner’s prayer in that same period, and I am thankful to God for that privilege. However, I consider it my main calling to work toward the spiritual growth of the students in my youth ministry. (There are some students who do not know Jesus there.) You can see why this is troubling for me.

I do share the gospel regularly, I do pray regularly for my students, and I understand that being faithful with the gospel is not equal to leading others to Christ. As they say we have to love fishing, not catching. I have this fear that students (not necessarily the ones in my ministry) do not think that being a believer matters, that, since it doesn’t affect the behavior of their [Christian?] friends, it’s not important to live differently from unbelievers. Therefore the message is compromised if not completely undercut. I do know this, the best thing that ever happened to me was asking Jesus to save me from my sins and be my Lord.

I’m not really sure why I wrote this post, maybe it should be a prayer request, maybe it is just me venting, or maybe it is time for some serious questioning the of way I do things. Sometimes I post things that I should probably keep to myself.

Christians & Climate Change

Yesterday I saw this comic, and somebody forwarded me this story, and it got me to thinking about “climate change” I put climate change in quotes because it used to be called global warming, until the globe actually cooled last year. Now it’s always called “climate change.”


I realize that this post is about two months too late. I missed all the hype surrounding the SBC statement by Jonathan Merritt. And I missed the big “We get it” statement by the ERLC.

But here are my thoughts anyway...

I have no idea whether humans are causing global warming or not. I will admit that it seems like climate change is real. I found An Inconvenient Truth to be rather convincing, but I cannot deny the stats from earlier that the world cooled last year. So, to clear this up, it does seem like something is going on, but I am not sure it is caused by humans and our activity on this planet. Now that I have established such a thoroughly fence-sitting position let me bottom line it for you.

For Christians, it doesn’t matter whether or not humans are causing global warming. It seems to me that the real issue is stewardship of the planet. We only have one planet to live on, at least until we figure out some new technology to put us on Mars. But I must say that the middle panel of the comic is correct. Stewardship of creation is a secondary issue. Just so that I am clear, there is only one great commission. There is only one duty that rises above all others for Christians. We are to spread the gospel, and preach to all the lost. That, however, is not an excuse to destroy what we have.

There are major problems on both sides of this issue. The people who say that this God’s world and He will take care of it are being irresponsible and simply unbiblical. God gave Adam the job of ruling over creation right in the beginning  And the simple fact is that he expects the same of us. We are to take care of the world.

The other side describes it as a "planetary emergency," and says “[global warming] threatens the future of human civilization.”  So Gore believes that the end of the world as we know it will be because of global warming if something is not done to stop it. The problem with that is the hyperbole of it all. I’ll state this plainly.  The main problem with the world is sin. It will be the cause of the end of civilization. No debate about that one. We doomed the world a long time ago. And there is no saving it. The greatest crisis ever to face mankind has already been settled. This world will end.

Let me wrap this all up. We must take care of the earth, just as we take care of our homes, our bodies, and our money, but climate change is not the greatest problem the world ever has faced, sin is.

And just in case you were wondering, I could sign the creation care document in good conscience.

Christians & Drinking

I left this comment in this blog earlier today.  So I'll ask my readers to answer it.

Here’s a question no one has ever answered satisfactorily for me. -Why does a Christian want to drink a beer?- If you know it’s wrong to get drunk and you don’t need a little alcohol to stay dysentery free, then why?

I do not want a discussion about legalism and christian freedom in my comments. I simply want an answer to this question, "What advantage do you get from drinking?"  Why do it?

I get the idea from all the people who argue that it's ok that the main reason that they want to drink socially is because they were taught that it is wrong.  It is pure rebellion.  In fact, the best reason I've ever gotten from anybody when I asked this question in person is that it is fun.  Also I'm probably not going to buy the argument that it is delicious.  Nobody lives the taste of beer the first time, and most of us are not in the habit of drinking stuff we think is nasty until it starts tasting good.

I am conceeding that the Bible doesn't say "thou shall not consume alcohol"  and that it does say "be not drunk with wine."  Let's not have a discussion of whether or not it is okay.  I want to know; why drink at all?  Especially since there's no clear line between sober and drunk.

Why Is This News? pt.2

Last week I saw this story on the interweb.

'Basic Instinct' Director Paul Verhoeven: Jesus Was Son of Mary and Roman Rapist

And of course it gets headlines. To save you from reading it, here it is in a nutshell. Paul Verhoeven has spent 20 years researching a book, Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait, so that he can gin up some interest and hopefully make a movie about Jesus.

Since he’s a director and has a couple of hit movies under his belt, people care what he has to say. But here’s the deal.  In his 20 years of study he has learned nothing. But he cannot accept the idea of a miracle so he makes something up. In this case, he says Jesus may have been the result of a rape. Also apparently Judas didn’t betray Jesus.

Every so often I like to write posts like this, and they all have the same theme. You may remember a few weeks ago a story about MosesSome scholar cannot buy into the idea of miracles so he makes something up. This is the same thing. Verhoeven apparently has no real reason to believe this except that he doesn’t want to. If you go back to the Jesus Seminar where he gets his ideas you will find that their view of Jesus excludes all miracles and deny all quotes where He talks about himself or eternity. Per wikipedia:

The seminar's reconstruction of Jesus portrays him as an itinerant Hellenistic Jewish sage who did not die as a substitute for sinners nor rise from the dead, but preached a "social gospel" in startling parables and aphorisms…

Why do people who insist on denying every major Christian doctrine also insist on calling themselves Christian? I think it is dishonest. They deny literally the very core of Christianity, the atonement. Why not just come up with a new title and be honest about who they are.  I believe it is because Christ is so appealing that even those who don't follow Him, or in this case don't believe in Him, or believe in a false version of Him, still want to be associated.

I can't blame them for that.  I came to belief in Christ around 25 years ago, and it is the best thing that ever happened to me.