Friday, May 20, 2011

Review of Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' Part 3

Chapter 2  Here is the New There
One thing that seems very “small” to say but actually is the biggest thing is the center point in Bell’s theology.  There are basically two types of theology, a man-centered theology and a God-centered theology.  A man-centered theology pushes the concerns of mankind to the front or the most primary position, whereas a God-centered theology has the concerns of God as the ultimate and final reason for anything that God does.  The former is Bell’s basic framework while the later is the Biblical one.  
We see this on page thirty four where Bell introduces his universalism. 
Right... he doesn't say the word.  But that entirely misses the point.  The Bible doesn't use the word Trinity but that doesn't mean it doesn't teach it.  Leading up to the passage that I’m about to quote, Bell reminds of Isaiah and Ezekiel, when they are speaking about the future kingdom, and he says that "Life in the age to come...sounds like heaven on earth." pg. 33.  He then goes on to say 

"A couple of observations about the prophet's promises regarding life in the age to come.  First, they      spoke about 'all the nations.' That's everybody.  That all those different skin colors , languages, dialects, and accents;...multiethnic, multisensory, multieverything.  That's an extraordinarily complex, interconnected, and diverse reality, a reality in which individual identities aren't lost or repressed, but embraced and celebrated.  An expansive unity that goes beyond and yet fully embraces staggering levels of diversity."  
Did you catch that?  “‘All the nations.’ That’s everybody.” What’s happening to those individuals according to Bell?  “Individual identities aren’t lost or repressed, but embrace and celebrated”  So...everybody gets saved, nobody gets lost.  Universalism.  
Again, this is man-centered.  He starts with the assumption that mankind is basically good and he works the problem from there.  This is antithetical to the Scriptures!  Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”  That’s a rhetorical question.  No man can understand how sick and vile the human heart is.  
There’s much more that could be said regarding this first point, but if you are a Bible-believing Christian, you know that universalism is a heresy and therefore the idea of it is to be rejected out right.
The last thing I wanted to address from this chapter is the same thing that he touched on his his Nooma video Bullhorn Guy.  He says on page sixty-two:
"Jesus invites us, in this life, in this broken, beautiful world, to experience the life of heaven now.  He insisted over and over that God's peace, joy, and love are currently available to us, exactly as we are."
I don’t want to criticize this whole statement.  There is truth in it.  That’s part of the problem in unpacking parts of this book.  There are true statements that are mixed with staggering error.
Are God's gifts currently available to us?
Exactly as we are?
God doesn't love us exactly as we are.  He's angry with human beings until we are under the covering of Jesus Christ.  Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness.  What is ungodliness?  To be ungodly is to do any act where the glory of God is not the chief reason for doing the act.  A few verses later, the very definition of sin is given to us  “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks...[they-we] exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man.” Romans 1:21, 23
Did you catch that?  Trading a God-centered vision for a man-centered vision.  Not honoring God, not giving thanks, not living for his glory is ‘exactly the way we are.’  That is our natural state. God does not love that!  He did not create us so that we could ignore his magnificence.  God is angry at sinners like you and me because that is exactly what we have done.  That’s why he sent Jesus!  He loved the world that He created in a very specific way, i.e. His image displayed in mankind, and he provided a way so that we could be restored to worshipping Him.  
That’s what this is about.  Worship.  
We were created to glorify and enjoy him.  Not ourselves.  But because of our fallen state, all we want to do is honor ourselves and not the Lord of all things.  
Christ honored and glorified God the Father perfectly in life.
Christ paid our penalty for not honoring and glorifying God perfectly in death.
He rose three days later to vindicate his righteousness.
All who would, by the grace of God, repent (turn away) of their sins, and fully rely on Christ alone will be saved. 
Saved to what?  
Saved to a life of honoring and worshipping God as the center of all things.   The opposite of ‘exactly the way we are.’ 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why Don't Christians Like the Gospel? Part 2

Right.  So I didn't explain last time what I meant by the title.  I mean professing Christians.  People who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  So the question is, why don't Christians like the Gospel?

Because it is entirely too God-centered.
The Gospel is about God getting all the credit, all the glory, all the fame.
That rubs our carnal, fleshly, sinful nature the wrong way.
Fortunately for us, we serve a God who saves us from that!
For instance, I was looking at Isaiah this morning.  If you want to get blown away with the God-centeredness of God, read this book!

For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:9-11

This is just staggering!
God with holding wrath.
God restraining holy anger towards sin.
All for the sake of his own praise.
He stops his hand from destroying sinners like you and me, not primarily because of you or me, but because of his own praise.
Secondly in verse ten He says that He is refining us (Israel in the context), not like silver, but through affliction.  Why does he do that?
Verse eleven tells us "for".  That word is so important. It means because.  That word is the connector that joins the two statements together.  We are refined 'for my own sake.'
For God's own sake.  Not only that, but He says it twice so that we will not miss it.  That is the Hebrew emphatic, commanding us to pay attention to what He is saying.  In other words, God is doing all of this i.e. restraining wrath from us, and refining us;  all for His own sake.
Why is that so important for Him to point out?
Verse eleven continues to give us hints:  "For how should my name be profaned?" In other words, if He does it for any other reason, He is profaning His own glory.  If He has a higher motive than for His own sake, He is despising Himself.  God has been God, is God, and will continue to be God, and that means that He is God-centered at the core of His being because there is nothing greater than Himself.
This is why some "Christians" dislike the Gospel.  It's too much about God, and not enough about ourselves.  This is even the motive for our sins being forgiven  1 John 2:12 says "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake."
That's right.  God forgives us primarily because it says something about Himself.  And that something is more important than our personal comfort.

Moving on to the last part of verse eleven. "My glory I will not give to another."  Still connected to the previous thoughts.   'I am doing this for my own sake, SO THAT my name will not be profaned FOR, I will not give my glory to another.'
God wants all the credit!  God wants all the glory!  Throughout this prophetic book, we see God pronouncing judgment on Israel and using Babylonians for the instrument of punishment.  But even for that He wants all the credit, He keeps on saying things like

Have you not heard?  Long ago I did it, from ancient times I planned it.  Now I have brought it to pass. (Isaiah 37:26)

In other words, 'just because the Babylonians are doing this, don't think for a second that this was not my plan.  This has always been my plan.  Look to me as the author of this and not to their hands. I want the credit.  I will not share the glory of this plan with any other!'

If God does "small" things throughout history, like having one nation punish another, for his own glory, how should we think about why he does the "biggest" things?  Things like crucifying the Lord of Glory?  Thinks like rewarding saints to heaven and condemning sinners to hell?  Are those disconnected from His glory?
Absolutely not.
God does all things for his glory including the Gospel.
This is why some Christians don't like the Gospel.  They are not the stars.  They are not on the main stage.  They are the extras, the unnecessary parts that get to act merely because the producer has allowed them to by His gracious and loving hand.

I thank God for that gracious loving hand.
Do you?
Do you love the God-centeredness of the Gospel?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review of Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' Part 2

Chapter 1  What About the Flat Tire?
One thing that Bell is the master of in this book is the rhetorical question.  Many in our day no longer knows what that means.  A rhetorical question is a question that doesn't need an answer, because the answer is obvious.  An example from Scripture is when the Apostle Paul asks at the end of 1 Cor. 12 "Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Do all speak in tongues?"  The answer is obviously no.  Bell does the same thing quite often in this chapter.  On page 2 Bell says this 

"Of all the billions of people who have ever lived, will only a select number 'make it to a better place'      and every single other person suffer in torment and punishment forever?  Is this acceptable to God?  Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish?  Can God do this or even allow this, and still claim to be a loving God?"  
Rhetorical questions.
The answer is no for him.  

On the next page he continues 
"What kind of a faith is that? Or, more important:  What kind of a God is that?"  
Again, rhetorical questions.
The answer is a horrible faith.
A horrible God.  

Please be honest.  That was his psychological intent.  This is inescapable.

The biggest problem that Bell has here is a worldview that is removed from the Biblical one.  He doesn't believe in a holy God who the prophet Habakkuk said "You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong." 1:13   I know that may be hard for some of you to hear, but my evidence for this is not only these statements, but also many other statements he makes throughout the rest of the book.
On the other hand, Bell does something right in his book.  Kind of.  He makes very keen observations on parts of Christian culture.  He plays the reductio ad absurdum card on these ideas and he comes out correct.  For instance on page 4 he speaks about the-so-called age of accountability.  He says that if there is such a thing, the most loving thing to do for the human race is to terminate these humans before they reach that mystical age so that they would go to heaven.  He asks why should we run the risk. (Because of the view of eternal hell that he is rejecting) I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I know he's NOT saying we should do that for obvious reasons.  It's murder.  However he does this quite often in the book.  He reaches correct conclusions on problems that are inherent to American Theology.  The problem is, is that his medicine will kill you.  Instead of asking whether the presupposition that he is taking to it's logical conclusion is correct, he dismisses other doctrines to compensate for the fallacy.
On page 12 to the end of chapter one he starts to ask a lot of questions.  In fact, on almost any two pages, he asks like twenty questions per one statement.  The questions he asking?  How does one get saved?  He pits almost all the sayings of Jesus against themselves, painting this picture of a labyrinth of uncertainty and doubt.  In fact the Jesus that he quotes seems to be a Jesus who is out of his mind.   He never settles it, and sadly he is a pastor.  That's sad because according to Titus 1 where the qualification of a pastor are listed, one is supposed to be able to 'exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict'--Titus 1:9.  Not only is he not doing that, but he is throwing so much dirt into the stream that the sheep cannot even drink the pure water of the word without being terrified.  
It's loving to be clear.
It's unloving to be confusing.

More to come...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review of Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' Part 1

Better late than never...
I know that this book came out about 7 weeks ago, but I have been occupied with other things and could not get all the way through it until now.
One prefatory remark before I start.  I do not know Rob Bell.  I'm not writing this because of my like or dislike of his personhood, or the size of his church or the labels that have attached to his name.   I'm critiquing his propositions or his ideas not his personality or his ego.  That's an important distinction to make because the Scripture makes it.  We are not to judge the person's soul, that is God's job; but we are to test all things and hold fast to what is true.  Please remember that.  Everybody's ideas are supposed to be held up to the ultimate standard of truth, being the Scriptures, and we shouldn't be afraid of doing that. To say critiquing somebody's ideas is off limits or divisive is to nullify Luke's commendation of the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. (cf. Acts 17:11)
Having said that lets begin.
Preface Millions of us
Everybody has a systematic theology.  Even people who claim that they don't. Everybody has a lens in which they look through the Scripture.  Even Rob Bell.  His shows up, not only on the back of the dust jacket, but also on the first page of his preface.  He says that God loves everybody, everywhere.  It's important to ask what type of love Bell is talking about.  If he's talking about a common grace type of love, the love where God loves his own image in mankind then I totally agree (cf. Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 145:9).  If he means that God loves everybody in the redemptive, children of God type of sense.  I disagree.  Over and again in scripture there is a division between the children of God and the children of the wrath.  
Secondly he attempts to paint Christianity as a exceedingly broad and diverse stream in which these type of disagreements have existed amongst Bible-believing-christians for hundreds of years.  This is ok, according to Bell, because they are not essential issues.  He says on page x

"Much blood had been spilled in church splits, heresy trials, and raging debates over issues that are, in the end, not that essential."
I find this quote unsatisfying because it begs the question.  What are the essentials?  More frustrating than that is the fact that he never answers that question yet this is a foundation piece in his work. 
Just a teaser.  
This book about heaven and hell is more about God's glory and holiness than it is about our eternal destiny.  The cross, our eternal state, and God's character are inextricably linked together in such a way where if you start to pull the string the whole fabric comes apart.  It's not just a "system" that comes apart, it's the very righteousness of God that proves to be wanting.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-26 that God sent Jesus to the cross to absorb his wrath in order to demonstrate his own righteousness.  Four times this phrase is used in these six verses, 'God did this to demonstrate his own righteousness.'  Apparently this idea of God being vindicated in front of the entire universe is fairly important.  But more on that later...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Free Sovereignty Pamphlet PDF!

Hey all,

Just wanted to bless you with the fruits of a sovereignty study that I did a couple years ago.   Studying this out is what plunged me into the depths of worship with God.   I hope it blesses you as well.
Here's a pic and the link.

In Christ

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why Don't Christians Like the Gospel?

So I was in Red Letter yesterday and this friendly gentlemen recognized me because he knew my dad.  In fact he asked me "Are you Mike Bales' son?"  I responded yes of course and we started a conversation about people that we both knew.   We eventually got to the most important person that we know, being Jesus...
Now I have to admit, no matter how many times this happens to me I'm still shocked.  I don't know why I am, but it happens nonetheless.  I asked him how he came to know the Lord.  He gave me a brief generic answer, and that was sufficient I suppose, but I wanted more.  I wanted to know how Jesus entrances him with the Gospel.  So I said to him, "Since you are a follower of Jesus Christ, surely you enjoy to speak of Him to believers and non-believers alike.  Please tell me, when you stand before Him on the day of Judgment and (hypothetically) He asks you 'why should I let you into my heaven?' what would you say?"
His response?...  "Those are exactly the kind of questions that believers used to ask me when I was an unbeliever that made me not what to be a Christian.  Those type of direct questions turn people off from hearing you.  In fact quoting Bible verses and handing out Bible tracts damage people's ability to hear and respond to the Gospel."  I pressed him for what kind of evangelism he did, since he was pretty opinionated about it (BTW, never in the whole conversation was he willing to share the good news with me), and his response was that he does good things for people and eventually (he gave me examples of like 8 years) they will get curious enough to start asking him questions.  However it was on their terms, not his.  I validated the importance of living Godly lives in front of unbelievers and how that glorifies God, but was quick to point out how the Apostles preached the Gospel in the book of Acts.  Out in the open.  In the public.  It offended people to the point where most of the Apostles were jailed, tortured, and eventually martyred.  What possible message would incur such hostility?
The Gospel.
The True Gospel.
The good-news-towards-a-God-hating-race-about-how-to-escape-the-wrath-of-God-Gospel.
I challenge you to find one place in the book of Acts where the Apostles (the ones Jesus commissioned to preach the Gospel originally) preached a message of 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.'
You won't find it.
What you will find is the Apostles, who sought to glorify the Son of God Jesus Christ, proclaimed to the world that we are traitors to his kingdom.  We are enemies with the Lord of lords.  They further preached that God appointed his Son Christ to be crucified on the cross at the hands of the Jews and the Gentiles.  His name is the only name under Heaven by which any one can be saved.  In order to be saved, one must repent of their sins (turn away from them) and put all of their reliance or trust in Christ alone plus nothing.
Three days after his mutilation on the cross, Christ rose from the grave proving to the world that death and hell could not keep him, and he will return one day to judge the quick and the dead.  To His children He delivers them to a new heavens and a new earth where they will see the face of God.  To the lost He delivers them to hell which has been reserved for them and the devil and his angels because they hated God and chose not to honor him.
I know.  I know.  That hits our culture like the two planes hitting the World Trade Center.  The question is, " it true?"
Best News.
Worst News.
That is the best news ever if you are being saved.  It is an aroma of life.
That is the worst news ever if you are lost.  It is the aroma of death, and it is hated and despised.
So back to my original question:  "Why don't Christians Like the Gospel?"  Maybe a more important question is: Do you love the Gospel?  The Apostle Paul gave grave, dire warnings to those who do not love the Gospel, or rather the object of the Gospel:  "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."  1 Cor. 16:22
But for those who do love him...
We will receive an inheritance that neither rust nor moth can destroy.  We will enjoy the perfect presence of our Jesus where joy will only ever increase, and pain and sorrow will be no more. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"  Romans 8:32
Amen and Alleluia.
Please preach this gospel.
Your good life is NOT the gospel.
Jesus Christ and what he accomplished is the Gospel
Everything else is a false gospel.