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A sobering look at giving in america

June 1st, 2011

Those making more than $200,000 a year give a quarter of their donations to religious groups; those making more than $1 million give one-sixth of their contributions to churches. Most of the donations from the rich go to large institutions.

This pattern stands in stark contrast to those with incomes less than $100,000. These individuals give two-thirds of their donations go to religious groups. These individuals also give a greater percentage of their income to organizations that help the poor with their basic needs (10-12 percent) than do those with high income (4-6 percent)

False prediction of the end has consequences

May 26th, 2011

Failed Doomsday Has Real Deadly Consequences

Benjamin Radford, LiveScience Contributor,
LiveScience.com – Tue May 24, 7:01 am ET
Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader whose study of the Bible convinced him and his followers that the world would end, has been described by his wife as “flabbergasted” that the apocalypse didn’t start over the weekend. There are some red faces out there. And if that’s all it had been, then one could argue no great harm had been done.
But while Camping and his followers try to figure out what went wrong (or right) — with news Monday night that he now says Judgment Day will come on Oct. 21 — the failed prophecy did more than just damage Camping’s credibility: It also appears to have caused death and serious injury to true believers.
A California woman named Lyn Benedetto was one of millions who heard Camping’s message, and became concerned that her daughters would suffer terribly in the coming apocalypse. She allegedly forced her daughters, 11 and 14, to lie on a bed and then cut their throats with a box cutter. She then tried to kill herself, though police arrested Benedetto and all three survived.
Others were not so lucky. An elderly man in Taiwan reportedly killed himself on May 5 ahead of the Rapture by jumping out of a building. He had heard that doomsday was imminent, and had taken recent earthquakes and tsunamis as early warning signs.

Rob Bell Love Wins Review from Danny Lehmann

May 12th, 2011

“Love Wins” by Rob Bell
(A Reluctant Review)

I am uncomfortable doing critical “reviews”, and have always held to Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum that “It’s not the critic who counts….” I don’t like being criticized and am aware of Jesus’ warning on being judged with the same measure we judge. I identify with Jude who wanted to write a gospel tract but felt reluctantly compelled to “…contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

After hearing about the controversy surrounding “Love Wins,” I read it twice and listened to it twice on audiobook. I was then encouraged by some Pastors and young friends to do a review. After one read I asked if I should take Rob seriously, then after two, and seeing he made the cover story on Time Magazine, I concluded I must.

I try to stay away from controversy, especially the religious kind, but some hills are worth dying on and this is one of them. The message of Love Wins has direct implications on how we view and do the Bible and how we (or whether we even should) do evangelism– two very important subjects! By God’s grace my criticism will be both constructive and instructive.

Some Background

I work with young people so I am always scanning the horizon for fresh young voices reaching new generations. Ten years ago I discovered Rob Bell and became a big fan. Both in print and on video, I deemed his work an example of Biblical relevance and creative art on film. I heartily recommended his teaching. In the last few years, however, Rob seemed to be changing his message. Some of my pastor friends voiced their concerns to me when Rob was increasingly pushing the biblical envelope. Even then I defended Rob and maintained he was simply changing the wineskin for a postmodern culture, but not changing the wine. Then along came “Love Wins.” For me, it was the deal-breaker.

Many have already blogged and written theological critiques on Love Wins so I will not argue here extensively against Rob’s theology.1 The bottom line is Rob strongly implies “The Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived” (Subtitle) is settled: “… love in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God” (109). I only wish to do a brief review and then ask some questions that explain why I think this book is bad news.

I cannot judge Rob’s heart. My guess is that he loves God and wants to help others know Him. In my view, however, his cure is much worse than the alleged disease he diagnoses. My problem is that along with the multitude of errors in the book is the tone in which it was written. The sarcastic put-downs, accusations and contempt for the millions of Christians who have in the past and do in the present see things different than Rob, is a tad bit hard to take. But it is what it is. Controversy sells. This is why I went over it four times, both to be clear on what he was saying and to separate the sarcasm from the substance.

Love Wins-A Review

To say that Rob is not a careful writer is a huge understatement. He writes indirectly, paints with an incredibly broad brush, answers questions with questions and makes complex theological arguments from biblical soundbytes that makes one feel they are the victim of a drive-by shooting! Verses are often taken out of context, straw men erected and knocked down, all the while leaving the reader searching in vain for footnotes or citations on where he gets his information, whether on Greek words, Jewish culture or historical background.

He comes out of the gate with guns blazing before he even gets to the first chapter, declaring that the real Jesus story, which he is “reclaiming”(viii), has been “hijacked” (vii) and today’s gospel is “misguided and toxic” (viii). Ironically he then chastises those “misguided” souls who suppress honest concerns, doubts, or questions and are not open to discussion (ix). Perhaps he doesn’t realize he has just sucker-punched the unsuspecting reader on the second page by accusing him or her of believing a message that “subverts the contagious spread of Jesus'[real] message”, causes “millions” of people’s “stomachs to churn” (vii-viii), and that “Jesus himself isn’t interested in telling”(vii). Not exactly the best way to win friends and open discussions!

I

Rob wastes no time in the first chapter beginning a pattern that continues throughout the book. He builds straw-man caricatures of traditional Christianity by citing instances of believers behaving badly, as in the girl whose father raped her while reciting the Lord’s Prayer or Christians in Eastern Europe who massacred all the Muslims in town via machine-guns (9). This is apparently to be blamed on this “toxic” gospel. Then comes the ridicule of the traditional gospel by means of out-of-context Bible quotes and a serious question on whether or not one can earn the gift of eternal life through our own efforts, words or good deeds (11). Whatever the Love Wins gospel is, “Sola Fide” (faith alone) it is not! He goes to great lengths to point out that a “personal relationship” with God, ” is nowhere found in the Bible,” neglecting to point out, of course, that the fact that God is personal, we are personal and He commands us to know and love him amounts to just that – a personal relationship! But I digress.

II

The put-downs continue in Chapter 2. Even Rob’s grandma doesn’t escape (21-22). Neither does St. Peter, depicted as a bouncer taking tickets at the door of the Heavenly Night Club from those of us whose only desire is to “get in” (24). With contempt he heaps scorn on “entire organizations” who actually train people to approach strangers and inquire if they are assured of going to heaven (26). How dare they!!! Rob’s contention that “Here Is the New There”(Ch 2) applies in his thinking to both heaven and hell. He fails to differentiate between “eternal life” (which does begin “here” for the believer) and “heaven” (the dwelling place of God). His understanding of heaven has very little to do with going to a heaven that is “there”.

III

Likewise when asked if he believes in a literal hell, he replies, “of course”, and then tells a story about visiting Rwanda and describes the hell he saw here on earth (70). Jesus did use the word Gehenna (Jerusalem’s garbage dump) for hell, but Rob’s rapid-fire approach leaves the reader wondering if he is using an artistic metaphor (Rwanda’s “hell on earth”) or teaching a theology that is minus both heaven and hell in the eternal sense. They seem to exist side-by-side in the here-and-now in his later rendering of the Prodigal Son story where the younger and older brother are at the same party but for one it’s heaven and for the other it’s hell. “Heaven or hell. Both at the party” (176). “Hell is our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story” (170). “We create hell whenever we fail to trust God’s retelling of our story” (173).

IV

“Does God Get What God Wants” is the self-defeating title of Chapter 4 simply because it’s obvious God doesn’t always get what he wants or there would be no sin or death to begin with! His premise, that “…even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God” (107) begins again with a criticism of certain church websites that espouse the reality of hell. Then comes a raft of Scriptures quoted apparently to prove, but that have nothing to do with, God saving everyone (98-101), reinforced by an out-of-context quote by Martin Luther allegedly suggesting a “2nd chance” after death*. He then concludes with a few overstatements– ” …an untold number of serious disciples across hundreds of years have assumed, affirmed, and trusted that no one can resist God’s pursuit forever, because Gods love will eventually melt even the hardest of hearts.” and “…a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will restore everything and everybody” (107-108).
* [See bbhchurchconnection.wordpress.com/…/rob-bells-use-of-Martin-Luther-one-historians-assessment/]

V

Chapter 5- “Dying to Live” is actually the best chapter in the book as it surveys the various metaphors in the New Testament for the Atonement, although it does lose some steam when Rob sees Jesus’ death and supernatural resurrection foreshadowed in some sort of cosmic connection in the crop cycles of nature. No footnotes on that one either!

VI

Chapter 6 is, by contrast, probably the worst chapter. “There Are Rocks Everywhere” gets its inspiration from the story of Moses calling forth water from a rock (Ex. 17). Rob points to Paul’s identification of the rock with Christ (1 Cor. 10) and makes the leap that if Christ was in that rock, who knows how many other rocks he dwells in? “Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere”(144)…”As soon as the door is open to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant…”(155). Rob maintains that Jesus and the cross do matter and even reaffirms Jesus’ exclusive claim that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life(Jn 14:6), but adds: “What he (Jesus) doesn’t say is how, or when or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him know they are coming exclusively through him” (154). What he fails to mention is that the “mechanism” in the context of Jn. 14 is faith in Jesus, which, of course, is reinforced by the rest of the New Testament and proclaimed throughout the Book of Acts.

VII

Chapter 7 is where Rob contrasts that god-awful “toxic” gospel that the majority of Christians have always believed with his contention that his version of “The Good News is Better Then That.” He implies, again with no proof as he has throughout the book, that those of us who are concerned about going to heaven won’t care about the earth, [social justice, the poor etc.] (6-7, 178). He then gives his heaven-and-hell-here-and-now version of The Prodigal Son, mentioned above, and labels the traditional view “The Gospel of The Goats” caricatured by and compared with the older brother who sees himself not as a son, but a slave. Those of us who are of the “goats” variety also view God as a slave-master and are prone to resentment, bitterness and jealousy toward those who are having fun at the party but are consoled because we know “they’ll go to hell, where they’ll get theirs” (180). All we’re concerned about is our “ticket to heaven” (24, 178).

VIII

Chapter 8 is another high point where Rob tells his story of receiving Christ as a boy and invites the readers to come to Jesus as well-good stuff.

One must wonder after reading Love Wins, how someone obviously as bright as Rob, could make such Universalist mountains out of biblical molehills. I must conclude with just a few illustrations of Rob’s fast and loose handling of Scripture. For instance:

· Rob suggests that when God promises Sodom will be restored (Ezek. 16:53), this implies that those judged there might get a second chance (84) or that because Jesus said it would be more bearable for Sodom than for Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24) at the judgement, he concludes that “… if there’s still hope for Sodom and Gomorrah…” there may be hope for “all the other Sodom and Gomorrahs” (85), even though the passage says nothing about hope for Sodom.

· The most glaring flagrant foul of Love Wins is where Rob attempts to pull the punch out of Jesus’ words on hell (Matt. 25:46) and says “…’forever’ is not really a category the biblical writers used” (92). Since I am not a Greek scholar (neither is Rob) I simply hit Google a few times, consulted some Greek lexicons and asked a few of my scholar friends for input.2

· Rob starts out on the wrong foot by quoting the wrong word (he mixes up “aion” [age] with “aionios” [translated “forever”,”eternal” and “everlasting”]), wrongly interprets the word translated “punishment” and ends up with a view of the afterlife that resembles the Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory(91).2

1 Kevin DeYoung – www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung
Ben Witherington – www.evangelicalarminians.org/node/1146
Al Mohler – www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/16
Tim Challies – www.challies.com/book-review

2 (Arndt and Gingrich. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 1963, (Pg. 26-27). Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1965. (pg 18-19) Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1 pg 147).
Commentary on Matthew, William Hendrickson page 892

Rob Bell and the “New Testament concept of forever” , Gary Yates professor of Biblical lnaguages at Liberty Baptist College
“Love Wins” – review by Dr. Paul Owen Phd assistant professor of Bible and religion Montreat College in N. Carolina
Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, Louw and Nida
A Greek English Lexicon Walter Bauer

Some Questions
Rob asks 350 questions in “Love Wins”. If he would allow me I would ask him a few:

* Did you submit your manuscript to any reputable biblical scholars for feedback on your opinions? You recommended Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God” in “Love Wins” (201). Chapter 5 of Tim’s book “The Reason For God”, “How Could a Loving God Send Someone to Hell” could have helped you immensely. He even agreed with some of your insights into the Prodigal Son story.

§ You used Jesus’ “millstone around the neck” warning to those who stumble young people (Were you really applying that to your dear grandma?!)(22). Have you considered that much of your audience are impressionable young believers without a lot of the biblical depth required to “red-flag” your scriptural slip-ups and unsubstantiated claims?

§ Have you reflected at all on the strict judgment God promises for teachers (Jas. 3:1) and considered that, perhaps the millstone warning could apply to you?

§ Have you counted the cost of accusing nearly all the early Church Fathers, all the Church Councils, the martyrs, the missionaries and most scholars throughout church history (including the present age) of not only being wrong but presenting a “toxic” message?

§ Have you considered the possibility that the “toxic” moniker might be a bit offensive to those of us who believe in heaven and hell, but are also working hard to alleviate suffering and injustice wherever we find it? Do you mean to imply that most of us are content to hand out “tickets to heaven” (24,178) with no regard for the here and now?

§ Have you read the accounts in church history of Christian involvement in feeding the poor, caring for widows, orphans, prisoners, as well as serving the victims of natural disasters or, for instance, the societal change William Carey brought about by lobbying to outlaw “Suttee” (widow burning) in India or Wilberforce in England working to outlaw the slave trade?

§ Do these accounts jive with your accusation that those of us looking toward heaven wouldn’t have much motivation to do anything about the present suffering in the world? C.S. Lewis whom you recommend said “Aim at heaven you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, you get neither.”

The Bottom Line

* Here’s the bottom-line, Rob. What if you’re wrong? What if non-Christians will not respond any better to your “better than that” good news than they do to the “ticket to heaven” kind? Research tells us Postmoderns are not moved toward Christ any more by bribe of heavenly goodies than they are by threat of hell.

* Furthermore, a discipleship that lacks the eternal dimension would certainly blunt the edge of and urgency of evangelism. Ironically, if you are wrong, my guess is that those who follow you will be less inclined to work in the here and now for the very reason that the eternal issues have been downplayed or in your case almost disregarded. And let’s not forget to ask how your gospel would affect our motivation towards completing the Great Commission? Would not missions be demoted to the status of a Christian Peace Corps?

* And then what if there really is a hell to shun, a heaven to gain and a God who is to be feared as well as to be loved? What if He is a God of wrath and justice as well as a God of love and mercy? What if Grace and Truth win along with love? What if it really is the Truth that sets people free? What if people really are judged by what they believe about Jesus in this life and it really is “appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment? (Heb. 9:27). My fear is that if you are wrong, Rob, there will be hell to pay.

If I could somehow get a face to face meeting with you I would get on my knees and beg of you to reconsider your position. Issues regarding 15 year old atheists who die (4), what happens when a missionary gets a flat tire (9), questions about the fate of the un-evangelized and the nature and longevity of hell have been and will continue to be discussed within the bounds of evangelical orthodoxy. Greater minds than yours or mine have better answers than you or I to your questions. You are in over your head , my friend. There is still time to get out of the water.

For the sake of those who are perishing (2 Cor. 4:3)

Danny Lehmann
Honolulu, Hawaii

In Honor of David Wilkerson

April 28th, 2011

David Wilkerson died in a car crash yesterday at age 79. He impacted a whole generation of believers with his message of evangelism to the truly hurting and broken. Teen Challenge has literally impacted the whole world. We had the privilege of hosting him in the early 70’s at our campus worship at McMurry college just as his ministry was beginning to take off in the inner city of New York. Brother David will be honored for generations to come and his entrance into heaven last night was no doubt a true cause for celebration. I honor him with the honor of God!!

How church historians will view us

April 25th, 2011

Mixed reviews, at best.

Good on missions in some respects but theologically, amazing–in a bad way.

To put it succinctly, the evangelical church is now re-discussing:
1.Justification
2.The Trinity
3.Hell

In many ways, it just does not get much more “amazing” than this.

Another Power Conference Bites the Dust in the NIT Title Game

April 1st, 2011

Wichita State Hammers Alabama.

Notice Top 15 are not there from March 7 ESPN/USA Today/Coaches Poll

March 28th, 2011

This is a sobering thought for the pundits, no doubt. None of the Top 15 from the week before the Madness began are in the Final 4:
ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Ohio State (25) 29-2 767
2 Kansas (6) 29-2 748
3 Pittsburgh 27-4 702
4 Notre Dame 25-5 678
5 Duke 27-4 595
6 San Diego State 29-2 592
7 North Carolina 24-6 560
8 Brigham Young 28-3 546
9 Purdue 25-6 537
10 Texas 25-6 518
11 Syracuse 25-6 492
12 Florida 24-6 456
13 Wisconsin 23-7 396
14 Louisville 23-8 364
15 Arizona 25-6 285

What A Joke putting 11 Big East Teams in the NCAA tournament

March 22nd, 2011

Sweet 16: Richmond 2, Big East 2
Posted on Mar 21, 2011 in Sports | 0 comments
You read that right. Our state’s capital city has all of two NCAA teams, both of which made the NCAA Tournament field of 68, and both of which fought their way into the Sweet 16 with a combined record of 5-0.

Meanwhile, the entirety of the Big East, a 16-team superconference stretching from the Northeast practically into the Southern Hemisphere, which had a record 11 teams make the tourney field, will have, like the City of Richmond, two teams still alive in the Sweet 16 later this week.

In honor of Catherine Kroeger from Christianity Today

March 14th, 2011

Catherine Clark Kroeger, Remembered
The New Testament scholar’s impact on so many lives was on display at this weekend’s memorial service at Gordon-Conwell.

Cristina Richie, guest blogger

It’s hard to do justice to a lifetime of Christian service in just over an hour. But for a group of 75 professors, students, and family who gathered this weekend at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Kaiser Chapel for the memorial service of Catherine Clark Kroeger, we came close.

Surprise and disappointment lingered over Catherine’s sudden death February 14 from complications due to pneumonia, Lyme disease, and grief over the death of her spouse of 60 years, Richard Clark Kroeger Jr., who died three months ago. Yet the service focused not on her untimely passing but on her God-honoring life.

Scott Gibson, director of the Center of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell and professor of preaching and ministry, gave the call to worship and prayer. As a bulk of Catherine’s work was dedicated to espousing the equality of men and women in both Christian ministries and homes — notably in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary and No Place for Abuse — it was especially significant that teachers and students of homiletics were touched by her work.

Kroeger’s work impacted Christian theology, but her academic focus was the role of women in the early church, classics, and human sexuality and relationships. Aida Spencer, one of her colleagues in the New Testament department, read one of the most cited passages on men and women in the Bible, Galatians 3:23-29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Aida, with her husband, William David Spencer, who also gave remarks at the service, work for the Priscilla Papers, a journal that serves the academic community on issues of biblical equality and is an outlet of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), the organization that Catherine founded in 1988. She served as the Minneapolis-based organization’s president until 2001, when Mimi Haddad stepped in.

Catherine’s dedication to the edification of Christ’s servants through Christ’s love was evidenced in the many stories shared of her home life, her support of her husband in ministry, her rearing of five children, and her numerous foster children and spiritual grandchildren at the seminary. Goran Kojchev counted himself among the privileged to call a learned and wise woman “Grammy.” Kojchev is an MANT student and worked as Kroeger’s academic assistant for the past two years. He recounted Catherine’s hospitality and avid devotion to swimming in lakes and oceans — even into her octogenarian years.

Lauding Catherine’s precision and breadth, David Eastman from Yale University noted that while the mere presence of female faculty undoubtedly changed the atmosphere in the halls of Gordon-Conwell, Kroeger’s impact did not solely grace the ivory towers of academia. Indeed, Catherine’s heart for God’s women — wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, and mentors — was pronounced in her impact on women who struggled not only with sensing a call to ministry but also in the shadows of domestic abuse.

Kroeger was sensitive to the ways male headship could be used by some to justify abusive behavior, and worked to establish the organization Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH), dedicated to eliminating domestic violence. The most touching remarks given at the service came from a woman who said her life was saved by Catherine’s work. The woman, an M.Div. student at Gordon-Conwell, told of her entrapment in an abusive marriage and how Kroeger’s books and articles on Christian equality and the biblical stance on abuse in the home led her safely out of the marriage.

In the days leading up to the memorial service, I reflected heavily on the impact and teachings of Kroeger. I had already graduated from Gordon-Conwell when I took my first class from her — “Women in the Early Church” — at the Boston-based Center for Urban Ministerial Education. Catherine’s aplomb under contentions from some students when discussing the role of women as Eucharistic celebrants and priests in the early church came from her personal Bible study and prayer. I will never forget with what joy I received Catherine’s proposition that “the chosen lady” of 2 John was an actual woman, not a church! Indeed, her teachings on kephale (the Greek word for “head”) and misinterpretations of female subjections and silence were not always welcomed at Gordon-Conwell. But the collegiality and respect which with students and faculty discussed such issues was encouraging.

As I stand with an M. Div. in hand, entering my second year teaching religion at the college level, it is not Kroeger’s academic achievements that I wish to emulate, nor her amazing 60-year marriage, but the theme of her life and the goal of every Christian: that she loved Jesus and served him faithfully.

Cristina Richie

A Taliban Hit in Pakistan

March 5th, 2011

Pakistan Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti shot dead
BBC

Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the cabinet’s only Christian minister, had received death threats for urging reform to blasphemy laws, which carry a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been in the spotlight since a Christian, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to hang in Punjab last November. She denies claims she insulted the Prophet Muhammad during a row with Muslim women villagers about sharing water. Critics say that convictions under the law hinge on witness testimony, which is often linked to grudges.

Christians make up an estimated 1.5% of Pakistan’s 185 million population.

In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had also opposed the law, was shot dead by one of his bodyguards.

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