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Love Wins…and Still Kind of Loses April 3, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, doubts, Heaven, Hell, Rob Bell, The Church, theology, universalism.
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Welp. It took the entire Christian blogosphere commenting on one book to coax me out of my blog hibernation ( caused by the 60 hour work weeks I’ve recently had to endure). And while I sincerely doubt that many people will read this post because, let’s face it, this dead horse has been beaten just about as much as it can be while still being able to be recognized as a dead horse. But, still I feel it is my duty as a Christian blogger and wannabe pastor to review the most talked about  and controversial Christian book since the 1611 King James Version of the Bible (and yes, in 1611 that was quite controversial for several reasons).

First of all, let me say this: I like Rob Bell. If I had to go to war by his side or any of the “New Calvinists,” I’d easily choose him. He comes off as much more Christlike, even if his theology can be a bit wacky at times. Having said all that, I do believe that people who tend to like
Bell will like the book more than people who tend to dislike him. I also do not believe he is a universalist, at least not as I understand universalism.

As for the book itself, overall, I found it very enjoyable and I did learn a lot from it. It did stretch my faith in some ways. However, I did not agree with all of it. I think anyone who has a bit of knowledge about the Bible could easily point out the parts where Bell is deeply Scriptural, and where he stretches it a tad to match his thesis. We’re all guilty of doing this from time to time, I might add. My advice, as it always is, to people listening to sermons or reading books by pastors is to eat the fruit and spit out the seeds. I agreed with parts and disagreed with parts of the book. That’s not the issue. The biggest issue I have with what’s come out of this book is harshness with which people have discussed it. I’m guilty of being a little harsh myself in some of the discussions I have had about it. My problems being with people who claim that Rob Bell is a heretic and going to Hell himself. Personally, I don’t think anyone is a heretic who is honestly wrestling with God and the Scriptures to try to figure out the Father’s heart. What’s heretical about that? Just because someone comes to a different conclusion to what the Scripture is saying than you believe or has been taught for the past 1500 years does not necessarily make them a heretic. What makes a heretic is one who is trying to undermine God and the Scriptures just for the sake of undermining them. Bell is not doing this. I believe he really has studied, prayed, and wrestled with these issues and is simply teaching what he feels he has learned. That is in no way heresy.

The other problem I have with it is the people who are commenting on the book and on Bell personally without ever reading it. Most of these people just take the position their pastors take. This is typical, lazy, American Christianity. The saddest thing is that most pastors want their people to follow them blindly like this. If a pastor is gonna make a judgment on a book without ever reading it, and just wants their people to go along with him, how does he expect them to actually read the Bible for themselves? The secret is he doesn’t want them to. He just wants them to go along with what he says about the Bible and every other topic. Welcome to modern day conservative Christianity. Though let’s not pick on just the pastors. It’s the people, overcome by their own laziness and idol worship (their pastor is their idol) that force that away from reading the Bible and thinking for themselves.

This is my plea to you. If you decide to have an opinion on Love Wins,  or even on Rob Bell himself, please do so after reading the book and doing much research. Do not form an opinion based on news stories, blogs, book reviews, and especially not based on whatever your pastor says. You have a mind and Jesus said you were supposed to love Him with all of it. Not reading these books for yourself and blindly following whatever your pastor says is failing Jesus in that regard, because it is just plain stupid.

Books Every Christian Should Read (Part 1) October 14, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in books, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Donald Miller, doubts, hearing God, John Ortberg, Mark Batterson, N.T. Wright, Peter Lord, The Church, theology.
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A staple of socially awkward people is that we’re well-read. Reading is usually an activity best done alone, so we get a lot of it done because we are usually alone. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but that’s not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is just to let you know some books that have seriously helped my faith. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are plenty of books I have yet to read. But of those I have read, I believe these are some that, if you are a Christian, you should definitely check out. (I’m not putting them in any particular order, so don’t think I rank one better than the other).

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The only “classic” on my list. It’s hard to find any Christian, of any tradition or denomination, say something negative about C.S. Lewis. While Chronicles of Narnia is by far his most famous work, Mere Christianity is still one of the best resources for Christians who need a little help in articulating what they believe. You can buy it at http://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652888

   Simply Christian by N.T. Wright

Moving on from C.S. Lewis to the man some are calling today’s C.S. Lewis. N.T. Wright is a bishop in the same denomination that Lewis was apart of (The Church of England) and quotes him frequently. Wright uses more theological terms than Lewis does, but his theology his what makes the book so interesting. Wright’s goal is to examine what the early Church, namely the Apostles, believed and compare their beliefs to Christians of today. Along the way, Wright also provides a great theological defense of, as the subtitle states, “why Christianity makes sense.” You can buy this book at http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Simply-Christian-N-T-Wright/?isbn=9780061920622

   Know Doubt by John Ortberg

Some non-believers think they can never become a Christian if they have doubts about it. Some Christians, on the other hand, feel like they can never move forward in their faith because of their doubts. While other Christians feel that they can never even mention their doubts without being cast out of the Church. Ortberg, a Presbyterian minister, challenges all of those ideas and even sets forth the idea that doubt is not the enemy of faith, but an essential part of it. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Know-Doubt-Importance-Embracing-Uncertainty/dp/031032503X

                                                                                                                    Hearing God by Peter Lord

Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). But, sometimes that can get a little tricky for modern-day Christians. So often we are confused as to what Jesus is really saying to us. Peter Lord, a Baptist pastor, gives practical ways that we can increase our ability to hear and discern God’s voice in our lives. There is a revised edition coming out in 2011. Until then you can buy the first edition at http://www.amazon.com/Hearing-God-Peter-Lord/dp/0801056500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287101729&sr=1-1

 Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has recently been popularized by Lifeway Christian Stores as an author that we should “read with discernment” (You can read more on that in a great blog by Shaun Groves at http://shaungroves.com/2010/10/read-with-discernment-especially-donald-miller/ ). Even with that dubious distinction, he is still my favorite author. Miller does not have the experience of a pastor or a theological degree, but what he does have is an outstanding talent to write,a deep faith, and extreme honesty. Blue Like Jazz is Miller’s own life story of dealing with various obstacles that many young American Christians face on a daily basis. You can buy  Blue Like Jazz at http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Like-Jazz-Nonreligious-Spirituality/dp/0785263705/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287102617&sr=1-1 But, remember…”read with discernment.” 😉

 In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Based on 2 Samuel 23:20-23, Assembly of God Pastor Mark Batterson explains how sometimes God’s biggest dreams will only be revealed to us if we take risks and trust God. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Pit-Lion-Snowy-Day-Opportunity/dp/1590527151/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287103531&sr=1-1

I’ll be back with part 2 tomorrow, in the meantime, what are some books that you think every Christian should read?

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