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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.

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Books Every Christian Should Read (Part 2) October 15, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in apologetics, Bible, books, Brennan Manning, Christianity, Francis Chan, grace, Holy Spirit, John Eldredge, Rob Bell, spiritual authority, theology, Timothy Keller, Watchman Nee.
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Yesterday I started listing some books that I think every Christian should read at least once in their lifetime. This list will continue today, but allow me to say this because I know someone will eventually call me out on it. I am not listing the Bible in this list, because I am assuming (hoping?) that if you are a Christian you read the Bible often, so it goes without saying that Christians should read the Bible. Now that we have covered that, on with the list!

                                                                                                                     Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

Most people come down on either side of the fence on Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They either love him or hate him. I’m in the former category. I don’t agree with everything he says, but the vast majority is brilliant. He gets a bad rap from “heresy hunters” who take some things out of context, or just hear some things and don’t bother to even read the book. But, there’s a lot of good stuff that deserves some serious thought in Velvet Elvis. I especially like the section on what Bell calls, “Brickianity.” You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Elvis-Repainting-Christian-Faith/dp/0310273080/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287160820&sr=8-1

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Chan is known more by his first book, Crazy Love (a great book in it’s own right), but the lesser known Forgotten God has the more important message for today’s Christians. In it, Chan examines the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and gives a very balanced view of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Not overly Charismatic, and not too traditional, Chan explains how the extremist views of the Holy Spirit have scared many Christians and churches away from even discussing the Holy Spirit and that this should not be. The Holy Spirit is needed in our lives, and Chan does a wonderful job of placing him on the throne that he deserves to be on. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-God-Reversing-Tragic-Neglect/dp/1434767957/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287161524&sr=1-1

 Spiritual Authority by Watchman Nee

Nee’s story is amazing. He spent the last twenty years of his life in a Chinese prison. Through the face of extreme persecution and torture, Nee maintained a Christlike attitude. In Spiritual Authority, Nee explains how to have this Christlike attitude when it comes to those in authority over us. This is extremely important in today’s Church where our leaders are constantly called into question. Nee even explains how to submit to our authority when they are wrong. He states, “Submission has to do with attitude. Obedience has to do with conduct.” Nee’s message is badly needed today. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Authority-Watchman-Nee/dp/0935008357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287162169&sr=1-1

 Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

While written toward men, I think Wild at Heart should be written by Christians of both sexes. It will help men understand why they are like they are, as well as women. There are some things in it that will initially cause you to disagree with Eldredge, but continue to press through it and you will begin to understand what he is saying. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Heart-Discovering-Secret-Mans/dp/1400202817/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287163161&sr=1-1

 The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

While some would consider Mere Christianity and Simply Christian “apologetics” books, The Reason for God is really the only true apologetics book on my list. While there are plenty of other great books on the defense of Christianity out there, this is my favorite just because of Keller’s intellectual, but conversational, writing style. Most of these kinds of books tend to be scholarly to the point of reading like a textbook. Keller’s, on the other hand, really feels like your sitting in his office and he’s explaining to you why belief in the God of the Bible makes sense. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Reason-God-Belief-Age-Skepticism/dp/1594483493/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287163582&sr=1-1

 

                                                                                                     The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Of the hundreds of books written on grace, Manning’s is in a class by itself. Manning delivers a beuatiful picture of how God’s grace is power for what he calls “ragamuffins,” people who are beat up, bedraggled, and burnt out. By that definition, I think all Christians could be considered ragamuffins from time to time. You can buy this at http://www.christianbook.com/the-ragamuffin-gospel-brennan-manning/9781590525029/pd/525020

That’s my current list of books every Christian should read. I’m sure it will grow and expand the more I read, however. This list is by no means exhaustive. So what did I miss? What other books do you think every Christian should read? I look forward to hearing your suggestions and your reviews of the books in my list!

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?

Theology Vs. People September 23, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, Danny Jones, Fruits of the Spirit, The Church, theology.
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I read a tweet this morning from my friend and High School Pastor of my church, Danny Jones (a good follow on Twitter by the way: @thedannyjones), in which he issued an interesting challenge to his followers. He said, “Here’s a challenge for everyone. Let’s try and value people like we value our theology this week.”

What struck me as interesting about this tweet is that Danny assumes, like a lot of people do, that theology doesn’t value people. That’s when I started wondering, “At what point did theology and people become enemies?”

I am passionate about theology. I am also passionate about people (though admittedly, I have an easier time dealing with theology than people due to my social awkwardness). But, I believe that the theologies that I adhere to help me to value people more. Somewhere along the way, it has gotten into our heads that theology is a divisive thing. I think Danny tweeted what he did, because he has seen, like I have, people get into loud, obnoxious arguments over differences in theology. The problem with that ,though, is with the theologians and not the theologies.

Theology is good. It needs to be taught in our churches, but it needs to be taught in a way that lifts people up and explained how it can be used in everyday life. This is the whole point of what is called, “Practical Theology.” The reason some people value their theologies more than people is because they haven’t been taught that theology is for people. I think most churches have strayed away from teaching good theology because they have seen how it can be abused, so they leave it for the seminaries and Christian universities to teach. That’s the main problem. As a graduate of a Christian university, I have seen firsthand that most of the professors in those settings, while brilliant, aren’t exactly the most loving Christians in the world. So, naturally, the students who learn theology from these people have a hard time communicating just how people-friendly theology can be.

Bottom line, good theology values people. If a certain theology doesn’t value people, it’s simply a bad theology and should be thrown out. But, just because some theologies don’t value people, or some theologians don’t understand how their theology values people, doesn’t mean that theology is bad. I value people because my theology values people.  I can’t value people without it.  Theology and people are not enemies. They are not at odds with each other. We can’t value one more than the other, because they are not mutually exclusive. Our theologies should always be something that help us live out a Christian lifestyle. If your particular theology doesn’t produce in you the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) towards people then you don’t have a Christian theology at all.

Let’s stop thinking of theology as a bad thing, and remember that it is a good thing designed to help us communicate who God is to other people.

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