January 18, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 3.5.11

Pondering the imponderables today. Such as, why do we drive on parkways, but park on driveways? What’s with the “interstate” highways in Hawaii? If a cow laughs really hard, will milk come out of her nose? And, most imponderable of all, why are the letters “s” and “l” rubbing off of my laptop’s keyboard, but the rest of the letters are fine? Ah, we may never know the answers to these questions, but one thing we do know: It’s time to ramble.

“The Battle of the Christian Rock Stars” is not a new reality cable TV show, but maybe it should be. Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan has a new book coming out titled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Love wins? Sounds good to me. Oh, but wait. It seems that Rob may be saying that everyone gets into heaven no matter what they say, do or believe. This is called “universalism.” And other Christians are waving bye-bye to Bell even before they have a chance to read his book. John Piper tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell.” (This fulfills our weekly Piper quota.) Mark Galli tries to make sense of it all. Meanwhile, HarperOne—Bell’s publisher—is already going back to the printer to order more books. Where are those TV cameras?

A book that should garner a lot of interest is the latest book by Pope Benedict XVI. In it he makes it clear that the Jews as a people are not guilty of Jesus’ death. I’ll just say it: While I am not a Catholic, I think Pope Benedict is one of the finest theologians, thinkers and writers of our time. You may not agree with all he writes, but he is worth your time nonetheless. So if you want to skip the Rob Bell mess, I recommend looking for this book.

The New American Bible is released in an updated version this week, changing words like “booty” and “holocaust.” But the big and certainly controversial change is found in Isaiah 7:14 where “young woman” is substituted for “virgin.”

And one more book note: Karl Giberson and Francis Collins have a new book out this week, The Language Of Science And Faith. Giberson laments here why that there has to be a “war” between those who believe in evolution and those who don’t. Oh—I have a copy of this book sitting right next to me. Yes, we’ll take a closer look at it soon.

Your Rambler has admitted he is not as much of a movie man as he is a book man, but this film looks interesting. What do you know of it?

Do Evangelicals hate Jesus? The headline to this Huffington Post article says they do. But then the author goes on to explain, “Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus — as we’ve provocatively asserted in the title of this piece. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him.” Ok then.

Happy Birthday this week to Herbert “Jackie” Gleason; Tony Randall; Johnny Cash; David Sarnoff; Liz Taylor; Howard “Dr. Johnny Fever” Hesseman; Glenn Miller; Harry “Holy cow!” Carry; Ron Howard; Justin Bieber; Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel; Larry Carlton; Daniel Craig; and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

Being from near Cincinnati, Ohio, and having been in radio for many years, WKRP in Cincinnati is perhaps my favorite TV show of all time. And with this week being the birthday of Dr. Johnny Fever, well, I thought we might go visit the gang at WKRP. Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST01bZJPuE0&feature=related’]


  1. I loved that show! (WKRP)

    They don’t make ’em like that anymore…

  2. I like that HuffPo quote. Reminds me of some old friends 🙂
    Seriously though, many great christians have been universalists. At least it’s a kinder position than double predestination.

    • Hitler never being punished for the slaughter of millions is kind?

      • I don’t know any Christian Universalists who would say there is no punishment. Almost all believe in hell, just not a eternal hell. Most believe in a reconcilation in the ‘end of ages’. why would God leave hell in existence? All will be judged. & God judges rightly.

  3. sarahmorgan says

    Regarding the question of whether evangelicals hate Jesus, I’m still trying to figure out why so many evangelicals seem to think that Jesus died and rose again to insure that their fragile egos never get bruised. :-/

  4. Two thoughts:

    1) This past week I saw gossip sites and Twitter fill up with stories about Charlie Sheen. I then saw Christians’ Tweets and websites fill up with Rob Bell. I guess we all have our own version of celebrity gossip.

    2) The “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus” is just some overall bad writing, all extrapolated from a few lines from a survey of the tea party. Sometimes posts say far more about the person than they intended.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Yeah, that’s a crappy article. It’s full of glittering generalities and shows that the authors either have not really studied the gospels or have only viewed them through a particular lens. There are certainly some practical theology issues that need to be raised regarding Jesus’ teachings vs. the way various Christian groups (from all across the theological and political spectrum) tend to apply them. But I think that’s because Jesus’ teachings cut most folks’ assumptions to pieces, making it very difficult to fully live them out. We’re bound to major on some stuff and do horribly on others.

      • Okay, raise your hands, everyone who thought HuffPo would produce a balanced, well-reasoned article. Anyone? Anyone?


        • I’ve read a lot of good thoughtful stuff on HuffPo over the past several years. (Confession: my politics are left of center.)

          Granted, HuffPo’s a mixed bag and often the writing is mediocre.

  5. Huffington Post – “why evangelical hate jesus”:
    “They see in their faith what they want to see as they live their daily lives, and simultaneously ignore the rest. And as is the case for most White Evangelical Christians, what they are ignoring is actually the very heart and soul of Jesus’s message — a message that emphasizes sharing, not greed. Peace-making, not war-mongering. Love, not violence. ”

    add “love, not judgement. Worship, not entertainment.” & I think this writer as hit a big reason for the “Evangelical collapse”.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      The thing is, that same indictment can be made at the authors of that article. They also see what they want to see and thus make sweeping applications based on their particular political proclivities. For example, they cite conservative Evangelicals not favoring strict gun laws as an indication that conservative Evangelicals are out of touch with Jesus’ message. Where did Jesus ever talk about private ownership of weapons? Let’s see… there’s the part where he rebukes Peter for cutting off the dude’s ear and says the famous “live by the sword, die by the sword” bit. But if you look at other renderings of that story, earlier that evening, Jesus told the disciples to sell their spare cloak and buy a sword! And then there’s the oft-quoted “I did not come to bring peace, but the sword.” How’s that fit into the authors’ perspective?

      I’m not saying the Jesus was a war-monger. But these types of things really come down to practical theology application and they’re certainly not black-and-white.

      Huffington Post has just as much of an agenda as Fox News. And just as much lack-of-credibility in my eyes for it.

  6. The Calvinist crowd should listen to Tim Keller. He was on ‘Morning Joe’ & had a good observation. He said Christians have the True & believe in Truth, but being in Truth is being arrogant. Most of these Christians waving good-bye to Rob Bell show their understanding of truth as justifiable arrogance.

    note: quote from Tim Keller is from memory – can check out video of interview on MSNBC.com Morning Joe

  7. My sons and I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Giberson a couple of weeks ago. We listened to a great discussion of the rise of the conflict between evolution and the various forms of creationism. He is extremely unemotional and rational in his discussion which allows for little conflict during question and answer sessions. All in all he is a good presenter and very knowledgable in his area.

  8. Let’s see, the “s” and “l” are the ring fingers of both hands in the “home” position (good old asdf jkl;) and my guess is that while you are sitting at your keyboard having writer’s block and wondering what to write next, you absentmindedly either tap or make circular motions with your two ring fingers….

    Oh, and it’s not Harry Carry, it’s Harry Caray. His son Skip was the radio voice of the Atlanta Braves for many years.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      I don’t think we even need to infer tapping or circular motions. Many people trained in touch typing will naturally have the two ring fingers resting on the keys, even as the others are slightly above the keys. In my case, I have my index fingers resting on the little bumps on the f and j keys, the ring fingers on the s and the l, and the others hovering. Someone with different relative finger lengths may have a slightly different rest posture.

      So I think what we can infer is that Jeff touch types (the one useful class I had in 8th grade) and that his relative finger lengths are similar to mine.

    • Hmm. the keys most used on my keyboard are asdw too much gaming! and the space bar is actually polished..As to Rob Bells book I can’t wait to read it. I think this is a case of Bell poking people to get them to react and learn from their reaction. Jesus did the same thing with stories remember Bell’s sex God study and God wears lipstick. This is probably more of the same. I really liked his Nooma videos especially Dust.

  9. “But the big and certainly controversial change is found in Isaiah 7:14 where “young woman” is substituted for “virgin.”
    In my Hebrew program, it says this noun means ‘young woman (ripe sexually; maid or newly married)’. So ‘young woman’ falls within the meanings given. Also listed (2nd, in my program) is ‘virgin’.

  10. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    Regarding the NAB, I think my first bible was an NAB Children’s Bible, but the only thing that made it for children was that it had a picture of Jesus and a buncha kids (obligatory “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight” representatives) on it.

    As far as the new version going with “young woman” rather than “virgin,” that’s certainly a more faithful rendering of the Hebrew word “almah.” The Hebrew word “b’tulah” is the more accurate word for “virgin” and it’s not the one used in the passage. While “almah” can connote virginity, it doesn’t have to; it’s more akin to the old-school English word “maiden.” The thing about it is that the Greek translators of the LXX used “parthenos” for “almah,” which does mean “virgin.” And thus the NT writers when quoting the passage used “parthenos.” From there, the Latin would have been “virgo” which would have become “virgin” in English.

    The thing about it is that using “young woman” in Isaiah does not diminish the doctrine of the virgin birth, because it doesn’t change the NT at all. It’s more accurate to the Hebrew, after all. Plus, this new NAB wouldn’t be the first translation to do this. NRSV already does, as does NJB, I think.

    • “The thing about it is that using “young woman” in Isaiah does not diminish the doctrine of the virgin birth, because it doesn’t change the NT at all.”

      Yes, well put. We don’t believe in the virgin birth because of the translation of some Hebrew word—we believe in the virgin birth because the NT explicitly tells us Jesus was born of a virgin!

      It’s interesting to me that this argument actually goes way back to the first centuries of the church—you can find the same exact discussions in the writings of Jerome for example almost as if today’s liberal/conservative arguments were lifted right out of those ancient documents. The Septuagint for the early church served much like the KJV does to many conservatives today—folks then as now made the same arguments that changing to a more scholarly translation undermined doctrine, threw out church heritage, etc.

      On the other side of the coin, what about the argument that even though there is some original text that differs from the current text being used, doesn’t the fact that the church uses the more recent, different text indicate that its differences are an inspired revision or clarification? In this case with “almah”, could it be that the Septuagint translation is a God-inspired official revision of the word for clarification (not contradicting, but clarifying) and since the early church received the Septuagint as their Bible, we should actually consider that later clarification the true version of Scripture and not the older version? I don’t advocate this position, but it’s an argument many in the early church made and I wonder if there’s some validity to it.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Y’know, I’ve thought about that. I know one of the reasons that the Orthodox ended up not officially supporting the NRSV despite having folks on the translation committee was that the translation ended up deciding against the Septuagint more often than not. As an Anglican, the KJV is a very important part of my heritage. I REALLY love it for use in worship and devotion. But not in study.

        • “the KJV is a very important part of my heritage”

          Mine too. Although I rarely sit down and read that translation nowadays, everything I have memorized is KJV and it will always feel like “the Bible” to me.

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            I mostly like it read out loud in a slow, measured way that uses inflection to help convey meaning.

          • Well, Isaac, the KJV was to a certain extent made to be preached, so that makes sense. (Hunt down Adam Nicolson’s book God’s Secretaries, about the creation of the KJV, for more details.)

            Plus, it’s useful when you’re referencing Strong’s Concordance.

      • Hmm, the Orthodox still make the Septuagint argument. But, I was taught that it was a difference between the denotation and the connotation of the word, and the differences in culture that lead to the development of different words to express concepts. What do I mean?

        In Hebrew, there is little doubt that the denotation of the word was young woman, maiden, post-puberty. But, the connotation of the word, in a culture in which a non-wedded non-virgin could be stoned, was that she was virgin.

        In Greece, the situation was culturally different. There is was possible for a woman to be a maiden but not be a virgin. Additionally, the Greeks tended to be more technical in their language than the Semites. Thus, if the meant virgin, they would say virgin.

        The Septuagint translation was a translation done by Semites into the other language. And, knowing that the connotation of maiden (in Hebrew) was virgin, they translated the word using the Greek word for virgin. That made clear that the prophecy was not simply that there would be an unwedded mother that would give birth, but rather that a virgin would give birth. It was not a later clarification. Rather, it was a translator’s choice to best express in Greek what a Jew would have understood when he or she read the phrase in Hebrew.

        The Septuagint needs to be read through Semitic glasses, not through Greek glasses. Further, the New Testament quoted from the Septuagint, and the Greek of the New Testament needs to NOT be understood in the light of classical Greek, but rather in the light of the Semitic Greek of the Septuagint.

  11. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    Regarding Pope B16, I agree that he’s one of the finest theologians of this generation. He’s also written and said some of the most profound things on Jewish-Christian relations I’ve ever read and heard. His 1998 essay, “Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations” (written as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) is an absolute masterpiece on the issue. Even though I’m not a Roman Catholic, I pray for B16 often. Despite the ongoing sex scandals from previous generations that are now coming to light, B16 is doing an amazing job and I really like what I’ve seen happening in the RCC under his leadership. While he’s certainly different from the universally beloved JP2, B16 is a more-than-worthy successor.

    • I’m not Roman Catholic either, but saying JP2 and B16 — even though the shorthand is convenient — seems disrespectful, somehow. It brings up mental images of CPO and R2D2. (mini-rant over)

      • Bob, I have sometimes used the shortcuts JP2 and B16 in writing about these great men, once I figured out what it meant when I saw others doing it! I like to think of their use as a friendly way to refer to them, but it feels like someone should shout “Bingo!” after using those shortcuts. 😉 I wouldn’t use them face-to-face or in a very “serious” environment.

        But I do appreciate your thoughts on this and I bet you are not alone. I did always get a kick out of C3PO and R2D2.

        • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

          No disrespect intended! To the contrary, it’s rather affectionate on my part. And this *is* a blog, after all.

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            As a matter of fact, I think I first caught onto it by hearing young, enthusiastic Catholics referred to as the “JP2 Generation” on Catholic Radio.

      • Is referring to them as Karol Wojtyla and Josef Ratzinger okay? 😉

  12. One more Mike says

    I wish I could find something in the HP Post on “evangelicals hating Jesus” to disagree with, but too many of the characterizations parallel my experiences in evangelicalism in the past 20 years. I don’t think they “hate” Jesus, but many of his compassionate teachings are ignored with mass cognitive dissonance and replaced with “Prayer of Jabez” styled self-centered self-righteousness. No place for the meek, the poor, the peace makers, only the shiny-happy and prosperous who consider Sarah Palin a thought-leader. This is my observation anyway. YMMV.

    But on a happier note, “Venus Flytrap” is the greatest DJ name ever.

  13. Judging from the responses, many find this Huffington Post article a persuasive indictment on evangelical faith. I find it less so, for the following reasons.

    First, the title itself is not supported by the article. Even if everything in the article was true, this would not imply that evangelicals hate Jesus, but rather they are inconsistent in following him. Of course a title like, “Some People don’t live up to their Ideals” generates a lot less page views than, “Evangelicals Hate Jesus”.

    A more substantial problem with the article is Zuckerman’s breezy assurance that he understands the message of Jesus, and his stunted summary of that message. I note that he chooses not to quote any words of Jesus. Surely this would not be too difficult, and necessary if one was going to make the case he does. But this would allow others to analyze those words of Jesus in their literary and historical context. Instead Zuckerman simply asserts the meaning of Jesus’ teaching, occasionally throwing in a word like “unambiguously”, as if that would make it so. By taking the easy and cheap route, the author betrays a shallow and one-sided understanding of the teaching of Jesus.

    The third problem with the article is the ignoring of the distinction between personal responsibility and government responsibility. The author castigates evangelicals for upholding the death penalty and tough sentencing for “Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness”. But surely this confuses forgiveness with pardon. If a man murders my child (to take an extreme example), I would like to think I could come to the place of forgiving that man. But that would not change the fact that he committed a crime against society, and must face legal penalties for that. Zuckerman’s position would make the penalty for a crime dependent on the willingness of the victim to forgive and show mercy. Does no-one see a problem with this?

    In the same way, Zuckerman seems to equate care for the poor with governmental assistance to the poor, or, rather, certain government policies toward the poor. But again, this is simply confused. Jesus was not advocating a particular government programs, but individual generosity and compassion. It is possible this could translate in a democracy towards governmental programs; it is equally possible governmental programs could make the problem worse, while simultaneously reducing motivation for individuals to show care to the poor. People of good will can disagree.

    In fact, recent studies have shown that religious conservatives are the most generous givers to charity in our country. Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University performed a detailed study on which segments of society give to charity and which do not. “When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.” Brooks found that the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.”

    Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks notes that giving goes beyond their own religious organization:

    “Actually, the truth is that they’re giving to more than their churches,” he says. “The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities….It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others.”

    Brooks also notes that religious conservatives are more likely to give time to charities, and even to give blood.

    This demonstrates the heart of the issue. Evangelicals are certainly not consistent in living out their ideals. What group (in the aggregate) is? But to say they hate Jesus because they tend to have certainly political views is not only harsh and judgmental, but…stupid.

    • Have Evangelicals been on the side of the weak or the strong in the last 50 yrs?
      Have Evangelicals been on the side of forgiveness or Judgement?
      when taken as a whole the Evanglical voice as been sad, mean, & w/o love.
      even a issue like abortion which they side with the weak, they do so with meanness & lack of love & caring for those involved. Am I making generalizations? Yes. but this is the perceptions that they give to the world.

      • Cedric Klein says

        That has been the perception some given to the world in some areas, it is true. That has also been the perception the world has chosen to see. The world LOVES the sight of angry anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic as cowering women try to get in. The world hates & slanders the people who put their time & effort & resources into pro-life abortion-alternative clinics which help women opt to mother their children or give them to adoptive parents or to deal with their grief & guilt after aborting. As Joe Scarborough mentioned on his MSNBC show the other morning, the media totally ignored all the students from Regent University helping the post-Katrina relief effort, but let Pat Robertson say one goofy thing & the media is all over it.

        If it is true that “Evangelicals (or Conservatives) Hate Jesus” then it is equally true that “Mainliners (or Liberals) Hate YHWH and Paul”.

      • I think generalizations are usually based on either a person’s own experience with a group, or the way that groups is portrayed by the media. Neither of these is helpful.

        • i think that is true, we can’t just blame the media (plank in our eye), but the few (way to many) rotten apples erase the good of others.

        • As an agnostic…my experiences in evangelicalism, Campus Crusade, mega churches, etc.. are what influenced my thinking about Christianity. To this day I feel sick to my stomach, anxious and wanting nothing to do with most Christians. I’ve built some distance, and others (who I wanted to keep relationships with…) pulled back from me. But when I look back on my life and see the harm that evangelicalism has done…I just wish it would go away. This may be harsh but I view evangelicalism to be as destructive and as harmful as cancer.

      • This is purely your own anecdotes. As for me, the only people being ‘mean’ at abortion protests are those who scream that that we hate women. There is far more violence towards pro-lifers than towards abortionists. In fact, it is the liberal “Christians” that I’ve met who are filled with hate and fundamentalism.

        • “There is far more violence towards pro-lifers than towards abortionists.”
          I really don’t want to argue this point, but this is way outside reality. how many Pro-lifers have been assassinated? By the way. I’m pro-life.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Good summary, Daniel. That was my problem with the article, also. Evangelicals certainly should examine their assumptions and their consciences with regards to whether or not they’re as “Jesus-shaped” as they ought to be. But so should the “liberals” (whatever that means). The article’s a puff piece.

  14. Ugh…the Rob Bell article turned my stomach. Talk about presuming on the guy…you definitely have to read the book to know what he’s trying to say. I feel that this blog’s take is much more balanced:


    • This is a helpful article.

      “Then several months later one of my mentors suggested I should read books by people who I disagreed with as it would help me sharpen my understanding of what I believed.”

      What a concept.

  15. Well, whatchya know? Here’s someone reviewing Rob’s book who actually READ THE WHOLE THING:

    • Steve, thanks for this link and helping solve (at least a little bit of) the debate until the book’s published!

  16. “Oh, but wait. It seems that Rob may be saying that everyone gets into heaven no matter what they say, do or believe. This is called ‘universalism.’ ”

    It’s easier to apply labels than solve root problems.

    These are the choices I see:

    1. Classic Protestant Orthodoxy: Salvation by grace alone – not works, not intentions, not enthusiasm. Even saving faith is a gift from God. Positive aspect: salvation is not dependent upon my efforts or merits; it’s a free gift of God. Negative aspect: salvation is dependent upon God’s choice-whom he graciously chooses to call or give saving faith. The fact that he chooses some but not others is technically double-predestination (passive double-predestination?). Fate ultimately determines those who go to heaven. Even though Luther didn’t explicitly teach double-predestination, he, too, struggled with this reality.

    2. Classic Liberalism: I must choose to believe and follow Jesus in order to be saved. God cannot make anyone believe; this would violate the very nature of God. Ultimately, God cannot interfere in any aspects of nature or human life. Humanity cannot depend upon miracles or God’s intervention. Positive Aspect: our lives are not governed by the stars, superstitions and spiritual forces, or God’s choosing. Negative Aspect: failing to be saved is on me: one indiscretion or questioning of faith could send an otherwise righteous person into the fires of hell. Essentially, fate still rules the day; instead of a fateful choice of God, it becomes a fateful error on the part of an imperfect, fallen human being. Free will is still under the bondage of human error.

    3. Universalism: in the end, “All Dogs Go to heaven”. Salvation is for everyone – not dependent upon nationality, faith, works, etc. Salvation becomes being seized by the Ultimate, the Ground of Being. And the word received by all is, “You are accepted”. Positive Aspects: salvation is not dependent upon faith, works, performance, or even God’s choice, because all are accepted. Fate becomes a non-issue, whether governed by God’s choice or human error. There is truly a basis for a courage to exist, because all the forces that threaten us with non-being are defeated in those three little words: “you are accepted”. Negative Aspects: “All Dogs Go to Heaven”: good, bad, holy, and profoundly evil. The concept of ultimate justice gets very fuzzy or disappears completely.

    The real point – as brought up in yesterday’s post concerning creation/evolution – is that there is a real need for humility when addressing these subjects. No matter which you choose, there are very serious questions and consequences that must be addressed. Piper has no grounds to gloat over Bell and vise-versa.

    I think the ultimate answer is yet another both-and paradox, but I haven’t even begun to sort this one out yet.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      From Galli’s article on the issue:

      “This is not to suggest that frank, honest, theological exchange should not take place. It should! But traditionalists need to marshal arguments and not ad hominems. The same goes for the innovators.”

      • Except that we *have* been having a frank, honest, theological exchange on this! It’s been going on for the last 1800 years. This dead horse has been beaten so often that it’s just a stain on the ground. And for 1800 years, universalism has come away as heresy. Just because *you* haven’t thought deeply about this issue doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been thought out in the past.

        • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

          I dunno… Galli makes a good case that it *hasn’t* been decided so clearly. His point (and I’d agree with him on this) is that Piper et al throwing out ad hominems doesn’t do anything productive. That and they dropped the “U” label on Bell based on a marketing video and without reading the freakin’ book. I saw the video, and I certainly think they jumped the gun on this. I also think some of Bell’s seeming conclusions on the video are rather shallow theologically. But even that’s probably jumping the gun a bit.

      • The Galli article is good. It is interesting that he brought up John Stott. I remember in college, after a steady diet of John Stott – particularly his “Basic Christianity”, being told to stay away from him, because he had endorsed inhalationism.

        • What on earth is inhalationism?!?

          Sheesh — isms. I once heard a very pretentious young French hippie talking about the Paris riots in the 60s. “Capitalisme, socialisme — je deteste les -ismes! Moi, je suis individualiste!”

        • “inhalationism” means you breathe in God until you die – and then you’re annihilated forever.

    • I would also suggest that atheism is not a fourth option but a subset of the first choice. Naturalists, including Einstein and Dawkins, do not believe in free will but a deterministic system based on the laws of nature. In that sense, naturalism is still a system of double-predestination, where the choices and failures in ones life are predetermined and are at the mercy of the grace or wrath of evolution, physiology, and biology. Atheism is no refuge from superstition, because one is still enslaved by the forces of stars, planets, and natural forces – just not God. It eliminates the burden of personal responsibility but provides no refuge from the cruelties of fate. I do believe that an atheist could be a universalist, which makes universalism a possible bridge over which theists and atheists can form a dialogue.

    • (oops. Dumb Ox. Oh, well. The shoe still fits.

    • Sorry to jump in here, but can I get some clarification? I thought “classic double predestination” was not alone that God chose some to be saved through His own will and for no merits of their own (predestination) but also condemned some (or did not choose some to be saved, however you want to put it) so that regardless of their efforts, they were damned (the reprobate).

      In other words, the argument between the Catholic and the Calvinist position on this was not so much God’s sovereign will in choosing some to be saved (we both broadly agree on predestination) but on the corollary: some are fore-damned, even if they think they have saving faith, and God permits/wills this.

  17. People seem to forget about the video that Rob Bell posted filled with loaded questions about Hell. At the very least, he wants people to think he’s supporting universalism. But, hey, lots of people here just hate Evangelicals and John Piper, so they criticize in order to feel morally superior to them.

    • I think some people are missing the obvious point. Rob Bell’s publisher wants to sell books! What better way to generate interest in our day than by blowing up the blogosphere? If Justin Taylor and John Piper, et al, were smart, they would have just ignored the provocative video. But no, media wars have become the substitute for contending for the faith, and their attacks will only serve to get Rob Bell more attention and more book sales.

      • Nail. Head. Rob Bell just seemed extra gimmicky in the video, and it wasn’t hard to see this as a commercial for a new book.

        We really do live in the era of the New Yellow Journalism. Christians should avoid the easy temptation to throw together alarmist headlines just to get blog views (hint: If your headline makes a grandiose claim, adding a question mark behind it doesn’t make it all better).

        • That, at least, I can agree with. As is a common saying on the internet: “Don’t feed the trolls.”

      • Too true, it’s a video intended to sell a book. It’s a classic marketing tactic to ask provocative questions, and it’s implied that the answers to the tough questions will be in the book (19.95 please).

        I watched the video after hearing all about the twitter explosion, and I didn’t get what the big deal was. I asked myself nearly every one of those questions after playing the part of a demon for 6 nights in a Judgement House several years ago. I didn’t come out the other side of that period of questioning a universalist, so I don’t see how they could jump to that conclusion.

    • I don’t feel morally superior to John Piper, but I have enough common sense to not issue a condemnation of a book based on a short video and a few blurbs about it. Some may call Piper’s style “shooting from the hip”, but to me it seems more like “shoot first and ask questions later”. It’s pretty much Pipers take on anything that sounds like it might not be Calvinism.

      Greg Boyd, the anti-Piper, if you will, wrote a review of the book, and guess what – he actually read it. It’s here. According to Boyd, there are things in Bell’s book that might make some people think he’s a universalist, but in his opinion, he is not.

      • My respect of Greg Boyd is growing, I’ll have to look into some of his stuff… I lived, feasted and consumed John Piper on a regular basis. In these past few years I’ve been puking it back up….

  18. Randy Thompson says

    I haven’t read the article on Evangelicals and Jesus, only what’s cited here. From this, It seems to me that the issue really is making Jesus into what we want him to be, and no branch of the Church has a monopoly on that.

    I love the term, “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” But, the issue as I see it, is that for many American Christians, the object of their “Jesus-shaped spirituality” is an America-shaped Jesus, and that holds true for both evangelicals and mainline liberals.. To generalize, the former Jesus is generally a Republican, and the latter generally is a Democrat. Would it be fair to say that evangelicals “hate” the Jesus of mainline liberals (or Jim Wallis)? And, likewise, would it be fair to say that liberals “hate” the Jesus of evangelicals? I suspect there may be more truth to this than any of us want to admit.

    There is always a tension between the Jesus who’s there, and the Jesus we think we know. The former has a way of regularly discombobulating the latter.

    • “But, the issue as I see it, is that for many American Christians, the object of their “Jesus-shaped spirituality” is an America-shaped Jesus, and that holds true for both evangelicals and mainline liberals.”

      Like! Like! Like!

      Everyone seems to know what Jesus would do, and it miraculously always agrees with their own opinions. Funny how that works.

  19. I think the only theologian who looked good in rock star sunglasses was the Blessed John Paul II.

  20. Did anyone see Hesseman in a recent episode of CSI? That was a treat!

  21. In Bell’s begging the question regarding the salvation of Gandhi, I don’t see universalism but simply another expression of moralistic-therapeutic deism. He’s not teaching that “All Dogs Go to Heaven”; rather, that “All NICE dogs go to heaven”. This makes him no different than the majority of churches out there teaching self-help, cultural war moralism every Sunday. It’s semi-Pelagianism. I think I would rather he teach universalism, because this is legalism by the back door. It sounds gracious, but it ends in law: good works will save you, with our without Christ.

    • Actually, I think if you had read any Bell’s other books, you’d see your characterization isn’t true. He’s abundantly clear in his book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, that’s it’s only through Christ’s work on the cross that any of us are saved.

  22. Yikes. I just found this video while looking around. I have to say, if this is Rob Bell’s usual stuff, then nothing he says should be given any attention. The guy’s an intellectual lightweight and needs to check his sources better. (The video is actually a rebuttal of Bell, with Bell’s video interspersed in it):


    • Cipher, thanks for the link. I watched both it and Bells video it is based on.

      Imho, Rob Bell is a gifted and extremely creative teacher, and I thank God for him. But, he does seem to play fast and loose with the historical facts sometimes. I’ve noticed this when I tried to research some of the historical claims in a couple of his sermons. It’s not that what he said had no basis in history, but it was often based on somewhat disputed claims, and the history was squeezed into the sermon. Dr. White does a good job of analyzing the claims in the nooma video.

  23. Well….if I may. Can I give my .02? One of the issues that crushed my faith (and there were many…) was dealing with what I was taught in fundegelical circles and later expereinces in life. For example I was taught that you needed to believe in Jesus in order to get to heaven. ALL salvation was through him. The “gospel” was very exclusive and limitating.

    Then I began to realize all the flaws with this explanation. For example…think about the following. What about all the people who lived, walked on the earth, and died who never heard of Jesus becuase of when or where they lived. For example is that person who was born in China in 100BC who died there going to hell because he never believed in Jesus? What about people who lived in Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, Central America, etc.. You mean to say those who physically heard the gospel message are the only ones that will spiritually live and go to Heaven? So the 95% of people who never heard the gospel are now destined to hell becuase a fundegelical will quote Romans and say (like I heard at the McChurch franchise off Leesburg Pike in Tysons’ Corner, VA….) that person in China had no execuse not to know Jesus? What the hell? Where’s the logic? Where does some of this thinking come from?

    I’ve tried to ask other Christians about this, and many pushed back and wanted to avoid the question alltogether. I’d love to hear Chaplain Mike blog about the topic of people who never heard of Jesus because of when and where they lived. So the question still stands…what happened to them? It sounds like Rob Bell tried to look at this issue, I’ll have to consider his book. I did read Velvet Elvis….


    Some fundgelicals and how “excited” they get over hell in how they treat this topic reminds me of a satire skit I saw on Youtube…..


    • Eagle-

      I wish I had an answer. Despite what we Christians may claim, I’ll let you in on a secret- we don’t have it all figured out. There comes a point where we *just don’t know*. We see but through a glass dimly.

      As for myself, I can only entrust them to God’s mercy. He is God, after all- I’m sure that He is able to figure things out that I myself would never have even conceived.

  24. Hmmm… You know, from reading the comments, I get the feeling there’s a misunderstanding of what Hell is. For a sight about the shortcomings of Evangelicalism, I’m surprised that it hasn’t taken on the idea of a hellfire and brimstone Hell, which isn’t what the Bible says it is. This article is very helpful: http://www.tektonics.org/uz/2muchshame.html

  25. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan has a new book coming out titled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

    He is definitely NOT thinking small when it comes to subject matter and scope.

    Oh, but wait. It seems that Rob may be saying that everyone gets into heaven no matter what they say, do or believe. This is called “universalism.” And other Christians are waving bye-bye to Bell even before they have a chance to read his book. John Piper tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell.”

    “So I yelled ‘DIE, HERETIC!’ and threw him off the bridge!”
    — Emo Phillips

    Meanwhile, HarperOne—Bell’s publisher—is already going back to the printer to order more books.

    Last Temptation Syndrome: Uproar boosts interest, and interest boosts sales.

  26. Martin Romero says

    The “Rob Bell controversy” manifests, I think, some of the characteristics and hazards of our contemporary, Internet-centered society. Although I see the lure of “social networking” applications like Twitter, I still can not get my head around the need of many to air every single thought for everybody to read… And the need of those countless others to read them.

    You see, a blog is a blog is a blog. Despite defining Twitter as a “microblogging” website, my opinion is that the format it offers makes it distance itself from a typical blog so much that they can not be placed under the same umbrella. For example, a well made blog requires the writer time to think and express an idea, generally allowing others to comment on the topic and, hopefully, generating a relevant discussion.

    Twitter, on the other hand, is designed to make it possible for you to quickly publish about anything or nothing at all without developing your argument as much as you would do it in a blog, since it is going to be short anyway… Therefore, my opinion is that the medium is ideal for people to blurt out the first thing that crosses their minds. It’s just a good old “shooting first and asking later”.

    And that’s the trap where Piper and many others fell. They developed an opinion based on the opinion of another person who hadn’t even read the whole book, and then felt the need of telling everybody about it without even giving it some time to cool down. Whether the trap was made by the publishing company or by themselves, it doesn’t matter… It was an unbecoming attitude, especially when we’re Biblically encouraged to think and listen before we speak. Maybe they did, but truth is it doesn’t look like that when all you use is Twitter.

    In all fairness, I can not say of myself that I’ve never said anything without thinking and that it didn’t cause any harm to anybody… I really hope it was only a momentary mistake for many. Unfortunately, when something like this happens in the public arena the damage can be much more extensive.

    And, well, I can see the irony of publishing my comment for everybody to read in a post that soon will be buried in the depths of the Monastery to be forgotten forever… Another of the issues of Internet communication: everything tends to be so fleeting, so vain… Even here it happens: a topic is only hot for a couple of days, jump ing then to the next big thing.

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