From Francis Collin's BioLogos foundation, this presents "scientific creationism." It seems to be addressed to evangelicals, but I think many people wFrom Francis Collin's BioLogos foundation, this presents "scientific creationism." It seems to be addressed to evangelicals, but I think many people would find the discussion helpful. I think they offer a generous position for people who want to take both their Bible and their science seriously, specifically in terms of incorporating evolutionary biology and quantum physics into a Christ-centered faith. This would be an accessible book to give to someone and say, "It doesn't have to be one or the other, you can be a Christian and a scientist."
Chan responds to Rob Bell's recent "Love Wins." The quick turnaround shows. When you subtract the page breaks, double-spacing, chapter end-notes, appeChan responds to Rob Bell's recent "Love Wins." The quick turnaround shows. When you subtract the page breaks, double-spacing, chapter end-notes, appendix, and sample chapter from another book of his, this 208 page book is actually 50-75 pages of content.
What results is an all-too-simple engagement with the issues. This wouldn't be as annoying if Chan's tone of voice was similar to Bell's: allusive, pondering, reflective. Instead, Chan tries to settle most matters on hell. This backfires in different ways: superficial interpretation, sweeping statements about Jesus' Jewish context, internal logical inconsistencies. To give one example: on 147-8, he talks about being touched while singing: "Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." 5 sentences later Chan writes, "this is the same wrath that ultimately will be satisfied, either in hell or on the cross." Which is it? Chan's commentary makes the song a lie. If he's right, the song at best praises God for temporarily holding his temper, counting to 10 or something. Satisfied for a second or two.
There is an appendix for frequently asked questions. It's only here at the end of the book that he discusses whether the fire imagery (for example) should be taken literally as fire that physically burns the damned forever. He claims this language is non-literal, which is fine, but I wonder why this wasn't deemed important enough for the main content of the book. A lot of his readers (if they make it to the appendix) would be surprised at this point at his non-literalist reading of fire. How can it not be important to discuss what KIND of hell Bell is supposedly erasing and what kind of hell is Chan himself not affirming? Especially considering how dominant is the pop-culture conception of hell as a real burning fire.
My main annoyance at the book (and now I show my Lutheran colors): Chan does not understand the comfort and blessed assurance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entire book promotes tremendous uncertainty about our own salvation. Chan's Jesus does not put an end to the law so that there may be faith for all. Rather, his gospel introduces a new, greater, heavier burden on believers. Am I truly saved? Have I really earned it? Is my resume worthy enough?
Faith is much freer from the Lutheran recliner. I've already received my final judgment: guilty. A sinner, deserving of hell. But I don't boast in myself or claim my own righteousness, for I have an advocate - Jesus Christ. I'll boast in him at the last day.
I find it far easier to be fruitful for my neighbor's sake when I don't expend my spiritual energy (re)securing my own salvation.
It's hard to give more than 2 stars to a book about Communion that omits all of the words of institution spoken by Jesus that make it a sacrament in tIt's hard to give more than 2 stars to a book about Communion that omits all of the words of institution spoken by Jesus that make it a sacrament in the first place! choking on love....more
Rob Bell takes a risk in writing this book, but I appreciate how he lays it on the line. This would make for a lively small group study... First the poRob Bell takes a risk in writing this book, but I appreciate how he lays it on the line. This would make for a lively small group study... First the positives, then the problems (for me):
Positives: Bell writes like he's speaking to you. His language dances and confronts. He evokes. He opens the critical issues and takes us below, to the deep waters: What do our beliefs about heaven/hell say about what God is like? Without referring to Luther, his working definition of 'god' fits tightly with Luther's commentary on the first commandment in his Large Catechism. That everyone has a god (or gods) - that which you fear, love, and trust above all else. Bell says it like this: "We shape God, and our God shapes us." In other words, be careful about creating God in your own likeness, because beliefs inform actions. Bell tours the Bible, unpacking words (like Hell) in context. Very helpful laying of the cards on the table.
Problems: Bell's vision rests on a pure freedom of the will, which I don't buy ("You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16)). He has switched God and man, leaving humanity entirely free as the final arbiters over our salvation both here and to come, and binding God Who is then forever beholden to our choices on all matters. Bell essentially eternalizes our free will, such that whether in this life or the next, eventually, everyone may (will?) choose God's way. We are active, God is passive. It is as if salvation comes through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, when we become like God, 'see' the good, and choose it.
Bell's argument would be stronger if he wrestled with what the scriptures say about election and so-called predestination. Bell writes beautifully about the unfairness of grace and mercy, but he doesn't touch God's unfair preference for Abel's sacrifice over Cain's, and so on.
A Lutheran distinction between the law and the gospel would also be helpful. Bell sets everything up as an either/or choice: either God is love or God is wrath; either God is a loving Father or a violent, unpredictable terror. Now, I believe that, in Jesus, God has turned a loving Father's heart toward us. But, I don't think Bell's beautiful 200 page sermon can actually alleviate the anxiety or terror that comes from looking at hell on earth and wondering if God is A) unloving or B) loving, but impotent. As alluring as Bell's vision is, can it really comfort consciences? A distinction between the law and the gospel reveals that God is actually doing two things at once to us - convicting and forgiving, binding and freeing, naming us goats and sheep. I love what Bell wrote about God's judgment being a necessary and good thing (calling evil evil is good!). But, I believe that the final judgment on sinners (read: me) cuts so deep, we would never actually choose it for ourselves (it would be suicide, the very death of ME). So, in this life, I think it is beautiful when we make (re)commitments to God, but I would never rest my hope on my own ability to plumb the depths of my soul and WHOLEheartedly choose God.
Overall: This is a critically important discussion and I am glad for Rob Bell, who has caught the attention of many, including many who have given up on Jesus, the hopefulness of the Christian story, or the ability of churches to live out of the story of God's grace.
My old friend, Lanny Berg, makes an impassioned case for the congruity between God's timeless Word in scripture and how we ought to live in today's woMy old friend, Lanny Berg, makes an impassioned case for the congruity between God's timeless Word in scripture and how we ought to live in today's world. Many people of faith are good at giving their tithe or their time, but how wisely do we steward our consumer dollars?
Berg takes a shotgun approach to building his argument: he begins with a bold thesis that God's 'model' for the flourishing of life is obvious in creation/scripture and able to be imitated. Next, he lays out five guiding ideas that shape the trajectory of the thesis. Finally, and throughout each section, he offers numerous examples and statistics. These examples are diverse and spread like shotgun fire, but in the end, are aimed quite tightly at the individual consumer. There is a lot of commentary on systemic problems, but Berg advocates for change through personal transformation that creates 'market demand' for corporate change. I was most intrigued by his basic sense that government is terrible at legislating behavior, but quite effective at incentivizing good action. As a part-time nursing home chaplain I was particularly struck by his suggestion that the government pay people to care for their elderly parents - insofar as people are able to tend to their health needs - rather than shell out 3x as much through medicaid for institutionalized care. Just one example of how one might address unemployment / elder care / and governmental waste in one swoop.
The feel of this book is one of sitting across from the author, sharing drinks. The passion of the writing and the use of examples far outweighs the uneven organization of the book and numerous grammatical errors. However, I appreciate Berg's passion to get his message out there and his own admission that this book is confrontational, personal, and not written by a theologian.
A lot of theologians/pastors could stand to learn how to translate the gospel into contemporary causes and concepts as Lanny Berg has done for us. ...more
Carefully and clearly written, this is a helpful assessment of key theological debates within evangelicalism. Every once in awhile, Lutherans get a n
Carefully and clearly written, this is a helpful assessment of key theological debates within evangelicalism. Every once in awhile, Lutherans get a nod, but oftentimes I would read the 2 or 3 options in a given category and not be satisfied with any stance. ...more
Andrew Root confronts us with the hollow sentimentality that surrounds so much of our culture both outside and especially inside the church. In this Andrew Root confronts us with the hollow sentimentality that surrounds so much of our culture both outside and especially inside the church. In this challenging book, Root calls for a church that bleeds, a church marked by the cross of Christ, honest about the reality of death and willing to face the myriad of cultural deaths in late modernity (deaths of meaning, authority, belonging, and identity). His argument rests on Luther's understanding of a "theology of the cross," by which we learn to utterly despair of our own ability before we are prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
Part One works through the reality of four deaths (see above) under which we live. The diagnosis of what has replaced meaning, authority, belonging, and identity is cutting and profound. To offer just one example: instead of receiving identity through work and love, we live in a world where careers and marriages are constantly transitional and we are on our own to construct makeshift and flexible identities through consumption and intimacy.
Part Two unpacks how the way of the cross might become the way of the church. Root begins with a complex chapter that reflects on the work of Christ on the cross, where death is taken into God's Triune being and so overcome. The ensuing chapters challenge the church to encounter discipleship through death, community through death, justice through death, and hope through death.
Each chapter begins with a personal story from the author (usually a clever insight from his young son Owen) and concludes with a reflection on a biblical story. I found this narrative framing style to be incredibly effective and powerful.
I highly recommend you read this book. Root's message will not allow you to rest easy, but rather wrestle with the presence of "the monster" in your life by confronting it head-on, and entering death wherein the hope of Christ may be found. The implications of this book for the life and ministry of the church will be an interesting discussion to follow. Application will demand creativity and courage. ...more
Some interesting modern parables. A bit hit-and-miss, but there are some gems in here. Each parable concludes with the author's commentary, which someSome interesting modern parables. A bit hit-and-miss, but there are some gems in here. Each parable concludes with the author's commentary, which somewhat undermines the point of speaking in parables. A good nightstand or devotional read....more