Friday, April 29, 2011

An Interview About Rob Bell's Book "Love Wins"

Thank you to my friend Andy Olson of Echo Zoe Radio for having me on his show again recently.  We did this program as something of a follow-up to our first talk, which was about my background as a New Ager, and how, as a born again believer in Christ, I had slowly come to realize that many of the same New Age practices and beliefs that I had once held to as a Universalist New Ager were now flowing into the church, of all places.

As providence would have it, shortly after this first interview, Rob Bell, who is a very popular author, pastor and leader in the rapidly growing Emergent Church Movement, released a controversial new book entitled "Love Wins." In one interview about this book, Bell made the claim that his book was the beginning of a new reformation "of thought" that is coming into today's church. But the "Reformation" that Rob Bell wants to bring into the church is away from biblical truth, and toward an easygoing all inclusiveness, with nothing of the biblical concepts of the narrow path (Matthew 7:13) and the exclusivity of Christ (John 14:6). In fact, my view is that Rob Bell, either knowingly or unknowingly, is working as a kind of "change agent" from within the church to bring his beliefs about Universal Salvation (which is the core theology of the New Age Movement) into the church.

My interview with Andy was very in-depth, and we covered a lot of ground in just an hour, including the following:
➤ The origins of Universalism and a brief history of both Universalism and a very popular new movement among churchgoing youth today that is known as "Christian Universalism." 
➤ The rise of Universalism in the 19th Century, influenced heavily by the German philosophers of the day. 
➤ The Five Fundamentals, developed as a response to early 20th Century Liberalism:
● The Deity of Christ
● The Virgin Birth
● The Blood Atonement
● The Bodily Resurrection
● The Inerrancy of Scripture 
➤ The rise of the “Seeker Sensitive” movement as a reaction to the perceived problems with “fundamentalism” and Conservative Christianity. 
➤ The influence of Rob Bell on today’s Church, especially among youth
➤ The promotional video released by Rob Bell for his new book, and how it provocatively hinted at his belief in Universal Salvation for all......even though he and his supporters loudly protested to the contrary.
➤ The influence of mysticism, the monastic “Desert Fathers” and “Contemplative Prayer” on Rob Bell. 
➤ Rob Bell’s response to his critics. We played the audio of Rob Bell giving an orthodox sounding pseudo-creed that uses Christian terms, but which carries redefined meaning.
We concluded our discussion of Rob Bell by emphasizing the importance of good teaching, and listed several good ministries that we can recommend.

The Echo Zoe interview can be listened to in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

Echo Zoe Radio

Love Wins? A Critique of Rob Bell's New Book


Rob Bell Answers His Critics....But Don't Be Fooled







The Greatest Royal Wedding To Come

Posted by Christine Pack

I have nothing at all against the beautiful Royal Wedding we saw today between the future King of England (Prince William) and the young woman who has come to be known as "the commoner" (Kate Middleton).

In fact, I love weddings because I think one of the reasons that God gave us the institution of marriage is that even in this depraved day and age we live in, we can still look at a wedding as something lovely and pure and sacred.  But all of the weddings of today and centuries past are but mere shadows of the Greatest Royal Wedding to come, when the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, will wed his Bride and his Beloved, the Church.

We think there is a discrepancy between the Royal Prince William and "the commoner" Kate Middleton? That is nothing compared to the vast difference between the Prince of all Princes (Jesus) and his "commoner" Bride (the Church). And yet, God in his mercy deigned to reach down into this sin sick world and take a Bride for himself.

Glory to God!

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 
“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” 
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” 
(Revelation 19:6-9) 

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why We Worry

"Do not be anxious about your life." (Matthew 6:25)

"Why do we worry? Because we don't believe. We're not really convinced the same Jesus who can keep a sparrow in the air knows where our lost luggage is, or how we'll pay that car repair bill. Or if we believe he can deliver us through our difficulties, we doubt if he will. We let Satan sow seeds of doubt in our minds about God's love and care for us.

The great antidote to anxiety is to come to God in prayer about everything. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). Nothing's too big for him to handle or too small to escape his attention. Paul said we're to come to God "with thanksgiving." We should thank him for his past faithfulness in delivering us from troubles. We should thank him for the fact that he's in control of every circumstance of our lives and that nothing can touch us that he doesn't allow. We should thank him that in his infinite wisdom he's able to work in this circumstance for our good. We can thank him that he won't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The promised result is not deliverance, but the peace of God. One of the reasons we don't find this peace is that all too often we won't settle for anything other than deliverance from the trouble. But God, through Paul, promises us peace, a peace that is unexplainable. It will guard our hearts and minds against the anxiety to which you and I are so prone."

- Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day By Day

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday.......But Sunday's Coming

Posted by Christine Pack

Our family just finished eating our version of a Passover meal on this Good Friday, and when I say "our version," I mean not a traditional Seder that is Done Just So, but rather a Passover meal that is a rather laid back version of a true Seder, but which still highlights the key elements, and draws our attention to that somber day more than two thousand years ago.

I served roasted leg of lamb, roasted vegetables, a salad of greens and herbs (one of them "bitter"), unleavened bread and wine.  As we were having our dinner, we listened to an audio teaching about the Passover meal, and then we watched a very powerful video (which my husband found earlier today on Wretched Radio's Facebook page).  The video is below.

Enjoy, and blessings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ on this Good Friday.

A Little Something For Earth Day....the High Holy Day of Paganism

Posted by Christine Pack



I love this guy, Lord Monckton. For those who don't know who he is, Lord Monckton is a renowned climate change skeptic who speaks often on this topic, with the aim of helping people recognize that there is an underlying agenda to the global warming movement (that is to say, an agenda beyond the obvious goals of forcing people to install toilets that don't flush and use lightbulbs that require hazmat procedures in the event that one breaks).

Sustainable development is apparently big business, and more than that, has at its heart the goal of the U.S. ceding its sovereignty to the Copenhagen Treaty, a United Nations climate change treaty that was signed in November 2009. According to an article in The Washington Examiner, the Copenhagen Treaty:
"mandates a massive transfer of wealth from the U.S. and Europe to pay our 'Climate Debt' to the Third World, and creates a new enforcement mechanism to make it all happen." (my emphasis)
As you can hear in the above video, Lord Monckton uses something of a shock tactic by comparing these global warming protesters to the brownshirts of Nazi Germany. To the best of my understanding, several of these young people had apparently gained access to a meeting at which Lord Monckton was speaking and had made a disturbance over the issue of global warming.

As eyebrow raising as it is to hear someone invoke the brownshirts of Nazi Germany, please understand that what Lord Monckton is doing is using the shock value of this phrase to help these young people (who have been trained from a young age to embrace the ideals of the Environment Movement) to see how they are simply pawns in a game much bigger than they, that they are being used as "useful idiots," to implement a global treaty with profound implications. In somewhat the same way, the brownshirts of Nazi Germany were children who were also trained from a young age to embrace the ideals of the Nazi party, and were the youthful, glowing "face" of the Nazi party.  The young people in the above video have obviously been brainwashed by today's "science" that supposedly "has been settled," as the young man states, and which "proves" global warming.  But I'm sure Hitler also gave his brownshirters "science" that "had been settled" as well, and which "proved" the "problems" with the Jews.....and why they must be exterminated.

Could it be that the Copenhagen Treaty, at its essence a massive, global wealth-redistribution program, ends up being far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined? Sure, the idea of sustainable development might look good on paper, especially to its noble-minded young supporters on board, all rosy cheeked and earnest. But let me ask you this: when have massive wealth-redistribution programs (think Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, etc.) ever "worked" for anyone but the few in power?  Think on this: the best, the absolute best, that secular man can come up with is somehow creating a Utopia on earth. Isn't that what all political theory is about....coming up with ways for man to create Utopia, or literally, "heaven on earth?" Where people live in harmony and have all their needs met, there is no more war, the earth is "restored" to its pristine state, and every house is equipped with CFL lightbulbs?
"Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20)
But as Christians, we ought to be able to look at history and grasp that ideas like sustainable development, social justice, wealth redistribution, Utopia, etc. are very, very small ideas. And not only that, but there will never be a Utopia, a "heaven on earth," until Jesus returns to rule and reign.  Never. Why is that? It is because the world is inhabited by unregenerated men and women who are born into sin and who choose to sin.  The unregenerated are, as I've heard it said, sinful sinners who sin, and who will continue to sin, acting out of the depraved heart they are born with, and thus will always end up destroying themselves, their relationships and the world around them, no matter how lofty their ideals and hopes and dreams are for the world and for themselves.  The ultimate problem is that man thinks that perfection can be achieved outside of himself - and apart from God - when in fact, perfection will never be achieved in this world because of the sinful heart of unregenerated man.

The unregenerated don't need a new treaty to push the world along toward sustainable development and going green.....they need forgiveness for their sins committed against a high and holy God. They need to bend the knee to their sovereign Creator God, the God who made them and who has a righteous claim on their lives, the One to whom all men are beholden, whether they recognize it or not, and whether they submit to it or not.


Additional Resources

EPA Procedure For Cleaning up a Broken Fluorescent Bulb

Paul Washer on the Foolishness of Political Theory and Man-Created Utopias

The Copenhagen Treaty

The Kingdom of God Won't Come Through Big Government

Are We On a Slippery Slope To Fascism?

"Red Letter Christians" - Neo-Marxists in the Church?

GlobalClimateScam

President Obama's Speech to the U.N. On Climate Change - Sept 2009

Lord Monckton's Speech in which he destroys the "science" of global warming

The Grave Influence of Karl Marx

Why Christianity and Marxism/Social Justice are Not Compatible

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wellness: The New Age Trojan Horse in Healthcare

by Marcia Montenegro (Christian Answers for the New Age - CANA)

There have been warnings about the New Age concepts and techniques in the alternative healing field, including energy healing, remedies based on Taoist or Hindu concepts of the body -- such as chi (Taoist) and Ayurveda treatments (Hindu) --, as well as the concept of Buddhist “mindfulness” in stress reduction and psychology. Education in these areas to alert people of the New Age in health fields is still needed, but now the New Age is becoming more subtle and taking other forms, such as the “new” concept of health....Wellness.

New Age holistic health used to be "body, mind and spirit" (in some cases, it still is) but that evolved (pun intended) into the concept and term, "Wellness." Wellness is not just being healthy in the sense of being free from illness, but encompasses (as wellness proponents define it) how you eat, exercise, work, relate to others, your attitudes toward the world itself, your level of consciousness, and whether you deal with stress effectively. These goals may sound okay on the surface, but the problem is that these concepts and goals are measured according to some kind of spiritual (New Age) standard and view, and the remedies involve some New Age practices. Some non-New Age humanistic views may be mixed in with this as well, especially from psychology.

The New Age ideas in health fields are not always obvious and are often mixed in with references to physical health that are factually or medically based. But the overall concepts and perceptions involve New Age views. The goal in New Age health is to take the person beyond the body into a wider perspective of assessing and treating one’s spiritual state as well as one’s attitude toward the world in general.  What is considered a good spiritual state or good outlook is based on subjective New Age standards.

As with cults, terms do not mean what you may think, which is why the deception is so subtle. Two documents below serve as good examples. You may read these and nod your head in agreement, but certain terms are being used with New Age meaning and assumptions behind them. There are some New Age buzz words, such as "consciousness," “awakening,” "body intelligence," "body scans," and "self-attunement."

From A Fitness Client to a Wellbeing

Body Intelligence: A Guide to Self-Attunement

Some sample quotes from the documents revealing New Age thinking are:
"The concept of wellness takes on different faces at different levels. Becoming a Wellbeing is about a gradual awakening rather than a static state. As clients evolve toward the third and fourth levels of consciousness, their lives and worlds expand considerably, as does their approach to fitness and health. At earlier levels, fitness is something they do to their bodies—it isn’t as multidimensional.” 
"At lower levels of consciousness, perspectives are narrow and concrete: ‘I want to lose 10 pounds by the senior prom.’ As consciousness develops, we progress to wider, more inclusive ways of seeing and behaving in the world." 
"Envisioning the 21st century Wellbeing (a human being who engages the values and actions of healthy living in all its dimensions) requires that we dip beneath the surface of behavior patterns and fitness preferences. If people are to thrive throughout the ages and stages of life, we need to “get” the core beliefs that feed their concern for and engagement in healthy eating, intelligent training, mastery of stress and mindful living."
The excerpts above all signal New Age beliefs, some perhaps mixed in with a secular humanist view of humanity. One should be asking: “Levels of consciousness” based on what? Who determines these levels and how?  Why is a level “lower” and one “higher?” What is meant exactly by “inclusive?” What is meant by “healthy living in all its dimensions?” What is “mindful living?” The answers from those making these declarations involve New Age concepts, including the Neo-gnostic concept of movement from the “lower” material realm to the “higher” spiritual one, evolution of consciousness, being open to the view that all beliefs are equal (“inclusive”), the spiritual “dimension” being defined by certain standards in order to achieve “healthy living,” and adapting Buddhist concepts of mindfulness for “mindful living.”


Evidence that these documents draw on New Age thinking lie not just in the language, terms, and concepts used, but also in the New Age authors listed as resources at the end of each article, and, in at least one of the documents, referenced in the text itself. New Agers included are Ken Wilber, Dr. Andrew Weil, Abraham Maslow, Georg Feuerstein, Daniel Goleman, Jenny Wade, and others.

 And Why Does This Matter? 

The reason for this warning is to be aware of subtle New Age language and concepts penetrating all aspects of culture. The health field is just one such area that seems especially permeable to this infiltration, especially because some aspects of health care (nutrition, stress reduction, psychology) are open-ended, changing, and influenced by prevailing theories.

Accepting the premises and assumptions behind such language is to be open to or at least possibly influenced by the views upon which they hinge. We must always ask the hard questions, insisting on factual evidence (not just from vague “studies”), a medical or scientific basis, and questioning the meaning of seemingly innocent or neutral terms that are used, such as “wellness,” “consciousness,”  “inclusive,” and others.

The New Age is not neutral. It is a spiritual system that aggressively seeks to guide others to what it defines as “enlightenment.” The New Age excels at using language from science, psychology and medicine to appear current, practical, and marketable. The ubiquitous presence of New Age in the culture is not a sign that it is good or right.
“…for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
photo credit: lobstar28 via photopin cc
photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc


 Additional Resources  

UPDATE: Ingrid Schlueter interviews Marcia Montenegro and Christine Pack (Crosstalk at VCY America 4/26/11) to discuss Marcia's 4-18-11 Wellness Article - you may listen here

Are We All Syncretists Now? A Conversation About Evangelical Christianity and Alternative Medicine with Historian Candy Gunther Brown (Dr. Al Mohler)

Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour  (Free, online e-book exposing the unsubstantiated claims [both currently and historically] made about many "natural" remedies)

Problems with Alternative Medicine
 (Marcia Montenegro)

Natural = Better? (Sola Sisters)

Apple founder Steve Jobs 'regretted trying to beat cancer with alternative medicine for so long' (The Telegraph, 10-21-11)

Severe liver damage from certain dietary aid supplements  (Examiner, links to archived New York Times article, 11-3-13)

Hospitals: A New Dark Age? (Marcia Montenegro)

Tapping: The Next Big Thing in Alternative Medicine (Sola Sisters)

No Scientific Evidence For "Chi" or "Qi"
 (NYU Langone Medical Center)

The Scientific Method and Why It Matters

The Biblical Worldview Is The Foundation of Modern Science

The Christian and Essential Oils: A Few Thoughts [UPDATED]
 (Sola Sisters)

Essential Oils Revisited (Sola Sisters)



 John Ankerberg Resources and Articles 

Testimony of a Former New Ager

by Christine Pack

Thank you to Andy Olson of Echo Zoe Podcast for recently having me on his program.

I gave my testimony about being a New Ager for a number of years before becoming a born again Christian by the grace and mercy of God. During my years as a New Ager, I went deeply into various religious faiths and practices (Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism, theosophy, A Course in Miracles, etc.) before being saved. We also discussed how some of the New Age practices I once did, and beliefs I once held to, are now coming into today's church.

The interview can be listened to in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

Echo Zoe Radio and Blog

Wrath and Love

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:24)

"While Jesus hung on the cross, darkness came over the land from noon until three o'clock. During those awful three hours, Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath in our place—the cup that we should have drunk. He drained it to its dregs.

We do not know all that transpired during those terrible hours. Scripture draws a veil over them for the most part. We do know that the physical suffering Jesus endured was only a feeble picture of the suffering of his soul. And part of that suffering was the very real forsakenness by his Father. Toward the end of that time he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). The night before, he had been strengthened by divine assistance (Luke 22:43), but now he was left alone. God turned his back on his own dearly loved Son.

We can perhaps better understand what transpired that day by considering Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (NIV). Christ was "made sin" for us by a judicial act of God; he charged the guilt of our sin to Jesus.

However, we must always keep in mind the distinction between Christ's sinlessness in his personal being and his sin-bearing in his official liability to God's wrath. He was the sinless sin-bearer. Though officially guilty as our representative, he was personally the object of the Father's everlasting love and delight.
Should this not make us bow in adoration at such matchless love, that the Father would subject the object of his supreme delight to his unmitigated wrath for our sake?"

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day By Day

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shirley MacLaine: "I have some credibility about what I think now."

Posted by Christine Pack

We wrote in a previous article that the New Age Movement never really went away, as most people believe, and this is true. The fact is, it didn't go away; rather, it was absorbed and mainstreamed into the culture. Many of its ideas and beliefs have become absorbed into everyday thinking, including how we think about:
Weather (global warming)
Business (sustainable development)
Health (holistic remedies, many based on Chinese religious beliefs)
Stress management (yoga, mantra meditation)
Food (organic, free trade, sustainably grown)
Entertainment (T.V. shows like Medium, Ghost Whisperer, Charmed; movies like The Matrix, Avatar, Hereafter)
Everyday lifestyle ("Green Living" - i.e., biodegradable housecleaning products, CFL lightbulbs, "low flow" showers and toilets, hybrid cars, fretting over one's environmental footprint, etc.)
Academy award winning actress Shirley MacLaine was one of the first prominent figures to promote the New Age movement and its beliefs in a positive way, which she did in her 1983 bestselling book, "Out On A Limb." Even though this book - and MacLaine - both became punchlines and late night talk show fodder for many years to come, it looks like MacLaine (and the power behind her) is having the last laugh:

In a recent USA Today interview with MacLaine, the interviewer writes:
"When asked what people think when they hear her name, the actress quickly raises her index finger and twirls it in the air, making a high-pitched whistle as she does. 
Translation: She's a nut case! 
'But I don't think so much anymore. I think I have some credibility about what I think now,' she says, adding that she was a few decades ahead of the curve. 'Remember what people used to say about meditation? Now everyone is doing it.'"
And she's right.  Look around at our culture today. Do people today have to make a special trip to New Age bookstores to find their books on meditation? Or to purchase their tarot cards, runes, or crystals?  No, they only have to drive as far as Barnes & Noble, or click on Amazonto get all of these things. Do people still joke about wacko, tree-hugging environmentalists? Well, they might, but the car they're driving to Barnes & Noble in is a hybrid, and has a yoga mat rolled up in the back. The New Age is no longer a punchline.  It's our everyday reality.

photo credit: Marilyn M via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Universalism: The Gospel Message of the Emergent Church Movement and New Age Spirituality

Julia Roberts: "I'm definitely a practicing Hindu"

Ayurveda "Old Fashioned" Therapy? Well, Sure, If You're A Hindu.

"Christian" Yoga?

Karma Just Doesn't Cut It

The Light That Was Dark

The Beautiful Side of Evil

Tim Keller and "Social Justice"

Below is an excerpt of an excellent article by my friend Jonathan Cousar that was originally posted on the Freedom Torch website:

"I was so surprised to see an article posted here - on my own website about my former pastor, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York city!  I went to Tim Keller's church for nearly 20 years and in fact I left just last year because of my growing concern that the church and Tim were far more liberal, theologically and ideologically than I had ever imagined. 
However, I never intended to write anything about it here because it just didn't seem like a relevant topic on FreedomTorch.  But since conservative FreedomTorch members are writing about him and doing so in a most positive way, I feel I must warn my conservative political and conservative Christian friends that Tim Keller, despite all claims to the contrary, is not a theological or an ideological conservative and he is most definitely not a traditional Evangelical.  He is in fact very liberal on both counts.  As J. Gresham Machen so well put it in his book “Christianity & Liberalism” liberal Christianity really isn't Christianity at all.  And I might add the corresponding political statement that liberal Americanism isn't Americanism at all either! 
The Christian media is fond of telling us that Tim Keller is an Evangelical Christian… just like us, they seem to imply.  So one thing Christians need to know about Tim’s teachings is that they are really anything but what we have come to know as “Evangelical” or conservative Christianity.   To sum it up most succinctly, you should know that Keller says "the primary purpose of salvation is – cultural renewal – to make this world a better place."  Whether you agree or disagree with that statement – it’s certainly not an “Evangelical” or conservative Christian belief." (Continue reading article here.)

Think Only Christians Have "Eschatology?" Think Again.

es·cha·tol·o·gy

noun \ˌes-kə-ˈtä-lə-jē\
Definition of ESCHATOLOGY

1
: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind
2
: a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind.
Contrary to what some might think, Christians aren't the only ones who have beliefs about the end times. After all, "Eschatology" simply means the study of, or knowledge of, the end times.  All false religions have an "Eschatology;" that is to say, a view of how the end times are going to play out.   It's wrong eschatology of course, but it is still that religion's view of how the end times will look.

In the video below, John MacArthur presents a brief, side-by-side comparison of Islam's eschatology next to the eschatology of the Bible. (This sermon in its entirety can be listened to here.)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wrath Revealed

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men." Romans 1:18
"Some people like to think that although the wrath of God is a reality in the Old Testament era, it disappears in the teaching of Jesus, where God's love and mercy become the only expressions of his attitude toward his creatures. Jesus clearly refuted that notion: "Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36, NIV). And he frequently referred to hell as the ultimate, eternal expression of God's wrath. (See, for example, Matthew 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:47; Luke 12:5.)

In the inspired letters of Paul, we read of God's wrath being "stored up" for the day of judgment (Romans 2:5) and that God's wrath is coming because of sin (Colossians 3:6). And the whole tenor of Revelation warns us of the wrath to come.

Having then established the grim reality of God's wrath, how are we to understand it? God's wrath arises from his intense, settled hatred of all sin and is the tangible expression of his inflexible determination to punish it. We might say God's wrath is his justice in action, rendering to everyone his just due, which, because of our sin, is always judgment.

Why is God so angry because of our sin? Because our sin, regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem to us, is essentially an assault on his infinite majesty and sovereign authority. As nineteenth-century theologian George Smeaton wrote, God is angry at sin "because it is a violation of his authority, and a wrong to his inviolable majesty."

Here we begin to realize the seriousness of sin. All sin is rebellion against God's authority, a despising of his law, and a defiance of his commands."

- Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day By Day

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Love Wins?" a Critique of Rob Bell's New Book

Many thanks to my friend Marcia Montenegro, author of the Christian Answers for the New Age (CANA) website, for writing a thoughtful critique of Rob Bell's controversial new book Love Wins.  Marcia's critique can be read in its entirety below.


 LOVE WINS? BY ROB BELL? 

Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins, reached number one status on Amazon and is making quite a splash due to its controversial questions and statements that seem to indicate Rob Bell is not on the same page on certain topics as other evangelical Christians. Bell promoted this book with a series of questions, hence the question marks in the title. The main issues are the matter of eternal separation from God, called the “second death” in Revelation (20:6, 14; 21:8), the issue of exclusivity of the Christian faith.

Although Rob Bell is ambiguous in some parts of the book, and many have claimed it is difficult to know where he stands, there are also rather clear statements indicating certain views that he favors. However, the book also preserves Bell’s reputation as the master of the oblique.

It is not the purpose of this evaluation to address all of Bell’s points or all the troubling statements in the book. Therefore, only the most crucial topics, in the view of this writer, will be covered.

 Straw Men 

There are so many straw men set-ups in this book that the reader may have to brush straw off the pages. Two examples will suffice. Bell does this when he is critiquing other Christians and the evangelical church in general. For example, Bell is discussing what the gospel is and states that “A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story” (p. 135).

First of all, who says that this is the chief message of the gospel? Do all Christians state that this is the “chief message” of the gospel? Well, no, they don’t. Although hell can be a part of the message, the chief message is, according to the Bible, that Jesus atoned for man’s sins on the cross through his death, was buried, and bodily rose, appearing to many (see especially 1 Cor. 15:1-5). Before his death and resurrection, Jesus was proclaiming the gospel (Mark 1:15) and the message was to “repent and believe.” Believe in Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and the Son of God for eternal life (some verses on this are Luke 8:12; John 1:12, 3:15-18, 4:25-26, 5:24, 6:47, 8:24, 11:25-26).

Secondly, the “not sinning” here has no relevance to the gospel. The gospel is not about not sinning; it’s about being freed from the penalty and power of sin (and ultimately the presence of sin). Sanctification, which occurs as a believer grows in Christ, includes resisting sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, but not through the power of one’s own strength or abilities.

Another straw man is Bell’s portrait of the God he (Bell) thinks most Christians believe or communicate to others: an unstable, capricious God who is “loving one second and cruel the next” (p. 175), one who can “switch gears” and be “loving one moment, vicious the next” (p. 174) because of a belief in hell. This is apparently how Bell views a God in a world where hell exists, at least a hell where people spend eternity. The problem with this is twofold: 1) This is not the God that is revealed in the Bible, and 2) A reality of an eternal hell does not mean that God is like this. It is astonishing that a pastor with years of experience, and with a Masters of Divinity, does not seem to understand the attributes of God.

 God’s Love and Wrath on Sin 

Bell claims that “God’s very essence” is love (p. 177), and is “an endless giving circle of joy and creativity” (p. 179), the latter a description that gives this writer a flashback into the New Age! Bell also seems upset that God has any wrath at all, and he presents a distorted view of the Biblical picture of God’s wrath (pp. 182-184).

God is love, but His holiness and righteousness require His wrath on sin. Jesus himself said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Writing in Romans 5:9 to those who have believed in Christ, Paul declares under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that believers have been saved from “the wrath of God” through Christ. Christians, before believing in Christ, were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3; also see Rom. 3:5; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10). Salvation through Christ is contrasted with experiencing God’s wrath in 1 Thess. 5:9.

God is not loving one moment, then wrathful the next. His attributes, such as love, wrath on sin, righteousness, mercy, grace, patience, and justice, are always present and always in balance. God is not lopsided, with one attribute outweighing others, and God is not volatile, going from one attribute to another in a flash. Such are the fickle natures of pagan gods, not the true living God. Yet Bell seems offended that anyone would point out that God can be wrathful, even though this is what God Himself tells us.

 Bell loves a Mystery! 

The word “mystery” crops up several times toward the end of the book. Bell describes Jesus as a “mystery . . . hidden in God” (p. 150), a “mystery present in all creation” (p. 159), and a mystery hiding “in the naked and hungry and sick and lonely” in Matthew 25 (p. 160). Jesus is also a mystery that people “trip on” and “stumble upon” without knowing it is Jesus (p. 160). This raises the issue of Inclusivism, to be addressed later.

Jesus is described as a mystery in the Bible, but only in the sense that in the past he was not revealed but now has been revealed (Rom. 16:25-27; Col. 1:25-27, 2:2, 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16). “Mystery” in the New Testament refers to information that God has now disclosed (other mysteries are that Gentiles and Jews can be one in Christ [Eph. 3], the mystery of the church as the body of Christ [Eph. 5:32], and the future bodily resurrection of believers [1 Cor. 15:51]). Although Bell admits that Jesus is a mystery “now being revealed” (p. 149), he continues to describe Jesus as a mystery and implies that Jesus exists in a mystical way in the universe.

Jesus is no longer a mystery. This does not mean we know everything there is to know or that we cannot learn more about Jesus. Since Jesus is God the Son, no finite mind can totally comprehend Him. However, as far as what God wants humanity to know, the mystery of Jesus has been divulged.

To keep talking about Jesus as a mystery may allow Bell to question things already clearly stated in God’s word, and may give Bell reason to raise doubts in people’s minds. After all, if Jesus is still such a mystery, then who can really be sure about anything concerning Jesus, heaven, hell, eternal life, etc.? However, this is not the case since Jesus has been revealed and the biblical message about Jesus is quite lucid.

 Heaven, Hell, Now, Later -- Whatever 

The issue of hell and eternal life is interwoven tightly with other facets of the book, so it’s difficult to untangle and lay out as one long visible string. Bell defines eternal life as something that starts now, not after death. It is true that God’s word speaks of one having eternal life now upon belief in Christ: for example, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3; see also John 3:36, 5:24, 6:47, 10:28; 1 John 5:11, 13, 20), and that eternal life continues into the future. But Bell speaks of this eternal life as an equivalent of heaven on earth right now.

Bell announces that “Jesus lived and spoke as if the whole world was a thin place for him, with endless dimensions of the divine infinitesimally close, with every moment and every location simply another experience of the divine reality that is all around us, through us, under and above us, all the time” (p. 60). Bell offers no scripture to support this dramatic assertion. Of course, Jesus, being both God and man, was in constant communion with God the Father, but that has nothing to do with an alleged “divine reality.”

The term “thin place” has come into vogue through mystical spirituality that asserts certain places are somehow closer to God than other places. This is very reminiscent for me as a former New Ager of the so-called “sacred places” touted in the New Age, because in that view there are spaces more saturated with divine energy than others. However, God tells us that the earth is fallen and in bondage to death (Genesis 3), awaiting its redemption from corruption (Romans 8).

Likewise, hell is something that can be experienced now according to Bell. This is the theme of his third chapter where he uses the story of Lazarus (which he calls a parable, although many believe this is an actual account), and the parable of the prodigal son to illustrate that the older son is already in hell through his jealousy and small-mindedness, while the son has heaven when he returns and is forgiven by his father.

Bell seems to be reading meanings into the text that are not there, such as saying that the story of Lazarus is “an affirmation that there all kinds of hells,” such as “individual hells, communal, society-wide hells,” “hell now,” and “hell later” that Jesus is teaching us to take “seriously” (p. 79). There is no basis in the text for these statements. The actual point of this account is that the rich man was judged after death, was not with God, and could not be released from his torment, while Lazarus was with God (“paradise” and the “bosom of Abraham” is believed by some to represent being with God).

Bell claims that Ezekiel 16 promises that Sodom and Gomorrah will be restored in such a way that this indicates that “the story isn’t over for Sodom and Gomorrah.” Bell states that condemnation is not forever, but there is “destruction and restoration” (p. 84). He also uses Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10 that things will be “more bearable” for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for Capernaum to imply that everything will be alright one day for those who are punished.

However, Bell is misapplying these passages, which are not promises that anyone who is separated from God after death will one day be with God. In Ezekiel 16-17, God is rebuking Jerusalem for falling into pagan idolatry (which included sacrificing their children) and in Ezekiel 16:53, states that the “captivity of Sodom” will be restored. There is nothing positive being said about Sodom. Indeed, being compared to Sodom is the ultimate insult to Jerusalem.

Matthew Henry states that “The captivity of the wicked Jews, and their ruin, shall be as irrevocable as that of Sodom and Samaria.” Henry continues: “Sodom and Samaria were never brought back, nor ever returned to their former estate, and therefore let not Jerusalem expect it, that is, those who now remained there, whom God would deliver to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt.”

The passage in Matthew 10 is a statement to the effect that the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah would be less severe than that for a city that disbelieves the gospel of Christ. In Matthew 11:23, 24, Jesus rebukes Capernaum for not repenting after seeing His miracles, and states that their punishment will be more severe than that for Sodom. This is a rebuke to Capernaum and other cities for disbelieving Christ, not a promise of something good for Sodom!

Bell asserts that “at the center of Christian tradition” have been a “number” of those who have claimed that hell is not forever and one day, “all will be reconciled to God” (p. 109). He also declares that this issue is one we can’t answer and can’t resolve, so it has to be left open (p. 115). Both of these claims are untrue. First of all, although there have been Christians and people in the church who have denied that hell is eternal, this view has never been at “the center of Christian tradition.” It has been outside it.

Secondly, it is not true that this issue cannot be resolved. The biblical evidence for eternal separation from God is firm; those who play word games with the Hebrew and Greek words translated as “hell,” “eternal,” and “forever” hit one wall every time: if the Greek translated as “eternal” to describe hell really means a temporary time, then what does it mean when God uses the same word for eternal life through Christ? The Greek word used in Matthew 18:8 for “eternal fire” is used in Hebrews 5:9 for “eternal salvation,” and for “eternal punishment” and “eternal life” in Matthew 25:46 and 25:41, as well as for “eternal life” in John 3:15, 16. Yet Bell insists that this phrase can mean “a period of pruning” (p. 91).

By minimizing hell, Bell minimizes heaven. If eternal separation from God is translated as temporary, then how are we to view eternal life with God? Is that also temporary? Why does the word mean temporary for separation from God but becomes “eternal” for life with God?

 Inclusivism 

Bell discusses the rock that gave water in the wilderness when Moses struck it and how Paul in 1 Cor. 10:4 writes that the rock is Christ (pp. 142-143). Because the Hebrews did not know at the time that this rock was Christ, Bell concludes that today people can encounter Christ through other forms or mediums and not realize it.

This conclusion by Bell is invalid for several reasons. Jesus was not literally the rock that Moses struck. Rather, the rock is used as a metaphor for Jesus to New Testament believers, and the message is to warn them against idolatry and immorality and other sins that snared the people with Moses (1 Cor. 10:6-11). This passage was written to rebuke the believers at Corinth who were immorally behaving when celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and remains a warning to believers today as a reminder of the serious nature of the Lord’s Supper and what it represents.

Bell expands on this rock topic to claim that other rocks are out there today, and people may drink from them and not know that it is Christ. Revealingly, the chapter is titled “There Are Rocks Everywhere.”

The gospel (or Jesus, it’s difficult to say), Bell proposes, is a “mystery” present in “all creation” (in a mystical sense) and people stumble on it, not knowing it is Christ (pp. 157-159); and “Sometimes people use his [Christ’s] name; other times they don’t” (p. 158). Since “none of us have cornered the market on Jesus” (p. 158, another straw man!), then Jesus can be known in many ways, without the person knowing the historical Jesus or knowing about his death or resurrection. Bell misuses several Scriptures to support this stance.

Bell writes that Jesus “will always transcend whatever cages and labels are created to contain and name him, especially the one called ‘Christianity,’” (p. 150), but Bell offers no basis for this claim. What about God’s word as the basis for labeling Jesus as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Savior, the Redeemer, the founder and head of the church, the author of our salvation, the Good Shepherd, the Vine, the Door, and many others?

Continuing, Bell declares that Jesus is “supracultural” and “is present within all cultures, and yet outside of all cultures” (p. 151), again without offering evidence. It is true that Jesus does not belong to any particular culture, outside of having been Jewish in his incarnation on earth, but Bell makes these avowals to bolster a concept called Inclusivism (also see pp. 154-157), which is the view that salvation can be applied to those who have not believed specifically in Jesus.

One source explains Inclusivism as the view “that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved. In contrast to pluralism, Inclusivism agrees with exclusivism in affirming the particularity of salvation in Jesus Christ. But unlike exclusivism, Inclusivism holds that an implicit faith response to general revelation can be salvific.”

Inclusivism is not universalism, which is the position that all people are saved, or go to heaven, based on God’s love and acceptance, despite sin. "Christian Inclusivism" acknowledges that the saving work of Christ is necessary for salvation, but salvation can be applied to those who may not know Christ, or may come by knowing Christ through other religions. Inclusivism encompasses many forms and perspectives, but it does not necessarily exclude the concept of hell or even eternal separation from God.

Bell seems to embrace "Christian Inclusivism" along with the idea that although there is a hell, it is temporary. Therefore, Bell does not deny the atoning work of Jesus nor does he deny the existence of hell. This has made it tricky for some to decipher Bell’s beliefs.

 Panentheism 

Intimations of a mystical energy or force pop up in the book. The first is the term “divine reality” (pp. 60-61). By itself, this is insufficient cause for scrutiny. However, later in the book, when Bell labels Christ a “mystery” and seems to use the term in an almost impersonal sense to refer to Christ himself, it becomes more problematic (p. 150, pp. 157-160).

Prefacing some words on Jesus, Bell writes about “an energy in the world, a spark, an electricity that everything is plugged into” which is “Spirit” to the mystics, and “Obi-Wan called it ‘the Force’” (p. 144). Bell continues on this theme, asserting that “this energy, spark, and electricity pulses through all creation” (p. 145). Although Bell states the Bible does not explain it this way in the “creation poem,” as he calls it, he does not deny this energy as real, and seems to link it to the Word of God as the “energy that gives life to everything,” and then links that to being in Jesus as “a divine life-giving energy” (pp. 145-146).

Jesus is “the sacred power present in every dimension of creation” (p. 158), the “mystery present in all of creation” (pp. 157, 159), “the mystery hidden in the fabric of creation,” and the “joy that fills the entire universe” (p. 181). Really? These descriptions make Jesus a part of creation. However, the universe was created from nothing by God and is distinct from the Trinitarian God. The world is also fallen, and a holy God is not in any way an element of a corrupted creation.

Pantheism is the view that God is all, and is present in creation with no existence outside it. Panentheism, a related philosophy, is the belief that God is contained in creation but also transcends it. Bell refers to Christ as a person and historical figure, and nothing indicates he is a pantheist. However, it appears he is either adopting some panentheistic views, or at least is using the language of panentheism.

Panentheism works with Bell’s inclusivism. If Jesus is a “mystery present in all of creation” and cultures, a “stunning, dangerous, compelling, subversive, dynamic reality,” (p. 152) that people can stumble on or drink from without knowing it, then it would certainly seem narrow and harsh (Bell uses stronger terms) to claim salvation comes only through knowing and trusting the historical Jesus of the Bible, which is exactly what Bell is proposing.

 A Challenge 

There are some good points Bell makes in this book although they are overshadowed by the disturbing ones. However, raising these issues challenges Christians to re-evaluate how they support their own views based on God’s word. One good thing that can result from this book would be for Christians to dig into God’s word to see what God really does say on these topics. Those reading this book should also check every passage or chapter that Bell refers to (he refers to quite a few) and read it for themselves, in context.


Love Wins at one point was number 1 on Amazon, and when I checked it was at number 3. As this evaluation is written, it is now at 15. This is an accomplishment and says a lot about the number of copies that are selling. Because of the stir created by this book, Christians will look to pastors, teachers, and others in the church, especially those dealing with young adults and teens (the usual targets for Bell), for responses to Bell’s attacks on the truths of God’s word. Resources are given below this article.
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (1 John 5:10-12)

 FURTHER RESOURCES: 







 Response to Inclusivism 


 Books on Hell 


Hell Under Fire, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson

Four Views on Hell, Contributors John Walvoord, William Crockett, Zachary Hayes, and Clark Pinnock