Thinking Out Loud

March 27, 2011

Howard Jones: What is Hell Anyway?

Earlier this week, I decided to go out on a limb on Christianity 201, my devotional blog, and introduce a few readers to Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  But before I embedded Greg’s sermon on Hell — spread out over three videos — I decided to write what was probably the largest disclaimer I’ve ever done.

For that one however, I skipped the Howard Jones reference.   But if someone’s got the time, I think “What is Hell Anyway” would be a timely song parody…

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past three weeks, you’re well aware that a popular Christian author has caused there to be much discussion on the doctrine of hell.   Sample topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Is hell a physical reality or is it figurative language?
  • What determines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?
  • Is hell eternal; does it last “forever?”
  • Are there people who initially reject Christ who will somehow “accept” Him after death?
  • How is the concept of hell consistent with the loving, gracious nature of God?

…and so it goes.

Who engages in these discussions?  Again, the list includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • People who have their minds made up, and militantly defend their position and refute all other views;  some of whom view themselves as somewhat ‘contaminated’ by merely listening to other viewpoints.
  • People who simply like a good argument; people who enjoy the endorphin release that comes with lively, passionate debate, or enjoy the ‘game’ of just asking the awkward questions.
  • People who are genuinely seeking answers; people new to faith; people confused by the variants of doctrinal positions.
  • People who are relatively established in their faith, but are interested in exploring how others interpret scripture and how that affects their beliefs in other doctrinal areas.
  • People who don’t regard their views on secondary doctrinal matters as
    “set in stone” and would be open to reconsider their position of the points raised by those of different opinions were persuasive.

I think we need to ask ourselves, “Which kind of person am I?  Do I just like a good fight?  Or am I truly seeking for some answers?  Or am I simply open to hear how those with different takes reconcile other doctrinal matters?”

At that point, I introduced the videos, which you’re welcomed to watch.  T.O.L. readers can leave comments here at this post.   Link here for the sermon videos.


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October 4, 2010

The Misunderstood God Revisited

I sometimes repeat posts here, and I sometimes do book reviews, but the two never mix.   I’ve never repeated a book review.   But every once in awhile there’s a book that gets lost in the shuffle, and while reviewers love to write about books that aren’t even released yet, there’s nothing wrong with mining the shelves for things others may have missed…

So partly because The Shack publishers are weighed down in a legal quagmire and not doing anything new, and partly because I think it raises other issues, let’s take a look at this title reviewed one year ago…

God Is Not Self-Seeking

God did not send his only son to die because God was so offended by sin that he needed to whack somebody in order to feel better. A “sin offering” is not made to God. A sin offering is an offering made to sin. Sin is a beast that wants to devour us. Imagine you are camping in the wilderness alone and you come upon a grizzly. The moment that bear sees you and begins running toward you, I promise you this: you had better come bearing gifts! If you have nothing to offer that beast he will devour you. The sacrifice on the cross was essentially Christ throwing himself in front of the beast on your behalf and allowing it to consume Him while you escaped. Jesus did not die on the cross to satisfy God’s moral rage at your sin. He died to save you from the beast of sin. The death he died to sin once for all.

~Darin Hufford, The Misunderstood God (Windblown Media, November 2009) pp 97-98

In a world where we often speak of “brands” in Christian publishing, it’s unusual to see a publishing imprint where many different voices seem to speaking to one central mission or sharing one common voice. Windblown Media has managed to do just that, pushing a giant “pause” button on some of our nearest and dearest views on both the Godhead; and our views on the church — us — the way we interact together as the body, as well as within our families or mariages.

As with He Loves Me, The Shack, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Bo’s Café, and now The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford, readers are treated to a fresh perspective, one that is sure to bring about some agitation by those who would have us follow a God that is not a kindler, gentler deity.

The Misunderstood GodWhen I first flipped through the pages of The Misunderstood God, I was expecting something similar to the first half of Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips. I came to that book about a dozen years ago for the first time, and was astounded by how much my own God perspective was informed more by comparisons to other authority figures than informed by scripture itself.

While some people might see books like this as a giant piece of chalk (or marker) about to write on the giant blackboard (or whiteboard) everything one needs to know in terms of their doctrine of God, I prefer to see this kind of book as a giant eraser, cleaning off all those false doctrines and wrong views we’ve collected over the years. Sometimes, such an eraser has to scrub a little bit harder to get some of those off the board so we can start fresh.

In fact, the first half of Your God Is Too Small by Phillips does just that type of deconstruction — in only about 60 pages of this rather small book — before reconstructing in the second half; but it’s the first half of the book that really packs the greatest punch.

darin huffordBut a few chapters into The Misunderstood God I finally figured out that the deconstruction and reconstruction takes place here on a chapter-by-chapter basis, using as its motif, I Corinthians 13. I’ve heard people speak before on how the “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage can, if it’s true that ‘God is love,’ be read as, “God is patient, God is kind…” I had just never seen it before as the key to healing misunderstandings we have about the nature of God.

The problem compounds for those who — in either J. B. Phillips’ generation or Darin Hufford’s generation — can’t embrace the idea of a kinder, gentler God because it would mean unsubscribing from all the lifelong beliefs they have held. Many people are predisposed to being angry because their God is angry. Actually, I heard that years ago at a music festival where a speaker suggested — in jest — the following worship lyrics:

He is Lord!
He is Lord!
He has risen from the dead
And blown his stack!

I remember everyone laughing at the absurdity of those lyrics, but really, that’s the God-picture that’s more dominant in our minds. Which is why the Windblown books, particular He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen and The Misunderstood God are so badly needed.

I do think there are some rough edges in the writing. A few sentences left me wide-eyed wondering, “Did he really mean to say that?” I thought of marking pages as I was reading, but then I figured the critics will find these soon enough.

What matters most here is that books like this are refreshing to the soul. Maybe the chalk (or the marker) is needed, but the eraser first has to get rid of everything previously written. Books like this are rare, which makes them a breath of fresh air.

God loves you. God is love. He is a loving God. Yes, he is a God of justice and yes, he has shown his judgment of sin in the past and will do so again. But the latter has been inscribed on our minds much more than the former, which needs to be said again and again, if only to be given equal time.

God loves you. God is love. He is a loving God. Just say that out loud a few times.

God loves me. God is love. He is my loving God.

For He Loves Me, here’s my review from December 16, 2008, a remix review from May 3rd.

For So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, here’s my review from April 19, 2008.

For Bo’s Café, here’s my recent review from September 14, 2009.

he loves methe shackSo You Don't Want To GoBo's CaféThe Misunderstood God

Pictured: book cover, Darin Hufford, Windblown Media family of titles.

October 28, 2009

Your God Is Too Misunderstood

In a world where we often speak of “brands” in Christian publishing, it’s unusual to see a publishing imprint where many different voices seem to speaking to one central mission or sharing one common voice.   Windblown Media has managed to do just that, pushing a giant “pause” button on some of our nearest and dearest views on both the Godhead;  and our views on the church — us — the way we interact together as the body, as well as within our families or mariages.

As with He Loves Me, The Shack, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Bo’s Café, and now The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford, readers are treated to a fresh perspective, one that is sure to bring about some agitation by those who would have us follow a God that is not a kindler, gentler deity.

The Misunderstood GodWhen I first flipped through the pages of The Misunderstood God, I was expecting something similar to the first half of Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips.   I came to that book about a dozen years ago for the first time, and was astounded by how much my own God perspective was informed more by comparisons to other authority figures than informed by scripture itself.

While some people might see books like this as a giant piece of chalk (or marker) about to write on the giant blackboard (or whiteboard) everything one needs to know in terms of their doctrine of God, I prefer to see this kind of book as a giant eraser, cleaning off all those false doctrines and wrong views we’ve collected over the years.   Sometimes, such an eraser has to scrub a little bit harder to get some of those off the board so we can start fresh.

In fact, the first half of Your God Is Too Small by Phillips does just that type of deconstruction — in only about 60 pages of this rather small book — before reconstructing in the second half; but it’s the first half of the book that really packs the greatest punch.

darin huffordBut a few chapters into The Misunderstood God I finally figured out that the deconstruction and reconstruction takes place here on a chapter-by-chapter basis, using as its motif, I Corinthians 13.   I’ve heard people speak before on how the “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage can, if it’s true that ‘God is love,’ be read as, “God is patient, God is kind…”   I had just never seen it before as the key to healing misunderstandings we have about the nature of God.

The problem compounds for those who — in either J. B. Phillips’ generation or Darin Hufford’s generation — can’t embrace the idea of a kinder, gentler God because it would mean unsubscribing from all the lifelong beliefs they have held.   Many people are predisposed to being angry because their God is angry.   Actually, I heard that years ago at a music festival where a speaker suggested — in jest — the following worship lyrics:

He is Lord!
He is Lord!
He has risen from the dead
And blown his  stack!

I remember everyone laughing at the absurdity of those lyrics, but really, that’s the God-picture that’s more dominant in our minds.   Which is why the Windblown books, particular He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen and The Misunderstood God are so badly needed.

I do think there are some rough edges in the writing.   A few sentences left me wide-eyed wondering, “Did he really mean to say that?”  I thought of marking pages as I was reading, but then I figured the critics will find these soon enough.

What matters most here is that books like this are refreshing to the soul.    Maybe the chalk (or the marker) is needed, but the eraser first has to get rid of everything previously written.  Books like this are rare, which makes them a breath of fresh air.

God loves you.   God is love.   He is a loving God.    Yes, he is a God of justice and yes, he has shown his judgment of sin in the past and will do so again.   But the latter has been inscribed on our minds much more than the former, which needs to be said again and again, if only to be given equal time.

God loves you.  God is love.   He is a loving God.   Just say that out loud a few times.

God loves me.  God is love.   He is my loving God.

For a quotation from the book, link back to this post here a few days ago.

For He Loves Me, here’s my review from December 16, 2008, a remix review from May 3rd.

For So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, here’s my review from April 19, 2008.

For Bo’s Café, here’s my recent review from September 14, 2009.

he loves methe shackSo You Don't Want To GoBo's CaféThe Misunderstood God

Pictured:  book cover, Darin Hufford, Windblown Media family of titles.

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