Thinking Out Loud

January 6, 2019

The Church Today Viewed Through the Lens of Tomorrow

I have strongly come to believe that if Jesus Christ’s second coming does not otherwise interrupt the trajectory of Evangelicalism in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Western Europe, that something like the following will be written about us in the not-so-distant future:

They allowed music to be an all-important feature of their gatherings to the point where it became a dominant factor in shaping their view of God and His ways and attracting people to their churches. They did so at the expense of songs of testimony, songs of proclamation, songs of commitment, songs of assurance, songs narrating the history of God’s people, and songs after the pattern of the Psalter which reiterate passages from the scriptures.

They created a generation with an incomplete picture of the work of the Church and the purposes of God; trading this to sing platitudes often distant from their hearts.

…At least that’s my opinion.

February 22, 2013

David Gregory Makes it a Trilogy

Filed under: apologetics, books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:15 am

Night With A Perfect StrangerAlthough there has been a publisher change between the second and third books, David Gregory’s Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and A Day with a Perfect Stranger now has third companion title,  Night with a Perfect Stranger  (2012 Worthy Press hardcover).

I got to know David through the first two books, and then followed him to the nearly 400-page novel The Last Christian, which I reviewed here.  The first two books were also used as the basis of two movies, but with some significant plot changes. I explained the mapping of the two books to the two films here.

So it was interesting to follow David back to the much shorter (120 or so pages) format of the earlier titles.

I actually borrowed this book because I wanted to read it. I’m not aware of Worthy (the publisher) having any kind of review programs. So having mentioned it here let me use bullet points to highlight a few things:

  • The basic premise you have to agree to is that Jesus can appear to people today in the flesh. Yes, of course you disagree that this happens, but you need to suspend that issue to enjoy the book.
  • While this continues to be “apologetics fiction,” the main theme here is the nitty gritty of living the Christian life, of keeping up the zeal we have at major turning points when spiritual disciplines or church life become routine.
  • Tied to this is the nature of God’s dealings with us and the nature of God’s presence.
  • Like the first book — but not the second — there is more appeal here to the male reader, but not at the expense of women who will enjoy this as well.
  • This one is less static; there are more locations; there is more action.
  • There is a fun reference to “that book where God is an African-American woman,”  and readers of “that book” and others like it will enjoy this.
  • The back cover of the book, above the bar code, doesn’t indicate the title as fiction which, in terms of literary genre, it clearly is. Not sure why.

At $14.95 U.S., hardcover gift books like these are not cheap, but they are certainly worth giving to the right person who is struggling with a present Christian life that doesn’t equal past Christian experiences; or is simply longing, as we all do, for something more.

March 4, 2011

More on Rob Bell: Love Wins Chapter by Chapter

HarperCollins has a hit on its hands. To read some accounts, people will be buying the books just so they can burn them. But the hot topic trending on Twitter is still very much based on hearsay and speculation. Never have so many blogged so much material from so little.

And I’ll be the first to admit great curiosity as to how the item I mysteriously have had in my hands since January 19th actually resembles the finished product.

Let me just say a few things.  First of all, I have a very rough copy, but you’ll be glad to know that Bell isn’t one of these writers who types “their” when he means to type “they’re” and just lets the editors catch it.  I noticed some stylistic things that I expect will be changed in print, but for the most this was a straight-forward enough manuscript that could almost have been published as I saw it.

Here’s what the innards look like:

Table of Contents

Preface                Millions of Us

Chapter 1             What About the Flat Tire?

Chapter 2             Here Is the New There

Chapter 3             Hell

Chapter 4             Does God Get What God Wants?

Chapter 5             Dying to Live

Chapter 6             There Are Rocks Everywhere

Chapter 7             The Good News Is Better Than That

Chapter 8             All at the Same Time (Repent of course)

Chapter 9             28 Years

I list these chapters here only to point out that much of the current excitement centers on the material in chapter one — which appears on the video — and material from chapter three which is the object of greater speculation.

So what about the rest of the book?

Chapter two isn’t all that shocking if you’ve had your dreams about a heaven that’s “up there somewhere” already affected by reading Heaven or 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I heard someone say it this way, “God has too much invested in this real estate to just walk away from it.” Bell also states that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a “when” or a “then” but a “now.”

Chapter four is the one the critics may actually find more disturbing that the one about the nature of hell, which precedes it.  It’s about the idea of ‘eternity’ and what happens over a long period of what we call time to those who initially rejected Christ. What happens if and when they finally wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. Reviewers will not obvious parallels to othere religions. I’ll leave that for now.

Chapter five is — to avoid spoilers — a chapter that starts to bring us back into more familiar theological territory, except that now Bell is building on the foundation established in the first four chapters. In other words, he’s already lost some people, perplexed a few others, and he’s about to make amends to those who gracious enough to hang in there thus far by giving them a chapter they can more easily connect with. And just in time for Easter.

Chapter six is an appeal to the idea that people are entering the Kingdom of God who don’t necessarily look like us or talk like us or even find their way to the Kingdom the way we did.  In a way, this chapter is a microcosm of all the talk that’s going on this week over Rob’s book.  Nicely played.

Chapter seven is rather interesting. What would the full implications of universalism be to those of us who have believed that “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” only to find that everyone is getting in? (My words, not Bell’s.) Hmmm.  And what better metaphor for that than “younger brother” juxtaposed with “elder brother” in the story we know as “The Lost Son.”

Chapter eight is partly autobiographical and talks of the need — Bell’s need and in his view, our need — to deconstruct the mystery, the paradoxical nature of Jesus; the nature of God. In many ways it could have served as an introduction to the book, as it invites us to break down our defenses.

Chapter nine is quite short. Enough spoilers already. Though you could say that, in the end…

…This is a really quick tour of some of the rest of the book in the form that I was blessed to receive it.  I’ve tried to remain somewhat neutral here, a perspective that is somewhat lacking online where the subject of this book is concerned.  The original title of this post, “More On Rob Bell” was left there so the critics had something to work with (!) but no matter what you’re starting place, you’ll have to agree that all the attention has made this necessary reading.

It’s possible that the copy I have will differ enough from the finished product that in such a way that also adds to the pre-release anticipation surrounding its publication. I’m open to that possibility, but I thought it was worth sharing what I’ve been reading while everyone else is dealing in speculation. I probably won’t get a chance like this again!!

Here is a link to my “review” of the book a few days ago.

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