A Conservative Critique of Rob Bell’s ‘Velvet Elvis’

Well again with a book review. Let me say from the outset that i am not convinced that the best way to approach the emerging church movement is by discrediting and trashing their claims (see my blog series ’emergent detergent’), however, for those who are interested, and some of those emergents who are open to conversation with anyone and not just other emergents who say what they want to hear, maybe this can be useful for you (forgive my viscousness there).

I would prefer someone to read the ‘book of shadows’ (Wiccan Bible) or the ‘Koran’ or listen to a Marylin Manson cd then read this book. Why? Well, at least those others let you know that they are bad, at least you know what you are in for, but this book, is so shneaky, so deceitful, it is way more evil (please don’t let that comment put you off from reading further).

Strategically throughout the book Bell reconstructs Christianity in such a way that makes him believable, those of us who are evangelical, reformed, conservative (but however, not this new brand of blind fundamentalist) will half agree with parts of what he says, so for example on pg 21 Bell mentions the time that Christ said that He is the Way, truth and Life, then Bells says that ‘Jesus was not claiming one religion is better then another’. Thats a half truth, there is a negativity connected with religion, however, that does not mean that that is all religion is, James at the end of chapter 1 of his first epistle seems to be very pro religion. However, like the serpent in Eden, (I hope that is not unfair for me to say, just drawing a parallel, not saying Bell is the devil, although I am pretty sure he is inspired by the devil, there is a difference between being mistaken and not having everything right, and teaching outright apostasy)

His entire fist chapter bell uses the analogy of a spring, however, he then takes the analogy of truth and his connections with truth and thus says that doctrines doesn’t really matter, eventually saying that He could still be a Christian if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin (although he claims he still believes that Jesus was). This is terrible, listen, if God did not invade the real world and be yet different, then there is no hope! If all Christainity is, is a bunch on pretty imaginations and good concepts, then we are doomed, because death and suffering and all other consequences of sin are real life things, not imaginations!

Then on page 27 he says things like God is bigger then the Christian faith. Well that is true, however, that is the only place He has revealed Himself specifically (for a further investigation on this I encourage you to do a study of Psalm 19, notice the change in thought that occurs in the second half of the Psalm).

Bell later talks about questions (pg28), says they are good and healthy, goes on to suggest that churches are generally against people asking them. I am not sure what churches he has been to… However, he stays at the question, he suggests that we relish the mystery of not knwoing things, instead of presenting peeople with the Word of God and godly Bible teachers who God has given as gifts to the Chruch to help us walk and find answers to what God has revealed. I am not saying all answers are easy, but if we stop at just asking qustions that is celebrating our ignorance, and people perish for lack of knowledge.

He misquotes and reinterprets most scriptures, there is not historical-grammatical method happening in his book. In his second chapter he suggest that when Jesus gave the command to bind and loose to the Church, Jesus was telling the church to interpret and reinterpret Scripture. This my friends is the problem, there is no way that is what Jesus meant, now I can go into a whole exegesis of the text with you, or I can just tell you to go and read 200 commentaries by godly men and find one that even hints at that. Actually no, wait, I think i will reinterpret that Scripture now, binding actually means giving a tattoo and loosing means to remove bracelets from people. 2000 years of Church history and this is still the kind of stuff that deceives the church, wow! This is a proof of the doctrine of ‘total depravity’.

on page 67, Bells attacks the teaching of Sola Scriptura, that Scripture alone is our guide, that really tells us where he stands, and I say this respectfully, how he misunderstands Church history. The serpent in Eden also said, did God actually say….

There is much more I could write about this book, however, there are many good crits on it available for those who want to take a deeper look. For me the main point was Bells stance on Scripture, and since thats out, so is anything he writes really. If you have questions or would like me to expand on anything I have written here or elsewhere, just drop a line.

let me close by quoting the Westminster Confession on Scripture:

4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

6. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and [PCUS that] there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

God, Suffering and Christians.

I have been thinking about suffering. It may be that God is allowing physical suffering to sweep our world in order to shake His Church to the worldwide ravages of spiritual starvation. Our hearts break more quickly when we see a skin-draped skeleton in its mother’s arms than when we hear a missionary say: millions have never heard the gospel and are bound for hell in the wickedness of their worldliness or idolatry. Of course our heads tell us that it is much worse to be happy in this life and in torment for eternity than to be miserable only in this life. But visible earthly misery reaches our hearts more directly. Perhaps God is touching us this way in order that we might feel the horror of spiritual starvation when our heads declare: Do you weep over the suffering of these bodies now?—How much more, then, should you weep over the suffering of soul and body in eternity!

Seeing this in real life:

*An 84-year-old tribesman stands patiently in line waiting for a precious handful of cornmeal. He is only three people from the head of the line when famine strikes its final blow—he collapses and dies. His skeletal body is dragged a few yards away. And the long line shuffles forward.

*A gaunt young mother holds a tiny bundle of skin and bones to her withered breast . . . but there is nothing there. Soon—perhaps tomorrow—her child will be dead, and she will have only bitter memories of unbearable suffering.

*A missionary steps out of his home to find the hunger ravaged corpses of small children at his doorstep—left there in the dark of night by distraught parents.

*At a feeding station, a fine trail of white flour drifts to the ground from a punctured bag. The children who can still move their arms and legs scoop the flour up with dirt and swallow it before the wind can blow it away.

*A gaunt and withered man is shot in the head for his 12-cent bowl of maize porridge.

*In town after town, village after village, local trash collectors pick up the shriveled little bodies of dead children by the ankles and carry them out to their garbage trucks.

Do we stop and ask ourselves anything? Do we feel bad and shrug it off?

These things do not mean God does not exist, if God did not exist then why would we see it as terrible? Why is suffering wrong? We never try to stop one animal suffering in our games reserves, because we see it as a course of nature- survival of the fittest, but why not with humans? why is suffering… suffering? It is suffering because we have an endued worth, the image of God that sets us apart from the animals. The question is not, if there is suffering how can there be God, the question is, if there is suffering, how can there not be a God?

But alas, we are left with the question, why does God allowing suffering, this is a more appropriate question, from the depression I have to the starvation and political strife in Africa, why would God decree it? Well, I think there are many reason, which I will in time elucidate on this blog, however my point today is where we started. Not to the philosophers, or the atheists, or agnostics (all though there is a parable for you as well), but Christians God is showing us the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Should we merely debate theology and go to Bible studies and pray and read our Bible, if all that learning leads to nothing, then is there life (fruit). We need to take share the answer if we so believe He is the answer (Jesus Christ).

Emergent Detergent (Part 1)

I would like to set apart a few blogs to deal with the emergent Church, however, this is more for guys who are in the established Church of Christ- like, remember the one He built on the foundation of the apostles… And so I am not writing to emergents, although you are welcome to read 🙂

In today’s blog I would just like to look at how we got where we are, the idea I have is that attacking the emergent church’s teaching and or leaders may not be the best approach, but I shall show you what I mean as we go along, consider this progressive Revelation (in the Bible God revealed Himself progressively from Genesis and culminated with Christ- just throwing that in there in case someone was left out of the joke)

There is a huge gap between generations (although its diminishing as the later generation dies out), and really it centers around a change in the concept of truth.
What is Truth?

No matter where you look, arts, news, magazines, literature, everywhere one look you see the stranglehold of this new methodology… this new approach to truth.

Its suffocating, like when you smell rotten eggs… my friends and I used to drive about an hour every Monday to play indoor soccer, and whenever we went through this one area there was this rotten eggs smell (apparently sulphuric gas, or something like that). We would all rush to close our windows, five to six guys squashed in a golf in the middle of summer, that’s right, we closed our windows (maybe that’s why it smelled?). Alas the steel doors that protect us from the elements were not match for the stench, and soon the car was polluted… In the same way this stench has come in, and we could not prevent it, it suffocates and fills everywhere, and we hardly ever realized it was happening.

The tragedy today is that men and women are being fundamentally affected by this new way of looking at truth, yet they never even saw the shift in thinking that took place. Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old frame of truth, then they are subjected to the contemporary (current). After a little time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives that are being shown to them… Like I use to think Strawberry was the only good milkshake, and then I heard about chocolate, now strawberry is the enemy, and that just trivial milkshake. Confusion becomes panic (Ahhh! but strawberry), and before long they are overwhelmed (anything but that strawberry). This is true, not only of young people, but pastors, teachers, evangelists…

Before the change occurred (we can argue date another day) we all thought along the same presuppositions (Pre- before; supposition-belief), which appeared to work with Christian’s presuppositions

What were these presuppositions… these assumptions of the way thinks worked?

Well the real basic one was that there are really such things as absolutes, the secular world accepted the idea of there being an absolute in the area of Being (knowledge) and in the area of morals. Thus, since they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though they might have disagreed on something, nevertheless they could reason together on the basis of antithesis (crazy word, I’m sorry, but bare with me J )… They took it for granted that if something was true the opposite was false… If Germany won the world cup in 1990, they did not lose it in 1990, get it?

In morality if one thing was right, it’s opposite was false. So we have the formula, “A is A and “If you have A it is not non-A” this is the first concept in classical logic… If you understand the extend to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.

It was possible to discuss what was right and wrong. One could tell a non-Christian to “be a good dude” and while he/she might not have followed your advise, at least they would have understood what you were talking about. To say that to today’s dude would be like making a ‘nonsense’ statement.

And so then, back in the day, you could have spoke and people would know what you are talking about, but when one talks today about truth and right and wrong, it makes no sense to the average listener, it’s crazy talk, it would be like me telling you that addidas is the only brand in existence (notice the brand placement), now it may not be the only brand, my absolute statement was wrong. Today’s dudes see every truth statement as being like mine above

Ponder on these things, engage them…. wait fort the next edition as we progress. The goal here is not to win a debate on existentialism, it is to persuade men of the truth of Jesus Christ and to save those as from fire, who name Christ but are being led astray but the many false prophets we were promised.

Grace be with you all.

Isaiah 30:15

A Conservative Critique of ‘Irresistable Revolution’ by Shane Clairborne

Let me start by saying i don’t think i know everything and have everything together. I don’t think my opinion is infallible and so i hope that this can be a discussion on the book. I read it in two days (its written in a really easy reading style, I like the way he writes).

1. The Good

Well, my favorite part of the book is when Shane crits ‘the prayer of Jabez’ by Bruce Wilkinson on page 318. John Macarthur said much the same a while ago, and I think the more conservative and those who ae concerned with honoring God’s Word would figure that out, so props to Shane for nailing that.

I really like what is said about sweat shops, and how we just buy that stuff, we really should ask about things when we support such outright exploitation. I remember the days when Christians used to not by stuff cause it was in some way associated with Satanists, that makes no sense to me since those without Christ are in the same boat as Satanists, it boils down to who is exploiting and who is being fair

2. The Problems

I hate writing this because sometimes you feel like you are always fighting, but since over 80% of the New Testament was written to correct doctrinal errors and what not, i consider myself in good company 🙂 I also hope you know, I am not writing this because I enjoy being contentious, but rather because I understand that this book is popular and so I think we need to temper popularity with wisdom and discernment (essentially I love you my friends and just want to share my thoughts on something that might be dangerous, note I said might)

When i read it, this book reminded me of when I read ‘Mein Kampf’ by Adolf Hitler (wait for the shock of the crowd). What I mean is, Hitler had a political agenda and as he wrote his trashy book of hate he used the Bible to justify it, most of you my friends live in a country where people used the Bible to defend their political views of apartheid. As i read Clairborne’s book he is pushing a political agenda, o matter what he says and tries to get out of it, he is pushing an agenda, and he is not writing as a theologian, nor as a Christian, he is writing as a politician, as a revolutionary.

Now we know he studied at a liberal College (check out what liberal theology is on the net if you don’t know what it is). he tries to avoid the label yet bears every liberal characteristic (communistic tendency, pacifist, green, etc). Honestly, if you read this book, honestly not one of the scriptures he uses is what was intended by the original author to be used how he used them, I encourage you, go back, read good commentaries by godly men, again. There are two ways to interpret the Bible (right and wrong haha- just joking, but seriously) there is exegesis: what did the author mean and how does that apply today, and isegeisis: what do i think, what would I like this Scripture to say. Claiborne uses the second. If you have questions, ask in the comment section 🙂

How do I see his liberalness in his use of Scripture, well he ignores parts, we need to read the whole counsel of God together. eg

1 Tim 5:8 says that those who don’t look after their own are worse then the infidel, even Christ told the disciples to buy a sword. I am sure Adolf Hitler would have loved the world to be anti-war, then we would all be speaking German today.

John 6:68 tells us Christ turned a crowd away because they only followed him for food but they didn’t want His teaching

Romans 13:1-4 tells us that God puts governments in place and gives them a sword to being justice. Even bad governments are used for His purposes (this is a great topic on how God decrees evil but is not the author and uses it for His own purposes)

Luke 16:9 says we must make friends of ungodly mammon.

There is a ton more, but just to show you it is not as clear as he makes it.

Page 29 gives away what he is doing, he wants a new kind of Christianity. although he often tries to go and call for an early church, its interesting that he only picks the Jerusalem church, do you know that not one other church in the New Testament had a distribution! other churches had rich and poor and the rich were taught not to despise the poor but to be generous and help.

If you go and see what Christianity he claims to be converted to and become disenchanted with, you will soon see its not Christianity at all. (page 45; 64-65). I understand and feel with him when I see apathy, when the church does nothing I get angry, and James says faith that has not produces works is dead. But the right kind of works. Creation groaning is often mentioned, but if you read the Scriptures, it will only stop when Christ returns and rules with an iron fist.

Yes we must care for the poor, but Clairborne makes two mistakes:

1. Redefines who the Church is. In Scripture the Church are those, rich or poor who have been born of God into a new life, those saved by grace through faith resulting in works (Eph 2:8-10). However in Clairbornes book the Church are those who live in community and love each other, I think the world is able to love as well, its a common grace. What makes the church the church is not that we are a social society but that we have deeper answers then just earthly things.

If you read Scripture we are supposed to care for those in the Body of Christ, those who are saved, take care of them, not meaning we should not be involved in the world, but our primary job there is evangelism, or let us fill their bellies and send them to hell well fed?

2. He redefines salvation: This is not easy to see, but its typical of liberal theology. In his idea of coming into the church, do you ever see in this book the words sin; judgment; law; repentance? For sure he mentions some of them but not in the right context. Giving to the poor but swearing like a trooper is not a fine place to be, or who decides what sins we suddenly are allowed to do and those we are not?

There is so much more I could write, almost every page, but this is getting long already. so let me say two things

1st John the epistle was written to warn about false teachers. John gives two tests, one is righteousness and the other is faithfulness to sound Doctrine, not just one, but both. Now I readily admit that some Churches focus only on doctrine, and that is a sign of danger, even hypocrisy, but just having good works but bad doctrine is just as ugly before God. Oh how I pray for godly sound Holy Spirit filled young people who know their Bible and theology and can win the atheist and Mormon, but who can cry with the abused and share the truth of Christ and His forgiveness for even their sins.

Secondly, Clairborne quotes Boenhoffer, who was part of a group trying to assassinate Hitler, Boenhoffer once said that if you see a drunk man about to drive down a freeway you have the responsibility to arrest the wheel out of his hands, not exactly a pacifist.

Furthermore, Che Guevara was a mass murderer, not a hero of love, he was a communist killer like Stalin and Lenin and Moa and all such communists. I couldn’t believe he even mentioned him.

Lastly his use of mother Teresa is such a touchy subject, let me just say that Mother Teresa taught in her book, ‘the Simple way’ that her aim was to make a Muslim a better Muslim, a Hindu a better Hindu and what not, and you see this when Clairnorne says to the lepers, “I see God in you” (page 79) and the other guy says the same back, the Bible says without Christ you are a child of the devil, the Hindu idea of god in you is that you are actually a god. I recall God calling people’s good works ‘filthy rags’ before His eyes.

Really all Clairborne does is preach the same old liberal theology, this time from a perspective of communist rather then women or black. His liberalism is tinged with post-modernism. He redefines the Church to include all and thus says we need to reach out unconditionally on a social level to all, I see this as foreign to God’s intention. God did not come to set up an earthly kingdom, but one in men’s heart. As for Clairborne use of being persecuted, I think Christ made It clear as did the apostles, it only really counts if you are persecuted for righteousness sake, for preaching the gospel (that involves sin and repentance towards God, not listening to boring sermons). By the way he constantly miss uses the 2 or 3 are gathered quote, but then again so do most Christians.

In short, I think the book is dangerous because it steers us away from Christ the savior and points us towards a man-made revolutionary Christ. It steers us away from the teachings Christ came to bring and steers us towards a political worldview. It steers us away from the grace and mercy and soon coming judgment of God and our helplessness, towards a distant God, but wonderfully capable men who In fact seem like they could get along fine without Him. Please be careful, even if you don’t agree with all I have said (and I would love to discuss it, on the wall for comments after this being a good time). Thanks for taking the time to read this.