Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Francis Chan on hell and how to have conversations about it

With all of the recent discussions about hell, Francis Chan talks about his own struggle to find truth here. Apparently, his new book, Erasing Hell, will be coming out in a couple of weeks to discuss this issue.

The video below is a sort of promo for the book and is well worth watching. I love his humility. He talks about wanting to give people truth and not wanting to lead people astray with bad theology. But he also knows that, in many ways, God is a mystery whose thoughts and ways are much higher than and beyond ours, so we can't always know or understand everything. He also talks about how we can sometimes carelessly and heartlessly discuss theological issues, and forget we are dealing with real people.

Check it out:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Critique of Bell's Love Wins

I know I'm a little late to the game in reading the book and posting my thoughts. The firestorm that this book created a couple of months ago seems to have died down a little bit.

I thought about posting my thoughts during all the hoopla back in March and April. I had read a few reviews of the book and seen a couple of interviews Rob Bell did, and felt like I should respond like every other Christian seemed to be doing. I'm glad I waited. For one, now I've actually read the book and can comment on the primary source. I also think my thoughts now are much less emotionally charged then they would have been.

I'm not going to give a thorough review. If you want that, Kevin DeYoung has a good (but lengthy) review here. Here are a few of my thoughts:
  1. Bell presents God as only loving. There was no talk of God's holiness or justice.
  2. He makes a caricature of God's anger, completely dismissing the biblical idea of God's anger towards sin.
  3. He suggests (though never explicitly) that all people will eventually spend all eternity with God in heaven. This goes against biblical teaching and the understanding of salvation throughout the entire history of the church.
  4. The one positive aspect of the book is how Bell points out that God is more loving that we tend to believe, and there is a wideness in God's mercy that we should be excited about.
Ultimately, I believe this book will do more harm than good. It moves away from a God-centered view of reality to a more man-centered perspective. It makes our sin of rejecting God on a daily basis to look like it's no big deal. And finally, it seems to move away from sound doctrine to teaching that itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3).

By the way, here's the The Love Wins trailer that started all the commotion back in February. And here's Bell's interview with Martin Bashir that is really interesting.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Letting the Clean Breeze of the Centuries Blow Through Our Minds

I recently started reading On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius. It was written about 1700 years ago (in 319). Appropriately, C.S. Lewis writes the brilliant introduction and gives fantastic advice about reading older books. Many of you have probably heard bits of this quote before, but I wanted to share it again its fuller context. I have joyfully lived by this philosophy ever since I first heard it (I've actually started having the opposite problem -- not reading many new books). I hope it will encourage you in the same way:
There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium...The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him...It has always been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.


...Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old...A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light...It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books..Where [modern books] are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.