All posts in Eschatology

Time Rethinking Heaven: Heaven Can’t Wait

Time Magazine has a very interesting cover article this week titled, “Rethinking Heaven”. It as about how scholars and theologians are rethinking the Christian perspective of life after death.

Time Magazine, Rethinking Heaven

Here is a link to the article. Unfortunately you must pay to read it online. You might want to pick up a copy at the local store.

Eugene Peterson and Love Wins

Eugene Peterson respected author of The Message
wrote an endorsement for the book Love Wins
that reads,

“It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”

Eugene Peterson Love Wins Rob Bell Endorsement

Eugene Peterson

Timothy Dalrymple got the chance to interview Peterson asking him why he gave an endorsement for Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived”:

What are your thoughts regarding Rob Bell’s book and the controversy it ignited?  What inspired you to endorse the book?

Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister.  We have different ways of looking at things, but we are all a part of the kingdom of God.  And I don’t think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight.  I think that’s bad family manners.

I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell says.  But I think they’re worth saying.  I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people.  I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another.

I knew that people would jump on me for writing the endorsement.  I wrote the endorsement because I would like people to listen to him.  He may not be right.  But he’s doing something worth doing.  There’s so much polarization in the evangelical church that it’s a true scandal.  We’ve got to learn how to talk to each other and listen to each other in a civil way.

Do evangelicals need to reexamine our doctrines of hell and damnation?

Yes, I guess I do think they ought to reexamine.  They ought to be a good bit more biblical, not taking things out of context.

But the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything.  They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not.  But that’s not what it means to live in community.

Luther said that we should read the entire Bible in terms of what drives toward Christ.  Everything has to be interpreted through Christ.  Well, if you do that, you’re going to end up with this religion of grace and forgiveness.  The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees.  But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment.  There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.

 

Quotes of N.T. Wright

In the last few years N.T. Wright has been the author who has had the single most impact on shaping my theology and praxis. I thought that it would be fun to post some of his quotes here. Click through to get the book if any of the quotes intrigue you. It will change your life. Follow Tom Wright as you follow Jesus..


N.T. Wright Quotes


“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even–heaven help us–Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?”

― N.T. Wright, Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is


“the work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”

― N.T. Wright


“When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.”

― N.T. Wright


“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating thet God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.”

“The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”

― N.T. Wright


“…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”

― N.T. Wright


“What we have at the moment isn’t as the old liturgies used to say, ‘the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead,’ but a vague and fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end. ”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world”

― N.T. Wright


“We could cope—the world could cope—with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples’ minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Just as many who were brought up to think of God as a bearded old gentleman sitting on a cloud decided that when they stopped believing in such a being they had therefore stopped believing in God, so many who were taught to think of hell as a literal underground location full of worms and fire…decided that when they stopped believing in that, so they stopped believing in hell. The first group decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of God, they must be atheists. The second decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of hell, they must be universalists.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Whenever you see, in an official lectionary, the command to omit two or three verses, you can normally be sure that they contain words of judgment. Unless, of course, they are about sex.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore him tomorrow. We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today, and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow. If we say or sing, as we so often do, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit’, we thereby commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it. This is not the god the world wants. This is the God the world needs.”

― N.T. Wright


“Don’t misunderstand me. The terrorist actions of Al-Qaeda were and are unmitigatedly evil. But the astonishing naivety which decreed that America as a whole was a pure, innocent victim, so that the world could be neatly divided up into evil people (particularly Arabs) and good people (particularly Americans and Israelis), and that the latter had a responsibility now to punish the former, is a large-scale example of what I’m talking about – just as it is immature and naive to suggest the mirror image of this view, namely that the western world is guilty in all respects and that all protestors and terrorists are therefore completely justified in what they do. In the same way, to suggest that all who possess guns should be locked up, or (the American mirror-image of this view) that everyone should carry guns so that good people can shoot bad ones before they can get up to their tricks, is simply a failure to think into the depths of what’s going on.”

― N.T. Wright, Evil & Justice of God


“All Christian language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a mist.”

― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

N.T. Wright reflects on Rob Bell and Hell

Here is a recent interview of N.T. Wright about his thoughts on “Hell” and Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins“.

If you prefer viewing theology over reading theology or vice versa, you have the choice below. In this interview Tom Wright gives and interesting outsiders observation of “American” theology.

If you have read “Love Wins“, do you agree with Wright that it is a good thing to stir things up as Rob Bell has done so with his book? What do you think? Has Bell succeeded in getting you to re-evaluate and and thereby adjust/refine your view of “Hell” and eschatology in general? Even if you went away from Bell’s book not agreeing with a lot of his arguments, did the book act as a catalyst for your own re-evaluation of “heaven” and “hell”?

The Video

Wright on Hell & Bell from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

The Interview

My usual counter question is: “Why are Americans so fixated on hell?” Far more Americans ask me about hell than ever happens in my own country. And I really want to know, why is it that the most prosperous affluent nation on earth is really determined to be sure that they know precisely who is going to be frying in hell and what the temperature will be and so on. There’s something quite disturbing about that, especially when your nation and mine has done quite a lot in the last decade or two to drop bombs on people elsewhere and to make a lot of other people’s lives hell. So, I think there are some quite serious issues about why people want to ask that question.

Having said that, I am not a universalist. I’ve never been universalist. Someone quoted a theologian saying, “I’m not a universalist, but maybe God is.” That’s kind of a neat way of saying, “OK, there’s stuff in Scripture which is a little puzzling about this, and we can’t be absolutely sure all down the line.” But it seems to me that the New Testament is very clear that there are people who do reject God and reject what would have been His best will for them, and God honors that decision. How that works and how you then deal with the questions which result I have written about at some length.


I don’t think myself that Rob Bell has quite taken the same line that I did in Surprised by Hope
. I haven’t actually had the conversation with Rob since his book was published. So, one of these days, we will and we’ll have that one out. I do think it’s good to stir things up because so many people, as I say, particularly in American culture, really want to know the last fine-tuned details of hell. And it seems to be part of their faith, often a central part of their faith that a certain number of people are simply going to go to hell and we know who these people are. I think Rob is saying, “Hey wait a minute! Start reading the Bible differently. God is not a horrible ogre who is just determined to fry as many people as He can forever. God is actually incredibly generous and gracious and wonderful and loving and caring. And if you paint a picture of God which is other than that, then you’re producing a monster and that has long-lasting effects in Christian lives and in the church.”


Rob Bell Love Wins

May 21st, 2011 DoomsDay a Hoax?

I am sitting here on my laptop waiting for doomsday to arrive in 10 minutes Pacific Coast Time in the U.S. and then I suddenly realized, wait, it is already that time in New Zealand. Did it happen? Well I have on good authority from the Tall Skinny Kiwi that nothing happened and Jesus has let us down again. Harold Camping has misplaced a decimal again. It appears the 1st time Camping predicted the rapture was in 1994. He resolved that his math was wrong then. Lets wait and here what it the reason is this time. It is amazing that so many still follow him on Family Radio.

This is what is on there website right now.
Judgment Day Rapture Harold Camping

“Love Wins” -Rob Bell


In this post I will be giving my Review of the book “Love Wins”, but first, a preamble is probably needed for context and clarity.



Preamble

On March 15th 2011 Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” was released to the public.  Of course at this point the Christian Blogosphere had already been buzzing about the short and provocative Love Wins video released a couple weeks earlier where in the very short clip Bell gives an anecdote about an art show at his Church followed by a lot of questions related to “heaven and hell”.  Based on this short clip many started writing and blogging about Bell being a Universalist, and most of  their writings were done without actually having read the book. One prominent pastor even tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell” again without even having read the book.  : (

It was at that point I decided I should take a step back, read the book, read it twice, listen to some interviews and videos of Bell about his book. Having done so, I am now prepared to give my review.

Review

Rob Bell’s Book “Love Wins..” has 8 short chapters. He starts out his book talking about the importance and place of questions in following Jesus, of whom Bell says, “(Jesus) responds to almost every question he is asked with …a question.” This essentially, is also Rob’s way of exploring faith. He is often re-evaluating old formulas of faith with fresh expressions and understanding.

He then follows up with many questions asking how many people think they know who by name is literally burning in hell right now. Bell tells a story about how his Church had an art show and one of the pieces of art had a quote from Gandhi. Many people were inspired by the quote, but one person decided to stick a note on the art saying, “Sorry, Gandhi is in Hell“. Bell wonders how someone can know this with such certainty about Gandhi.

Now the following two chapters are about Heaven and Hell. I believe these two chapters are Bell’s strongest chapters within the book. Bell critiques the common interpretation of Jesus’ ” kingdom of heaven” message,  often understood as  a reality which is arrived at somewhere else, beginning after this earthly life ceases. He points out that Jesus’ central teaching about “the Kingdom of heaven” was one that spoke of a reality that one is to participate in right here and right now. Heaven isn’t a reality we hope to escape to someday , but rather one we pray for and work for on earth. Bell says:


..Jesus doesn’t tell people how to ‘go to heaven’. It wasn’t what Jesus came to do..”
“Heaven is that realm where things are as God intends them to be..”“A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it, all with the anticipation of a coming day when things are on earth as they currently are in heaven.”

First heaven, now hell.
In this chapter bell explores all the different words that often get interpreted by many folks as the singular concept of Hell. This has to be done because if your happen to still be reading from the highly influential King James Version of the bible you would read the English word “Hell” across the board in the place of four different words. Bell begins explaining the context of these different words along with their different meanings. While Bell begins articulating how these words had varying and different intentions of meanings, you begin to wonder how the many translators justified rendering all these as one word -Hell.

The old testament Hebrew word for the place of the dead is Sheol, and its new testament Greek equivalent  is Hades.  Bell then points out that the word Jesus most often used to talk about “hell” is “Gehenna“. Ge means “valley,” and Henna means “Hinnom“. Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom. This was an actual valley on the south and west side of the city of Jerusalem. Gehenna, in Jesus’s day, was the city dump.. I won’t explain it all here, but he has some striking points which again, this chapter alone would be worth the read.

In the chapter, “Dying to Live”, bell explores what happened when Jesus died on the cross (Atonement Theology). He talks about how there are many different metaphors utilized within the New Testament which give explanation to the meaning of the atoning work of Jesus. He sums up this part here:

“So, back to the question: What happened on the cross?Is the cross about the end of the sacrificial system
or a broken relationship that’s been reconciled
or a guilty defendant who’s been set free
or a battle that’s been won
or the redeeming of something that was lost?Which is It?

Which perspectie is the right one? Which metaphor is correct? Which explanation is true?

The answer, of course, is yes.

..The point, then isn’t to narrow it to one particular metaphor, image, explanation, or mechanism. To elevate one over the others, to insist that there’s a “correct” or “right” one, is to miss the brilliant, creative work these first Christians were doing when they used these images and metaphors. They were reading their world, looking for ways to communicate this epic event in ways their listeners could grasp.

The Point then, as it is now, is Jesus. The divine in flesh and blood. He’s where the life is.”

The remaining chapters of the book have very interesting observations and questions that are worth pondering about the ultimate fate of everyone who has ever lived. Along with Bell’s great skill at observing and asking excellent questions, he begins some attempts at constructing some answers. Now, it has often been rightly said that Bell is great at questions and weak on answers.  On questions of ultimate salvation for all people he seems to suggest that this is a strong possibility.

Some times you think he is saying that in the end all people will ultimately choose the gift of life offered in Jesus.  And in the following sentence he will then say that love demands freedom, love is not coerced. He really sets a tension up here and never gives a definitive conclusion whether or not he resolutely has planted his feet in this belief. In fact, he says we can’t resolve this tension.

Bell asks, “Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices?” He follows with, “Those are questions, or more accurately, those tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We dont’ need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t..” There in lies the answer to many people’s question, “Is Rob Bell a universalist?”. He wants to be but never definitively states that is his absolute belief.

Now I think Bell’s arguments loose steam in his chapter, “There are Rocks Everywhere.” It is here where he begins making some arguments that are not all together very convincing to me. Especially his use of these passages: John 10 and 14, and Colossians1. He seems to be meandering through some ideas that I think are just not articulated well or very persuasive. And his scripture references don’t seem to hold up his argument as tightly as he is trying to make them do so.

After all is said, I do think much good can come from this book. Bell has brought much needed critique to the current formulations and understandings of heaven and hell. His book serves as a kind of catalyst, a conversation starter. By no means should his book be considered comprehensive or the last word on these subjects. Much of the strong critical reviews that I have come across on the blogosphere at many times were assuming that Bell was giving a version of his own Summa Theologica. Rather, I suggest quite the opposite; that Bell’s intention was not to be the last word, simply just an initiatory word in hopes to re-liven the conversation about long unchallenged beliefs concerning “the end”. He does not come out decidedly on the question of Universalism, he merely invites you to enter into a tension with him. This book should be read as a starting point only. In fact, once one reads any of Bell’s books, it is soon realized that Bell is having a conversation, he is pointing things out that have often been overlooked. He is asking questions, giving some answers, but by no means is he saying this is the last word. Even more so, in this book, I believe that is true. Thank you Rob.

The following excerpt is from a very recent interview with Relevant Magazine and Rob Bell:

Based on your understanding of universalism, do you consider yourself a universalist?
No, I don’t.And you see the difference being what?
My observation would be that people mean lots of different things with that word. I think for some people, apparently the word means nothing matters. It doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter how you live—nothing matters. And I simply don’t believe that. Certain paths are destructive. Certain paths are wrong. Certain paths cause all kinds of toxic harm to other people and it’s not loving your neighbor. So if by “universalism,” people mean it doesn’t matter—it doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter what you do—that’s just complete rubbish. So, no.Secondly, sometimes when people say the word “universalism,” I think they mean that at some point God just swoops everybody up into heaven. Like, “Come on, everybody—everybody is in.” And the problem with that is, I believe love wins, and the very nature of love is freedom. So if at any point God co-opts your ability to choose, we no longer are dealing with a loving God. And if there are people who are in heaven who don’t want to be there, then it’s not heaven. Like God is saying, “It’s a party—and you’re going to like it!”

The question that I do think is terribly interesting, and which as a Christian we must wrestle with, it is written in a letter to Timothy, “God wants everybody to be saved.” Now this is fascinating. God wants everybody to be saved, so perhaps the important question is, is God a universalist? And I do think as a Christian it is our duty to long for the things that God longs for, and to want the things that God wants.

Here is a link to an interview with Eugene Peterson.

Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” Newsweek Interview

Check out Rob Bell’s latest interview about his new book “Love Wins”
.

Watch live streaming video from lovewins at livestream.com

The Last Word and the Word After That

In this philosophical/theology/novel “The Last Word and the Word after That”, the Author, Brian McLaren has contributed exceptionally towards a re-working of current formulations and understandings of God’s ultimate judgment (putting the world to rights). The novel’s dialogue concerns the contextual and rhetorical placement of the word hell with in the new testament.
Through the use of fictional characters (it is a novel), and very believable and relate able scenarios, Brian primarily re-evaluates the concept of hell. Throughout the book he also re-considers God’s means of bringing judgment, and God’s restorative project for the Cosmos. I feel that this “fictional/story” mode of exploring the sacred scripture in some ways has a higher fidelity of application as compared to an abstracted systematic leaning method. As you enter into the very real and tangible lives of the characters within the story the understanding can become realized and lived out in a greater capacity.

If you have never considered the evolution of the concept of hell in the scripture time line this would be an excellent book to read. Consider how Jesus taught us through stories, why can’t our mode be the same? I give it two thumbs way up,
great job and plenty mahalo Brian!


Click to Purchase

Brian McLaren Emerging Church

Author Brian McLaren

Rob Bell’s Book: Love Wins

Rob Bell has a new book coming out in one month: March 29th! I have pre-ordered this book from Amazon, and will be giving a review of the book when I have finished reading it. Bell has a unique way of communicating that keeps you challenged, intrigued, and on encouraged to follow Jesus Christ with fresh energy. You can pre-order at Amazon by just clicking on the image : )