Love Wins, Christianity Loses, and God Lies – A Review of Rob Bell’s Book39
Love Wins is “A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” by Rob Bell. This is important stuff for sure, which is why I tackle it in my book, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith, as well. So I come to this review with some knowledge on the subject. If you’re interested on a comparison you can download my chapter on Hell here for free.
In a way, Rob has been part of my life for eight years. I have read nearly all of his books, used several of his NOOMA videos as a basis for small group discussions, and listened to hundreds of his teachings (last week I explained why I stopped listening to him on July 29th, 2007, which is another story altogether). I have deep affection and great respect for Rob. It is hard not to. That is why this review is so difficult.
That being said, let me begin by stating what I agree with in Love Wins:
• God is love and more generous than we can comprehend
• People we don’t expect to see in Heaven will be there
• People we expect to be in Hell may not be there
• We are commissioned to bring healing to this earth with our lives
• Our eternal destiny will ultimately be of our own choosing, either Heaven or Hell
• God is displeased with misrepresentations of his character and nature by his alleged followers
• Yes, is his fairness, God will allow children, the mentally challenged, and the Pygmy in Africa (or anyone else) who has not had the chance to decide on Jesus into Heaven
Beyond that, Love Wins is ambiguous, dangerous, and angry.
I wanted to like Love Wins. I really wanted to like it. But I didn’t. That doesn’t mean Love Wins is poorly written, dull, or unoriginal. On the contrary! In true Bell fashion, it is passionate, deep, and relevant. But if a movie has forced acting, a half-baked story, yet manages to come through with stellar special affects, it is still a bad movie. With all the perfect expressions, appealing conversational tones, and deep passion, Love Wins left me confused and frustrated—to such a degree, in fact, I still cannot determine what the book is truly about. Other than ‘talking’ about this stuff, I cannot figure out what the overall point is.
Love Wins is purposely ambiguous. It poses many questions and answers very few. While Bell loves to try to emulate Jesus by answering questions with questions, he misses one BIG thing: an answer always came when Jesus was around. Jesus simply posed questions that invoked a pre-existing answer in the heart of the individual. Jesus also had another approach; he would enter the temple and teach from the Scriptures, explaining and answering in great detail.
Jesus wasn’t at all ambiguous on the essentials, nor evasive; he was not ‘hard to pin down.’ Jesus provided clarity at a time, and to subjects, that desperately needed it. So much so that we are still talking about his answers 2,000 years later. It’s very fashionable to pose questions, remain distant, and commit to nothing. To most, it sounds enlightened (and keeps everyone liking you), but it’s also insincere and elusive.
Love Wins is dangerous because its use and explanation of Scripture is manipulative. Sure, if a person has a pulse, then that person has a bias. We are all prone to interpret the Bible through whatever lens or worldview we have. But when a bias becomes an agenda, or even activism, with regard to Scripture, it can become very dangerous.
For example, Bell does not seem to believe in a Hell with flames of any sort or at any level, as most of traditional Christianity has held for the last 2,000 years. He believes it will be either a state (or condition) we create through our actions and choices or just a separation from God. (I elaborate on all three in great detail in the chapter on Hell in my book.)
So while explaining the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as told by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31, Bell deals a fatal blow to the meaning of it. His assessment? This is not really a parable about Hell and the afterlife. It’s about the Rich Man holding on to his pride, status, and cultural hierarchy, because, even in his torment, he wants Lazarus, the beggar, to ‘serve’ him. For some reason, the Rich Man begging for a cool drop of water on his tongue because he “is in agony in this fire” or his plea for a special warning to his family about the potential torment in the afterlife goes completely ignored by Bell. Sure, pride can be an application of this story, but it is not the thrust. It merely serves to accentuate the seriousness of the afterlife, since the Rich (Jewish) Man is in the torments of Hell, while the (Gentile) beggar is in Heaven. It is clearly a warning about Hell and the afterlife.
Bell appears to courageously jump to the end of Revelation, since it cannot be ignored when talking about Hell. He elaborates on all the great descriptions of Heaven and healing and being reconciled with God—we all love this stuff. Unfortunately, he conveniently ignores the whole “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15)
There is more, but Love Wins tumbles like a house of cards on these two areas of Scripture alone. What exactly are we being saved from then? Just our bad habits and attitudes? Bell enjoys blasting the reader with an assault of seemingly contradictory verses. Then, while the reader is dazed, confused, and off-guard, he seizes the emotional moment to introduce a controversial view. It leaves the person feeling like, “Of course this must be true…I must be an idiot if I don’t agree with it.” The Bible is filled with apparent contradictions, if you are willing to bastardize and ignore context. It is a manipulative and condescending tactic to use, since it attempts to trick the reader into agreement.
Love Wins is angry because it has all the makings of an immature, rebellious teenager trying to teach his overbearing old-fashioned parents a lesson about the new ways of the world. First and foremost, if you (or any Christian) believe that Jesus is absolutely essential to salvation or in a literal Hell with flames, Rob would like you to know that you are helping perpetuate a ‘strain’ of Christianity that is destructive, violent, toxic, venomous, and abusive. Got it?
While Bell presents himself as very magnanimous in interviews and graciously expresses that he has no desire to call out or criticize his detractors, he has done far more in this book. Bell uses fighting words throughout. If believing 1) the name of Jesus is essential and 2) there is a literal Hell with flames, makes me a fundamentalist, pre-modern, unenlightened, barbaric, blind, villainous, and idiotic, then so be it—although I would dispute the charges. Sound at all passive aggressive? It is. I know because I ‘are’ one.
So apparently all you crotchety, outdated, grandpa-like Christians need to realize (or else!):
• When God says He will reconcile all creation to Himself, He means everyone can get into Heaven regardless of your belief in Jesus
• God will let people decide to accept Jesus even after death, if necessary He will take as long as needed to convince them to come in
• You’re making people think Jesus came to rescue us from God, whom you seem to think is hot-tempered, switches modes, and is inconsistent
• While there needs to be room in Christianity for a wide range of opinions and views, there just isn’t room for your finite views on Hell, sin, or salvation
• Don’t worry about confessing the name of Jesus to be saved, just make sure you are living His story out in your own life
• There is a vein of God’s story in every culture, so whatever that plan of salvation is, it is perfectly acceptable to God and don’t judge them either
• Jesus died on the cross because that’s what they needed and understood back then, and that wouldn’t need to happen today since we’re, like, way more smarter than that
• Being ‘spiritual’ is probably enough for God, so don’t worry so much about being Biblical
• The Hippies had it right because it is actually possible to meet Jesus through smoking pot
• If Jesus and Christianity have put a bad taste in someone’s mouth, God doesn’t necessarily need them to follow Him because wherever they find truth is fine with Him
It’s funny, I commented on the last idea in my book a couple of years ago:
Since discussing God and Jesus can so often be divisive, why not create a new secular humanist faith that avoids all that? One that’s totally dedicated to promoting good deeds and good will among all. This would probably be more readily accepted. Coexistence and harmony between all creation—man, animals, and environment—would create universal peace and a heavenly state. Who could argue with that? This less offensive, more congenial religion would probably have more impact on society and culture as a whole. All we have to do is leave God and Jesus out of the equation. No biggie.
I guess my overall problem is that I read Love Wins in the context of Rob Bell being a pastor, not a writer. One of the primary roles of a pastor is to bring clarity, predictability, and truth whenever possible. But I suppose this isn’t really feasible if you believe all truth contains a vein of the truth and is therefore equally true. This explains the evasiveness and confusion. I do not believe Bell to be willfully deceptive, but I do believe he is still knowingly guarded in his opinions. He should simply be more honest, rather than opting for the creative guise of cool and distant. You just can’t have it both ways—or should I say all ways.
Bell admittedly likes to interpret Scripture as pliable and versatile (his words) if at all possible. This takes particular shape if a Scripture is especially uncomfortable. In doing so, he unavoidably opts for the guilt-free feel-good trappings of moral relativism and philosophical pluralism. I wish I could do the same. I wish it were all true and this easy. But in his framework, the Hebrew story of God and the Christian experience with God is of no affect and no importance, since following Jesus specifically or confessing his name is not totally essential. In fact, why should I even follow Jesus if everyone gets a pass in the end? Because he was really nice or said neat stuff? So what. So did a lot of historical figures. Why not live a life if debauchery and hedonism? Basically, it doesn’t really matter, right?
These thoughts fill me with great sadness. Why? Because based on what Bell says, God cannot hold us to his own standard, since He will not hold Himself to His own words.
I can make no other conclusions, according to what Rob has presented, than:
1. Love doesn’t win because there is no true choice and subsequent consequence (and this is what the nature of love is built on).
2. Christianity loses the very punch line of the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’, since Jesus is not essential to the story.
3. God is a liar because he has called us to righteousness (and to follow Jesus) while rewarding apathy.
I am left wondering, what the heck is Christianity, what does it mean to be a Christian, and does that even matter? How does love win? Love should win because God sent his son to be a substitutionary atonement for our sins and to save us from them and Hell: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). That is the extent of His love. Nowhere does Bell make that abundantly clear. To me, that is the real story behind Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person whoever lived.
I love Rob, but I hate Love Wins.
Book Review: Jesus Manifesto1
Last year I reviewed From Eternity To Hear by Frank Viola. As a result, I was asked to review his most recent book Jesus Manifesto: Reclaiming The Supremacy And Sovereignty Of Jesus Christ co-authored with church futurist Leonard Sweet.
When something like this happens I always wrestle with the tension of what to do. How honest should I be? If I’m too honest, will I perhaps offend people who are much more well-known than I? Will I miss out on future opportunities or connections as a result? Or if I’m not honest enough, am I compromising my integrity and the high value I have on healthy, open, and honest dialogue (what I believe to be the most productive and constructive)? Will I be true to my Unauthorized Approach To Christianity? I couldn’t decide. I never can. So here I go.
Let me be brutally honest right up front: I didn’t want to like the Jesus Manifesto book.
It’s not because I thought it would resemble the Communist Manifesto (review forthcoming). It’s because I gave 5 years of the best years of my life helping to start and build a church. It was one of the best experiences of my life. But it was also one of the most difficult–and one of the reasons I’m not still part of that effort today. I have a great deal of respect for people who stick with it. Sure, there are lots of ministers, priests, and pastors caught up in scandals. The media loves that stuff because it gives them juicy material and devalues the role of faith in our society. But overall, most of these individuals (not the jerks in the news) are just good sacrificial souls who live with less and live on less in order to share with their communities how much God loves them.
So why does this matter?
To me, Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet often seem to position themselves as curmudgeons of the modern church at large in America. Don’t get me wrong, it deserves much of the criticism. And I know this may seem humorous coming from a guy who wrote a book called 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. But there is a difference between being a skeptic and a cynic–there is a difference between being recklessly critical and a healthy skepticism. Although my book is brutally honest, it is very positive (which always surprises people) and why the sub-title is the key.
That being said, I really liked this book. It was also very positive. It was not cynical. It was not critical. Although it brought out key issues in the modern church and the personal devotion (and character) of ‘Christians’, it did so in a way that was polite, respectful, and occasionally humorous. These factors are the key, and difference, between stepping over that cynical and critical line. As a writer, that is the tension to manage to prevent yourself from entering that unhealthy territory on your prose. If you do slide to the other side, your words seem like complaining, elitism, and contempt. But the Jesus Manifesto was none of these things. Specifically, I really started to like this book at about half-way point.
Overall, the Jesus Manifesto was a refreshing and simple look at the importance of Jesus (his teachings, life, and sacrifice) over all else. Sometimes our strategies and practices and become routine, which dulls our love and devotion. However, there were a couple of times that I got a little lost. Some areas seemed to try hard to sound spiritual and intellectual–which always tickles the reader–but actually said very little. For example the writers commented:
Both of us have developed the habit of counting the number of times the preachers we hear mention the Lord Jesus. Sadly, in many cases, contemporary preachers and teachers who spend an hour speaking on a subject, mention the Lord just once or twice… (p. 14)
This begs the question, isn’t making sure you mention the name of Jesus enough times just the kind of dull routine that doesn’t necessarily mean anything or help your devotion? That’s what happened when I was in the band Strongarm. I would often get criticism for not saying ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘God’ enough times in the lyrics. Other than a few things like that (that I didn’t care for), I though this was a good book. It is devotional in style and fairly short. It would make or a good stocking-stuffer around Christmas (or something like that).
Some of my favorite lines in the book:
…if God were to write your biography, it would be a fifth gospel, so to speak. (p.43)
Jesus Christ has never been a social activist or a moral philosopher. To pitch Him that way is to drain his glory and dilute His excellence. (p. 105)
A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the kingdom [of God] is not something that we bring, or build, or cause, or create. The kingdom is a presence that we enter, a gem-like gift that we receive and treasure, a new creation that engulfs and embraces us. (p. 110)
Caesar sought to change the hearts of men by laws and institutions. Jesus changes the hearts of women and men and brings them into a new society, the church, the firstfruits of a new creation. (p. 111)
We’re not sure that Rousseau was right when he said that the more you think, the less you feel. But we are sure that the more you judge, the less you love. (p. 112)
Too many Christians want to change the world not because they love the world but because they hate the world. (p. 118)
We do not suggest as some do that the church’s “justice mantras” are little more than socialist nuggets honeyed with Christian sweetness. (p. 118)
Christianity is not fundamentally about following a book… It’s about following a person and living out of His life. The library of divinely inspired books we call the Holy Bible best helps us to follow that person, for they testify of him. (p. 137)
The Jesus Manifesto brought critical attention to Jesus in way that his followers can learn from.
Book Review: The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails-Pt. 2 of 27
So let’s continue.
Context doesn’t matter. That one was a little jab. Of course, this is not a stated value of the book, but this is certainly the practical application as the arguments play out. The authors have little regard for context in regards to the areas of Scripture they do analyze. As a result, they are completely incapable (or unwilling) of determining if a particular area of Scripture is meant to be a special circumstance or a timeless principle. For me, this is a daily and mandatory discipline. But rather than try to determine the context, they liberally vacillate between the literal and metaphorical understandings—depending on which will more readily support their current point or eviscerate Christianity more.
In the same vein, they also make no distinction between the religion of Christianity and those actually desiring to be a follower of Jesus. For example, I did not join a ‘religion’ or belief system (and I did not grow up a Christian). I simply wanted to try to follow the teachings of Jesus and apply them to my life.
Religion kills, Christianity is the worst, and Atheism is all sunny days and yummy milkshakes. If someone in history has claimed to be Christian and done horrible things, like Timothy McVeigh (He is a favorite example of Atheists, although McVeigh was a self-proclaimed agnostic, but I’ll let it stand for the sake of argument.), it was because he was a religious nut and religion is to blame (it made him that way). However, if someone was an Atheist or agnostic and did terrible things, like Mao Zedong, his godless worldview is not responsible. It was just because he was crazy or bad. Christianity is held accountable while Atheism gets a pass.
Plus, Atheism is awesome because it has never had missionaries corrupting societies or hurt anyone. So in the “Age of Reason” France never banished pastors, converted churches to temples of reason, and punished people for claiming to “know the truth” I guess? This is a good place to introduce the 2nd major flaw of the book.
Flaw #2-“The Original Sin”. What is the Original Sin of this book? It takes shape as a HUGE oversight. It does not even delve into the very reason for religion. That is to say, it doesn’t offer one thought as to how this all started or where we all come from. More fundamentally, it does not even do a cursory mention or a courtesy bow to the idea of how you get something from nothing. If you’re going to write a whole reference-type book on debunking Christianity, you better offer something on this.
That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? That’s why I believe at all. Where did this all start? What about our origins? Saying “Darwin” or “Evolution” isn’t enough. Give me “Cosmic Goo” or “X” the “Big Bang.” It isn’t an explanation, but its something. What started this all? Did aliens seed all this as noted Atheist Richard Dawkins said could be possible? To not offer anything is a major flaw of a book seeking to destroy Christianity and promote Atheism. You better offer something, or at least say why you’re not offering anything. But let me say, in offering something you may only put forward what science can prove and test. Remember, the natural (or physical) world is all that we may believe in or that can guide us. That means nothing that can be construed as “extraordinary” or hint at something “supernatural” may be proposed. I suppose that may be why our origins is ignored in this book. It is difficult to explain.
How do you get something from nothing?
Christianity can’t be because it isn’t. Christianity can’t be true because it probably isn’t the only religion you (or I) tried. That’s a major contention. They hold that I must treat every religion with the same amount of validity. If I want to have any integrity I must flush out and try each one before I am allowed to decide.
The Outsider Test For Faith. What I gather to be one of the benchmarks of the book is described as the Outsider Test For Faith (OTF). This is somewhat related to the point above. It is something the editor and main contributor, John Loftus, builds his very Atheism on. Unfortunately, he never stated exactly what the Outsider Test For Faith is. I read the chapter several times to try and find it. He laid out questions that he uses to guide his skepticism based on the OTF, answered objections based on the OTF, but never defined clearly what the OTF was/is. In addition, I know he wants us (Christians) to subject the same amount of skepticism to Christianity as we do other religions. I suppose that is what it is. Still, I’m not sure. Nowhere did Loftus say “The OTF can essentially be summarized as…” and then build from there. Perhaps, I missed it. I guess I failed the test.
Marxism and Atheism. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most Atheists are Marxists in regards to their socio-political philosophy (most are Socialists and a few admit to being Communists). And I extend this assessment beyond the confines of this book. I find this somewhat inconsistent and even humorous. It is a true lapse of the ‘unwavering’ logic they profess. They don’t have the integrity or decency to be anarchists at best (the only ‘survival of the fittest’ socio-political philosophy) or Libertarians at worst (the only amoral one). Atheists are so often averse and upset about the influence of religion on society and its ‘oppressive’ morality. Their perfect, reasoned, and logical solution? To revert to another form of moralism. They seek to employ all the authoritarianism of a theocracy, minus the God part.
*The book alleges that the Bible promotes a “flat earth” view of cosmology because it employs such terms as the “four corners of the earth”. This is to show how primitive framers of the Bible were and, subsequently, must have been wrong about God too. Somehow there is no understanding of the poetry and parallelism in Hebrew writings and banter. For example, Jesus once said to take the plank out your own eye before pointing out the piece of sawdust in someone else’s (in regard to being judgmental). This may come as a surprise, but Jesus did not in fact think we are all actually made of wood. It was a creative metaphor.
*The book contends that we are all moral relativists because we view someone else’s view of morality as relative to ours (often a clear distinction between belief and non-belief). But that’s not what I view as moral relativism. I am not a moral relativist because I believe in absolutes that are intrinsic and fixed. Perhaps we are operating from two different meanings of ‘relative/ist.’
*Christians must give opponents of Christianity more validity than promoters of it if they want to truly find the truth. Of course, no one ever does this. Do the environmentalists look to skeptics to learn how to protect the earth? Do pro-choice advocates glean wisdom from pro-lifers when weighing their decision? (And so on) This is simply hedging and an air of moral superiority, because we’re all guilty here—even Atheists.
*Science picks up where philosophy leaves off, is what they say in this book. In direct contrast, I say the exact opposite in my book. Philosophy offers a theory or explanation when science can’t.
*Atheists get mad that Atheism often gets called a religion by Christian apologists. While I understand Atheism is not a religion, in that it is not a belief system and is more accurately non-belief or non-religion, can we agree that sometimes this is an argument about semantics? Religion can be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Does Atheism not sometimes fit that description when having these debates? Perhaps Atheism can sometimes be viewed as a religion with a little “r” and not a big “R”, as it is not an organized and formal religion. But you get the idea, academically speaking, when we’re having these talks, don’t you?
*Atheists also dispute Christianity because there are so many variations of it (with the denominations, non-denominations, and cults, to a lesser degree). In essence, Christianity (and Christians) can’t agree with itself, so it must be false. So am I to understand that because there are varying viewpoints on a particular subject (the result of free will, mind you) then none can be correct or worth considering? That makes no sense. Bring that into a marriage or friendship and see where that gets you. Not to mention, this isn’t exactly a fair point to make at all. Atheists only have to agree on ONE THING: there is no God. In the inverse, Christians unanimously agree on this point (that there is a God). And they agree on the most important element of Christianity: Jesus. Beyond that, there can be no more comparing, since we have doctrine, principles, and lessons to learn from and interpret. If Atheists had the same to consider they would obviously find themselves in the same predicament.
Flaw #1-“The Epic Fail”. The very title “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails” is an epic fail. That is to say, the very premise of the book fails. Why? Because Christianity is alive and well. In fact, it started with just 12 followers 2,000 years ago and has bad BILLIONS of followers since then. If we put this in an empirical and scientific context, as Atheists claim to guide their lives with, we see that the evidence proves that the title breaks down in a major way with very little analysis—because faith hasn’t failed.
In fact, the very first sentence of the first chapter confirms my point. It opens with, “One of the great mysteries is why, despite the best arguments against it, religion survives.” There it is: an inadvertent admission that the title does not stand up under the weight of its own scrutiny. And if that’s the case, then doesn’t the whole premise of the book fail? Perhaps a better subtitle would be something like “Why Faith Should Fail”. A title with a qualitative word in it helps to deliver on the promise. This is something I learned writing my own book. With all the contributors claims of intellect, experience in academia, and fancy letters after their names, how did they miss this epic fail?
Lastly, a word to Atheists:
I do not hate you. I am not trying to convert you. I do not want to control you. I do not want to create a theocracy. I understand your frustrations and doubts—I have them weekly. I believe in God. You do not. I believe there is a spiritual element to life. You do not. I believe Jesus was the Son of God. You do not. But make no mistake:
I believe because I know it to be personally true. Sometimes resolute and sometimes strong. And sometimes a little more dimly. But I know this:
I will always believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. To me, that’s just the best news ever.
Book Review: The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails-Pt. 1 of 23
I recently finished reading The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) in order to review it on my site www.jasonberggren.com. It was recommended to me by one of the contributors, Edward Babinski, who is a reader of my blog (named above). I’ve had many pleasant back-and-forths with him and was excited at the prospect.
I suspect I was approached to read TCD because of the title of my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith —that I am perhaps a borderline Atheist convert, or a “New Atheist” as they’re called. It’s a fair point, but it is not the case as many Atheists have discovered (and then gotten mad about). I suppose there is a frustration that I used such a shocking title, but used it for good (to build faith and bring attention to Jesus) and used it before they did/could. The irony is, much that is covered in TCD I discuss in my own book.
So what about The Christian Delusion?
Following are my overall impressions and thoughts. By the end of this, I will also reveal the three major flaws of the book, as I see them. Please keep in mind, when I refer to Atheists in this review, I am referring to the contributors of this book only unless otherwise noted.
I appreciate the content of the book. It was well written and presents many valid points. I think it’s important to constantly review the objections many raise concerning Christianity. They are questions worth asking and discussing. We, as Christians, should never resist these dialogues. We should be committed to healthy, productive, and respectful discussions regarding our faith. Unfortunately, the ‘respect’ part is difficult in this heated subject from both sides of this aisle.
Let’s get started.
Summarizing Atheism. Let’s begin at the foundation. From what I gather, Atheism hinges on two rejections (in regard to religion in general): 1) there is no spiritual element to life and 2) there is no such thing as the supernatural. That’s my bottom-line description. For this reason, the physical world can be the only guide. What can be tested and proven with scientific methods can be the only evidence for living. This is summed up quite well by Richard Carrier, PhD on page 296, “That’s why I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead: it simply isn’t a plausible event, and is not supported by any sources I trust.”
Intellectual honesty. That was perhaps the favorite phrase in this book when critiquing Christianity. Much was made of our (Christians) intellectual dishonesty. In other words, Christians would cease to be Christians if they were intellectually honest about…(and so on). But anyone who is intellectually honest will realize that much of the counterpoints to faith in this book are not exactly intellectually honest themselves. But then again, I am no intellectual, to be honest.
For example, there is a railing of Christian apologists for not being authentic in their approach since they seek to prove their faith—that they shouldn’t enter into the endeavor with a defined bias. It’s a fair point. But nothing is said of many apologists becoming converts by doing precisely this. At face value the Atheists make the same mistake (regardless of what they may say). They also enter into their undertaking with a defined bias: they seek to disprove God and Christianity. Personally, I could care less. Just be honest about it rather than assuming some level of moral superiority, especially when you do the same.
Humorless, condescending, and cynical. That is the overall tone of the book. One of the last lines of the introduction is, “To honest believers who are seeking to test their own inherited religious faith, this book is for you.” Sounds so magnanimous and polite, right? As if we are all just sitting around a coffee table together after Thanksgiving Dinner just shuckin-n-jivin. Unfortunately, up to that point the introduction spends a great deal of time talking down to people of faith.
For example, if you are a Christian, have faith, or believe in God this book has no lack of descriptions or directions for you. Allow me to elaborate about you (and these are no exaggerations). You are mentally ill, an obstacle to society, unenlightened, uneducated, brainwashed, sexist, prejudice, primitive, stupid, gullible, superstitious, uncivilized, racist, ridiculous, inferior, embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, wildly deluded, a liar for Christ, a tragedy, programmed to distrust skeptics, in a cult, and scary. You will hopefully evolve out of your need to believe, must realize that Rome didn’t really persecute Christians all that much, should know there has never been much of an effort to destroy the canonical evidence of Scripture or supportive artifacts, must be open to Atheists ideas (but not vice versa), may not use the Bible when discussing faith with Atheists (although Atheists can use the bible in every argument against it they make and are allowed any other bit of supporting work, theory, innuendo, or otherwise to proselytize their non-God worldview), believe in a savior (Jesus) who was an ignorant xenophobe, should be a socialist, should follow Marxism at least (according to most) and Communism at best (according to a few), contribute to the violence in the world, need to appreciate that Atheists are patient enough to ‘deal’ with you, and need to realize that the Apostle Paul hallucinated himself into belief because of guilt. Oh yes, and you have also likely hallucinated and have low self-esteem (which explains your need to believe).
Now you may be wondering why I included so many direct descriptions. Believe it or not, this is just a small percentage of what the book included. I think it’s important to point out that the book attempts to cloak itself in a guise of respect, reason, and magnanimity (as I stated before). But as you can see, these words are quite antagonistic. This dialogue environment is not egalitarian and altruistic as it claims to want to create. These are words of anger and revenge. And if that’s the purpose, again, then just be honest about it.
“Insiders” of Christianity. That is the claim of nearly all the contributors—that they were former ones, that is. I am very suspicious of this because of the blatant disregard for context (which I will get into later). It just seems to me, if this is true, there is quite a but of willful ignorance as the arguments play out. Or perhaps they had very bad mentors when they were “insiders”.
The Bible has NO credibility. Any source seems to be more valid than the Bible to them. Even one with only one or two copies citing a particular event holds more weight (so long as it casts doubt on Christianity) than the thousands of manuscripts of the Scripture. If two books record the same event, the Bible is automatically wrong. Why? Well, because it’s the Bible, of course! Aren’t you paying attention? This is a good place to introduce the 1st major flaw of the book (in descending order) and end part 1 of this review (part 2 posts tomorrow).
Flaw #3-“The Idiot Genius Contradiction”. In my observation, this is a major pillar of the Atheists (again, I refer to the contributors of this book) contention to Christianity. And in order to accept it, you must accept two contradictory theories at the same time and believe them both simultaneously. Although they should largely negate each other (if we are ‘intellectually honest’), somehow they survive each other, together.
The contradiction is this: Christianity (and Judaism to a lesser degree) is built on the brilliantly maniacal manipulative writings of an elite group of people (i.e., the Bible). This group has been able to translate, re-translate, craft, and re-craft the Bible in a way that has enabled them to control the masses, proliferate their religion throughout the centuries, and maintain their own positions of power. With it and through it they prey on fears, promise rewards, and punish disobedience.
And at the same time…
Somehow this elite group was not smart enough to make God perfect, his followers flawless, and his will universal and clear as the Caribbean waters in those same writings. Obviously, this would require no apologies and phony justifications while helping this elite ensure more power, influence, and amass more money. Instead, in the Bible, they make much of alleging God (and often his followers) is an ethical tyrant, moral monster, racial hatemonger, oppressive master, violent father, indifferent to suffering, and permissive of evil. But somehow we were all tricked into following this God while reading all this. In short, this elite crowd was not smart enough to frame a God that didn’t seem bi-polar and is at least good, yet somehow invented the most successful religion (Christianity) ever. It’s very similar to the 9/11 conspiracy theories: somehow President Bush was an evil genius that destroyed the Word Trade Center to line his (and his cohorts) pockets by starting a war for oil without leaving a hint of evidence but was the biggest bumbling idiot at the same time.
So the Bible is brilliant and stupid all at once. Somehow both are true. That’s the Idiot Genius Contradiction.
Book Review & Quote of the Week: The 5000 Year Leap0
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…”
-President George Washington in his farewell address, as quoted in The 5000 Year Leap.
I recently finished reading The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. This was one of those books that has been on my list to read for a while. Person after person recommended it to me over the last couple of years. One even said, “It’s one of my top 20 most important books to read.” That’s when it got put in my queue.
The 5000 Year Leap sets out to essentially give the background of the 28 formative principles (taken from philosophers, historical events, and religion, etc. which were observed to have worked and elevate humanity, to some degree) that were the basis of the Constitution of The United States of America (and thereby, our nation)–along with background on the framers and signers of it.
This established a nation based on the rule of law to guide all matters of legislation and social order, and not birthright or might. This created a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, and not some dictatorial oppressive ruler.
And that changed everything.
The result of that was within 200 short years the world advanced more than it had in the previous 5000. That is, the original settlers in Jamestown essentially pioneered the land like all other pioneers in other lands had for the previous 5000 years. Civilization had made little progress to that point, still using the axe, shovel, hoe, plow, and beasts of burden. But with the establishment of this new nation via the Constitution, American independence, free-enterprise economics, and personal liberty produced the most phenomenal results in history.
By 1976 (200 years later), there was a mighty leap in technical, political, and economic achievement. These included electricity, the proliferation and perfection of the internal combustion engine, jet propulsion, spacecrafts and vehicles, nuclear energy, and much more (radio, telephone, light bulb, computer…). And this spirit of freedom spread around the globe and inspired it as well.
Some things of note from the history in this book:
*America is not a Democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic.
*America has the oldest written Constitution still in use.
*Nearly all (if not all) the Framers (in their own words) believed in a Creator who authored certain obvious absolutes (what they called Natural Law). The Constitution sought to acknowledge these and protect them, with regard to the rights of the people.
*Without constant vigilance, citizens would slowly give away their rights for the illusion of safety and comfort until they finally found themselves under the thumb of tyranny. Some of the Framers even thought that Republic would need to be ‘reset’ to some degree every 20 or so years.
*The Constitution was meant to guarantee equal opportunity–not equal outcomes.
*To maintain sovereignty, America was to avoid international entanglements–called separatism. The idea was, “A friend to all, but servant to none,” in the obligatory sense.
*Historically (and factually), the core unit that determines the strength of any society is the family.
*In just 40 years after the signing of the Constitution (establishing of America), the citizenry of the nation were the most informed and literate of all nations. These were the observations of dignitaries from other nations who traveled through the cities and frontiers.
*The Separation of Powers (the three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative) was supposed to make the process of leading and lawmaking slow and clumsy, as to inherently protect the rights of the citizens.
This is an informational book. It is not something that you want to read on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is definitely a learning experience. I made comments on nearly every page.
I highly recommend this book. It has certainly filled in many of the gaps that my public school education left empty, or seemed to fill with some misinformation. In fact, this is a book I will read with my kids one day (when they are older). My biggest complaint about this book is that it started to fall apart about 1/3 of the way through. That was annoying. It didn’t seem to be bound very well. But it didn’t deter me.
So jump to it and read The 5000 Year Leap!
Book Review: One Million Arrows by Julie Ferwerda2
I was recently contacted and asked to review One Millions Arrows tells Papa’s story. It also tells the story of other people, particularly parents, and what they do to accomplish similar positive goals (both practical and spiritual) in the heart’s and lives of their own children. The author sets out to communicate a high value on how we treat and raise our children, all they while laying out the potentially bright future if we do.
Arrows is a positive and encouraging book that you will find illustrated by story after story of why we should sacrificially love our children: never forgetting that God loves them, that he created them for a reason and with special purpose, and that they have value best communicated in the life, teachings, and example of Jesus Christ.
Book Review: From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola5
I just finished reading a book called From Here to Eternity by Frank Viola. Let me begin by saying who this book is for.
This book is written for church leaders and Christians looking to explore some of the deeper subjects of their faith. Specifically, Viola explores and explains the importance of the relationship of church to God. This doesn’t mean the church as a building, but he refers to all believers in Jesus Christ.
My favorite part of this book was the first section. In part one, he breaks-down quite beautifully how important we are to God. He parallels how God created Eve to be the perfect match for Adam with God creating the church (Christ-followers) to be the perfect match for Jesus.
He goes on to say that in spite of the many short-comings of Christians, this creation and pairing was, and is, part of God’s central and eternal purpose. In the same way a spouse loves their mate regardless of their flaws, God is committed to us and loves us no matter what our imperfections are.
Viola also describes God’s love for us like the passion of a lover. Every love story you have ever read in a book or watched on the big-screen, is a faint image of the best love story ever: God pursuing us.
Viola also takes to task the conventional ways of doing church, or organized religion (as he puts it). He promotes what is often referred to as the organic church, house church, or simple church movement. This is a growing trend of people who choose to meet in homes and small settings rather than the larger, organized environments of more established churches.
It is perhaps a punk-rock way to look at church. Rejecting all things ‘corporate’, some Christians want to fully break with tradition and homogenization.
The irony is (as always), that this is just another form of conformity. That’s something I had to face during the five years I spent helping start Calvary Fellowship in Miami from scratch. Eventually, no matter how cutting-edge, relevant, or new you strive to be, there are always core values and best practices that emerge in how you do things.
What I appreciate about Viola’s message, is his emphasis on making sure Jesus is central to whatever you are doing (in church or life). People need to learn about Him (Jesus) and His life above all else.
So if organized or disorganized religion is your thing, or organic or synthetic church (is that the right opposite? Oh well, I’m going with it) appeals to you, make sure you are making Jesus the center of your worship experience. Whenever we get lost in tradition or find security in ritual, we get away from the passion and devotion that needs to be the very center and foundation of our relationship with God.
With Jesus as the center of our devotion, we can keep eternity here and in our hearts.
*Here is a list of other reviews of Viola’s book if you’d like to take a look:
Out of Ur – blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/05/viola.html
Shapevine – www.Shapevine.com (June newsletter)
Brian Eberly – www.brianeberly.com
DashHouse.com – www.DashHouse.com/
Greg Boyd – www.gregboyd.org/blog/
Vision Advance – vision2advance.blogspot.com/
David Flowers – ddflowers.wordpress.com
Kingdom Grace – kingdomgrace.wordpress.com
Captain’s Blog – www.captainestes.blogspot.com/
Christine Sine – godspace.wordpress.com
Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network – www.freebelievers.com
Zoecarnate – zoecarnate.wordpress.com
Church Planting Novice – www.churchplantingnovice.wordpress.com
Staying Focused – kimmartinezstayingfocused.wordpress.com/
Take Your Vitamin Z – www.takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com
Jeff Goins – jeffgoins.myadventures.org
Bunny Trails – bunny-trails.blogspot.com
Matt Cleaver – mattcleaver.com
Simple Church – www.simplechurchjournal.com/
Emerging from Montana – wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
Parable Life – www.theparablelife.blogspot.com
Oikos Australia – www.oikos.org.au/blog/
West Coast Witness – www.WestCoastWitness.com
Keith Giles – www.Keith.Giles.com
Consuming Worship — www.consumingworship.org
Tasha Via – www.tashavia.blogspot.com
Andrew Courtright – www.andrewcourtright.blogspot.com
ShowMeTheMooneys! – www.showmethemooneys.com/
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer – leavingsalem.wordpress.com/
Jason Coker – pastoralia.missionaltribe.org
From Knowledge to Wisdom – isthistheway.typepad.com/
Home Brewed Christianity – www.homebrewedchristianity.com
Dispossessed – kblog.kevinjbowman.com
Dandelion Seeds – www.homeschoolblogger.com/Dandelionseeds
David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck” – flipthetapedeck.blogspot.com/
Chaordic Journey – jeffrhodes.wordpress.com
Renee Martin – www.reneemartinmusic.com/profiles/blog/list
Bob Kuhn – organicchurchnola.wordpress.com/
Living with Freaks: www.livingwithfreaks.com
Real Worship – therealworshipleader.com
Fervent Worship – ferventworship.blogspot.com
Julie Ferwerda Blog – www.JulieFerwerda.com / www.OneMill
What’s With Christina?! – w2christina.blogspot.com
Irreligious Canuck – www.irreligiouscanuck.com
This day on the journey – guychmieleski.blogspot.com
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity – liveandmove.blogspot.com/
Spiritual Journey With God – www.elvineve.blogspot.com/
Dries Conje – www.echurch.co.za / www.thejesusfeed.com / www.bookdisciple.com.
Journey with Others – journeywithothers.blogspot.com
On Now to the Third Level – www.080808onnowto.blogspot.com
Christine Moers – www.welcometomybrain.net
Breaking Point – marybethstockdale.wordpress.com
Hand to the Plough – www.handtotheplough.com.au
Jon Reid – jonreid.blogs.com/oneanother/welcome-pilgrim.html
Weblight – www.blog.worldwidewebservices.se
D. L. Webster – gzmproductions.com/dlwebster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life – wholeheartedlife.blogspot.com
Review: Atlas Shrugged2
“Who is John Galt?”
That’s how Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand starts off. I’ve been hearing about this book over and over for the last year, so I decided I had to read it. I finally finished the book. It was no easy task as it is 1,070 pages long. Hello!
As the book goes on it reveals who John Galt is. Is he a myth or legend? Is he real or an archetype? All are true.
Atlas Shrugged was an amazing book. Should I ever make a list of my top ten books it will definitely make it. The book is set in the late 50’s but it is completely relevant to today. In fact, it scared me as I read on because it was almost prophetic in its fictional depictions and predictions.
It tells the story of a world of countries and leaders that have succombed to the temptation of larger and larger government policies in order to ‘fix’ the problems of society. All under the guise of helping the people, power hungry officials suffocate the creativity, productivity, and individuality of the citizens.
The last outpost and final straw in these world events is America. But in the story, it is barreling toward socialism as hunger, crime, and disease increase.
Rand paints a picture set against the backdrop of a fictional story that projects what may happen should Marxist philosophies prevail on a large worldwide scale. I found it to be very intrguing and terrifying at the same time. The end result is that there are less jobs, less opportunity, and less safety and comfort in the lives of the citizens.
The solution? More government and regulations. It’s a familiar cycle: government makes the problem, and then decides the solution is more government…
As individuals are guaranteed jobs and income not tied to performance, behavior, or creativity it falls apart. In an effort to promote this new enlightenment, the nation’s people actually devolve. And the more this new morality is promoted the less integrity people possess. Productivity, self-worth, and responsibility begin to crumble.
People actually get worse, not better, in an effort to protect individuals from disappointment and failure. As government tries to protect the citizens from themselves, it fails to realize that what the people need is to be protected from the lofty and misguided ideas of government itself.
A quote by Thomas Jefferson kept coming to mind as I read. He said something like, “When the people fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is liberty.”
I couldn’t believe how relevant this book was for today. And I guess I’m not the only one. There is an Atlas Shrugged movie in the works!
Read it. I highly recommend it. It was incredible.
Don’t shrug it off. Meeting John Galt was quite an experience.
Book Review: Sex God0
I know late to the game on this one. Sometimes the books I want read get lost in cue. So I finally got to reading Sex God by Rob Bell.
I really liked this book. It explores the connection between sexuality and our relationship with God. More specifically, it deals with intimacy in the two experiences and shows how we can learn about one to deepen the other. Now that’s not to say he’s trying to make our sex life better. Rob is trying to deepen our love and relationship with God, more specifically.
Rob is a great Bible teacher and that comes through in this book. It’s not overbearing and it’s not some Bible teaching book. It is very conversational. But there is a wisdom that comes through because of it. It gives a lot of weight to what he is saying. Now there are a couple of points I disagree on, but who ever agrees with everything? This is a great book.
Sex God is a good read..
Book Review: The Shack3
I recently finished reading The Shack by William Young. This book has been blowing up for a while. I’m a little late to the game, but I finally decided I need to read it, to see what all the hype was. It’s a powerful story about a man who loses a child and questions how much God truly loves him. Or if God’s even real, for that matter.
So did I like it?
Not really. I guess I’m falling on the other side of the line with this one. I simply found it a little boring. I think the problem is that I’m not really into fiction all that much. And if I do read fiction, it’s usually a classic. I guess that way I feel smarter for reading it and that gives me the momentum I need to finish the book. Usually I read to learn and grow–some personal growth type of book is what I normally choose. I lean to the practical stuff. So I guess I only read fiction about 10% of the time.
Now let me say, I think it’s a good story and written well. I can certainly appreciate why this book has done so well and understand why it has been so important for so many people. It was very honest.
What was the one thing I liked most?
I really like how Young portrayed God in this book as a chubby Jamaican woman (Matrix anyone?). It took me off guard and forced me to listen more intently to the dialog that was being said. And that’s exactly the reason God appeared in that form to the main character. So I really liked that aspect. That particular thing really drew me in.
The Shack just didn’t find a home in me.
Book Review: Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren16
Well since I haven’t heard anything about my book from the publisher I thought I’d talk about another book.
I recently read Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. I liked it. It was simple, direct, and challenging.
Now I know I am late to the game. It has already sold over 30 million copies (HELLO! How do I do that?).
In this book Rick goes into the 5 purposes God has created each of us for. They are:
1. Worship (God that is)
2. Fellowship (hangin’ and growing in a community of other followers of Jesus)
3. Discipleship (maturing and becoming more like Jesus)
4. Serving (getting involved in something bigger than yourself)
4. Mission (reaching out to others so they can learn about Jesus)
The book is set up to be read in 40 days for maximum impact, both in delivery of it’s content and what the reader might discover about themselves in regard to God in that focused time.
In many ways this is a must-read for anyone who is trying to follow the teachings of Jesus or find out why on earth they are here on earth.
The Purpose-Driven Life will drive you to examine what you were created for, which is always a good cathartic process…
Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities0
I recently read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Previously, I had no idea what a recognized author Dickens was. Of course all I new of him was A Christmas Carol. I admit I am not all that informed which is why I am periodically trying to read some classic works. I want to be more informed. And it makes me feel smarter. Who doesn’t like adding to a conversation, “Oh, why yes. That reminds me of something I just read in Dickens work A Tale of Two Cities…”? The good thing about the version I read is that it had all kinds of background in the beginning for common folk like me.
It is a love story set in the sister cities of London and Paris set during the French Revolution. What’s extraordinary about the story is that I never realized how awful the revolution was. Sure it was great for the ruling aristocracy to lose it’s total unfair dominance and for democracy to take it’s place. But at what cost? Every rich person/aristocrat, any of their relatives, and anyone who was even considered remotely friendly with them was put to death. It is estimated that the death toll was over 1,000,000 for the entire revolution. It does seem a strange way to bring freedom and liberty: to kill so much and so many with so little evidence.
Anyway, it was a good read. I had hard time with the language since it was written a couple hundred years ago. It’s written in old English. So when I can sift through the words and
phrases and understand the story and characters, it’s a great book.
For example, it kept using the word ejaculate.
Obviously, in todays language it means something totally different. And
it took me a while to get it. In the context of the book, it was used
to describe how someone spoke (suddenly and forcefully). But I kept
getting hung-up on the word because of how I understood it today.
I liked it and am glad I read it. In the end love won. And even though it is a work of fiction, it was very informative to see what the affects of the French Revolution were like.
Book Review:The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn0
I recently finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I know this is a book that 10-yr-old would normally read, but I am trying to read some classics for a couple reasons.
One, because so much of culture has been affected by them. Two, it makes me feel smart.
It was amazing. The story-telling was so vivid that I felt like I was actually there 200 years or so ago.
It was a story about risk, adventure, friendship, courage, sacrifice, and fun. I loved it.
have to say it was a little hard to get through the dialog. It wasn’t
wordy. It was just written in period. Twain wrote in the accents and
language of the day. It was fun, but slowed me down a little as I tried
to decipher what he was saying. This is not a slam on the book. It’s simply to explain my
reading of it.
This was a classic adventure worth reading!