According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Critique of HarperOne & the "Love Wins" Guidebook

It's hard to put into words my initial reactions when I see a for-profit Christian group working so hard at selling their idea of Christianity. I suppose my visceral reactions wouldn't be so large if they focused on a main idea or two, but when I look at HarperOne's list under "Guides" (go to link) I get the sense from within the corporate boardroom, that their beliefs range all over the spiritual landscapes of personal faiths, selling whatever can make them money regardless of the consequences to the individual lives of converts and seekers that they serve.

Now, on the one hand, the results of their efforts grants to us, their readership (or viewership) potential blessings especially when reading these guides within small group fellowships. And though I tend to be wary (or is the word "discerning" more fashionable these days?) when it comes to a Christian smorgasbord purporting a buffet-style banquet with a one-stop-feeds-all marketing strategy, I must remember that my needs are as unique as another's is valid.

And as I listen and watch HarperOne's promo video reciting each author's various journeys and soulful stories, finding some who resonate deeply within me and others that are beyond my grasp, if not leaving me altogether skeptical. I then begin to remember the many New Testament scriptural warnings given by Jesus and John, Peter and Paul, as they speak of false teachers, warning of would-be illicit guides to man's spiritual journeys. At some point we, as maturing Christians, must separate the wolves from the sheep, the false shepherds from the true, if we are to share in the truths of God, his many works of love, and his grand vision for our lives.

And so, without presuming to judge the many spiritual guides that HarperOne produces in assembly-line fashion, hopefully ministering to as many different lives as can be imagined - while working diligently each fiscal quarter to make as much profit as possible (most probably deemed "God's blessing" by the cynic in me) - I pray that we are led straight-and-true to our Savior and Lord discovering truly helpful - and not misleading - spiritual resources within this postmodernistic, mystical generation, that we live and move and have our being.

- skinhead

ps... though I favor Rob Bell greatly, and regularly submit insights from him that I find sublime and helpful, it seems to me that HarperOne's LOVE WINS guidebook is conflicted throughout by the HarperOne process of provocative distillation to the greatest amount of people, in the widest possible manners, to the greatest economic good and bottom line dollars, as can be generated to HarperOne. In Jesus' words, beware "the love of money/mammon," or more properly, those who would use you and your talents for money - which I believe HarperOne has forced upon their many well-intentioned authors that are desiring to deeply honor God, while impacting society as widely as possible, through a wide-range of talents, efforts, insights and resolute hearts.

And so, the questions I read from within the LOVE WINS guidebook seem to fall within the HarperOne realm of provocative and slippery marketing, rather than a decent guide to the Christian faith, so that it leaves a lot of mushy, subjective topics unanswered and unanswerable (though I, and many others, would like to try and provide some kind of scriptural response to each topic or issue posed, however newly dressed-up in today's latest gnostic fashions).

And thus, the reason for this emergent blog, is to help delineate Christian orthodoxy for the 21st Century, topic-by-topic, doctrine-by-doctrine, verse-by-verse, question-by-question. In an attempt to leave the unknowable unknowable, and the answerable answerable, while giving certain knowledge and argument, from the God of mystery and wonder, who would have us to know with veracity certain creeds and foundations, truths and practices, and doctrines without dogmas.




Since 1977 HarperOne has been committed to publishing books that offer new pathways, break down barriers, and serve as valued sources of inspiration and information for millions of seekers, students, scholars, and general readers.

Our authors rank among the world’s leading voices of wisdom, learning, faith, change, hope, and healing, and have been responsible for beginning new publishing trends, revealing secrets of the scribes, and pushing the boundaries of form, language, and spirit.

Building on this rich tradition, HarperOne strives to be the preeminent publisher of the most important books across the full spectrum of religion, spirituality, and personal growth, adding to the wealth of the world’s wisdom by stirring the waters of reflection on the primary questions of life, while respecting all traditions.

How To Use
Some tips for leading a fun, interesting book club discussion:

Choose a theme: Pick a theme or subject, and compare and contrast more than one book.

Extra credit: Supplement your reading with extra materials. Read newspaper, magazine, and online author interviews to learn more about the author and the book. Is it autobiographical? Are there any cultural or historical aspects of the book that you can research to supplement the discussion? If available, bring book reviews to the meeting so that you and the other members can discuss whether you agree or disagree with the review.

Go in-depth with a favorite author: Consider focusing on several works by one author, tracing his or her progression as an author and the changing themes in the various works. Be prepared to discuss the author’s life and career and the context in which he or she wrote.

Author events: Is your church or sponsoring institution interested in bringing a HarperOne author in for an event? To inquire about an author’s availability for speaking engagements contact or call (415) 477–4447. Or, if an author is speaking in your area, attend an event. To learn more about where your favorite authors will be will be, visit, and be among the first to know about new books, events, and special promotions.

New horizons: Use the book as a jumping-off point to explore other cultures and civilizations through food, music, clothing, decorations, and customs described in the book. If the book makes reference to an artist or composer, share an example of that person’s work with the group.

Visual aids

Travel adventure reading: Combine the group’s reading with travel—whether a trip to a local museums or an extended vacations abroad. This can mean anything from a day trip to a local art museum or historic site to a group vacation to the Holy Land!

Chapter 1: What About the Flat Tire?
  1. 1.  Before reading this book, how did you think of heaven and hell?
  2. 2.  Do you believe God invites us, even welcomes us, to discuss and debate the big questions of faith, doctrine, and the Bible?
  3. 3.  What messages have you heard about who goes (or how many go) to heaven? Or about how God can be both loving Father and Judge?
  4. 4.  Of the questions Bell raises in this chapter, which did you experience as raising issues you have had before or issues you would like to discuss more?

Chapter 2: Here Is the New There
  1. Bell remembers his grandmother’s painting of heaven as a floating, glimmering city. What is your vision of heaven? What factors have shaped this vision?
  2. How does the perception of our lives and our church change when we think of heaven as a restored Earth rather than as a faraway place?
  3. If Jesus consistently focused on heaven for today, why do we so emphasize heaven after we die?
  4. Bell describes the Christian life as our preparation to become the kind of people who can dwell in heaven; how does this reorient how we shape our lives?
  5. What is the connection between our understanding of heaven and how we live our lives?

Chapter 3: Hell
  1. See again the painting on page 20, where hell is represented as a dark, ominous abyss. How do you imagine hell? What factors have shaped this vision? Has your concept of hell changed over time and if so, how?
  2. What changes in how you think of the gospel when hell is seen as perhaps temporary or time-limited?
  3. What do you think of the idea that hell might be for correction rather than as punishment?
  4. If the purpose of hell is for correction, then what do we think happens in hell?
  5. If we remove the threat of punishment in our presentation of the gospel, why might someone be interested in the good news?

Chapter 4: Does God Get What God Wants?
  1. Do you believe human life is tragic or is it a romance?
  2. Do you think an all-powerful loving God would allow the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived to suffer eternally? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think God would say to someone trying to repent, “Sorry, too late. You had your chance”?
  4. As Bell shows, the Bible does not spell out all the details of what happens after we die. What might be God’s purposes for not explaining everything and, instead, promising that we will be “surprised”? Why do you think various church traditions have spelled out exactly what will happen?

Chapter 5: Dying to Live
  1. How would you describe to others what Jesus accomplished on the cross and how it affects us?
  2. How meaningful to you are some of the words the Bible uses to describe Jesus’s work on the cross—sacrifice, atonement, justification, redemption, victory?
  3. According to Bell, how does Jesus’s death and resurrection relate to the basic pattern of life, death, and rebirth we witness in all of life?
  4. What changes if we accept a more “cosmic” or “grand” understanding of Jesus’s accomplishments and goals?
  5. Why do Christians so often focus on questions of who is in and who is out of heaven?

Chapter 6: There Are Rocks Everywhere
  1. When you hear stories of people experiencing Jesus or a divine presence, how do you react? Is your tendency to believe them or not? Have you experienced God directly in this way?
  2. In what sense do you think was Jesus in the rock Moses struck to get water?
  3. How does seeing Jesus above all religions and cultures change how we approach people of different religions and cultures?
  4. With this expanded view of Jesus, where might be some new places and ways we see him today? How does Bell’s view of Jesus change how we explain the gospel to others?

Chapter 7: The Good News Is Better Than That
  1. What story do you think God is telling you about yourself?
  2. When you describe what you believe, what picture of God do you think others perceive?
  3. Do you believe God is fundamentally for you or against you? Have you ever found it difficult to love God?
  4. If the gospel is mostly about “participation” and not about “entrance,” why would this, as Bell argues, open us up to joy, happiness, and even throwing a good party? What role has joy played in your Christian life?
  5. Bell claims that there “is a secret deep in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don’t love God” (p. 176). He says that some people have a distorted view of God where they think Jesus rescues us from God. Have you witnessed or experienced these feelings or thoughts?

Chapter 8: The End Is Here
  1. Bell recalls the moment from his childhood when he decided to be a Christian. How have your early experiences of faith shaped your current faith life? What do you think of your earlier spiritual experiences today?
  2. How does our spiritual outlook change when we think of God’s invitation to us shifting from where we will go when we die to a relationship right here and now?
  3. If your heavenly life begins now, how might that change your life, your goals, your focus, and your everyday life?
  4. What do you think it means to trust God’s love?
  5. Why do you think Jesus so emphasizes the urgency of deciding today, now?
  6. Do you believe that “love wins”?

Copyright © 2011 HarperCollins Publishers. · All Rights Reserved · HarperOne's Small Group Guides
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 Phone: (212) 207-7000

 Harper One: A Division of HarperCollins Publishers -

No comments:

Post a Comment