According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Thursday, April 7, 2011

McKnight - A Critique of Love Wins 3

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/04/06/exploring-love-wins-2/

Exploring Love Wins 3

by Scot McKnight
April 6, 2011
Filed under: Universalism — scotmcknight @ 5:01 am

I will begin each post in this series on Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, with this prayer. I am asking that you pause quietly and slow down enough to pray this prayer as the way to approach this entire series:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing:
Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift,
which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue,
without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you.
Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.†

People ask questions about the faith for a variety of reasons and I want to sketch four — there are of course other reasons. Some ask questions because they want to know. This sort of person asks a good question and then sifts through the Bible and sorts out theological history and intellectual options in an attempt to find the truth. Some people ask questions in a more careless fashion — they ask questions, some of them quite good — like How can God be all powerful and all good and have a world like this? — but don’t seem to want to find answers. They just don’t work hard enough. They are proud of having good questions. Some ask good and middling questions but the questions are a cloak for doubt. They don’t ask to find an answer but they soften their overt doubts or unbelief by expressing them in a question. Others ask questions to befuddle and to bewilder — all with a desire to confuse in order to lead to other questions that are behind those questions in order to find deeper answers. I think Rob is trying the last approach in the chp we are looking at today. [Again, help out this conversation by FB sharing it or by Retweeting it.]

The questions he asks in the first chapter are piled on top of one another, one after the other, question, question, question. They are probing one major issue: If we believe in an afterlife, and if that afterlife is entered as a result of some “condition”, what does it take to get in? What do you think? Please stop and answer that one. That’s the question this chp provokes.

Touching on one Gospel text after another, he is led to this laundry list of options, and I eliminate his white space: “Is it what you say, or who you are, or what you do, or what you say you’re going to do, or who your friends are, or who you’re married to, or whether you give birth to children? Or is it what questions you’re asked? Or is it what questions you ask in return? Or is it whether you do what you’re told and go into the city?” (16-17)

Bell observes that “almost everybody, at least at first, has a difficult time grasping just what Jesus is” (17). Then this: “Except for one particular group.” Then he points to the demonized people. Not that this matters that much but, no, that’s not right. The Gospels clearly present a spectrum from outright rejection (those who sin against the Spirit) to passive inattentiveness (“this generation”) to various forms of belief and obedience, like the disciples. The disciples, in their sometimes failures, represent those who have genuine faith. And then he points also to the woman who washes his feet know him — but why choose her? Aren’t there also plenty of others? Well, he’s sampling and dipping in and out.

His point, so I would infer: getting in might be the way the gospel is presented, but there’s a list of options about how one gets in. His chp rhetorically baffles the reader to get us to ask: What does it take to get in? [If we believe in the "in vs. out" gospel. I do.] And what does this whole getting in or not getting in stuff say about God and what the faith is all about? Is getting in what it is about? Do many present the gospel this way — in an “in vs. out” approach? Let’s take a good look at what we’re doing and saying and ask this question.

But is there confusion on the part of the Gospels? I don’t think so. One needs only to read the Gospel of John to see his terms for proper response, like faith/believe, and abide, and obey. Or examine the “enter into the kingdom” sayings of Jesus — and I can’t quote them so will list them (Mark 9:43-48; 10:15; 10:17-27; Matthew 5:20; 7:21; 21:28-32). But Jesus’ rhetorical aim is not to bewilder by listing but to provoke his listeners in order to gain their attention so they can see the all-consuming claim of Jesus on life.

I will put this differently: from one person to the next the Gospels show us that Jesus did not say the same thing. He didn’t say “Do these three or four things and then you can enter the kingdom.” Shame on our evangelistic simplicities. No, he summoned each person out of their own particular and concrete realities, revealed what it was that stood between them and him, summoned them to see that this is the First Commandment all over again — have no other gods before me — and make the absolutely stunning claim. It’s all about coming to Jesus, surrendering to Jesus, trusting Jesus, obeying Jesus, or following Jesus. Variants on a theme, folks. Variants on a theme.

That trust in and commitment to him was the new first commandment. These demands aren’t designed to bewilder but to stun us into attention and to dig into the depths of our soul and say “Will you give yourself to me or not?” Rob’s book never really comes back to this listing of options, but I think his book does answer the list of questions by synthesizing an answer in chp 7 into this: We respond to God properly by accepting his love story of us instead of the bad story we’ve got of ourselves. He summons us out of our story into God’s story. I like that approach too.

There’s much more to say, and we don’t have space for it. You can read my take on the theme of this post in One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, pp. 109-119.