Love Wins: A New Split in Protestant Evangelicalism

SG LoveWins 1
There has been an inordinate amount of craziness around this book.

Everyone I know seems to have weighed in on this topic.
Everyone is watching…

Is this really about Rob Bell and his thoughts on Hell and theology?
I think it’s a lot deeper than that.

Over the past couple years we have seen a growing hostility between conservative and more legalistic traditions of Christianity here in the USA and the more progressive traditions who focus more on loving and serving others. This doesn’t cleanly break across strictly denominational lines either.

Watch.

You’re witnessing something big right now.
You’re witnessing a new split in Protestant Evangelicalism.

The most vocal factions of leadership of Evangelicalism have increasingly been wary of—and even rejected young Evangelical leaders over the past several years as being too liberal or not reformed enough. Young leaders who for the past several years who have clung to the title of ‘evangelical’ (simply because that is who we are) are growing increasingly uncomfortable with being associated with much of the conservative leadership.

The unwillingness to be associated with one another runs both ways. Neither camp is completely comfortable with being associated with the others perceived issues.

Heretics won’t be comfortable being lumped in with Haters
Haters won’t be comfortable being lumped in with Heretics

While this undercurrent has been happening for some time now…
We are reaching a tipping point.

Also by Jimmy: Whose Death Does God Cheer? Osama bin Laden’s?

You’ll see two sides soon with a fairly slim middle.

On one side you’ll have the Reformed Conservatives—entrenching and ‘expelling’ folks
On the other side you will see the Progressive Evangelicals—migrating toward work with mainline churches

This thing is going to split wide open.

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I’m not saying it is a good or bad thing…but I can tell you it’s coming. It doesn’t have all the vocabulary put to it yet—but it is coming. It has been a bit under the radar for much of the Christian world—but it will spill out into the streets and the media and be a fullblown separation.

We have all felt tremors of this thing coming for a couple years now…
Rob Bell’s book will play a huge part in triggering this split.

This is not just about theology.

It’s about control of the story of Jesus.
It’s about the entire framing of God and The Gospel.

It’s gonna be something we mentally mark.
It’s gonna start something big.

It may not be nailing 95 theses on a door…

But it could mark a major shift in how Evangelical Christianity represents itself from this point forward. It could shift the way people think of Evangelicalism—putting young Progressive faces into the public stream that balance public perception. More importantly, it could give young people growing up Evangelical an option to explore. When I was young it never crossed my mind to switch to a mainline church—but had something like a Progressive Evangelicalism been around then— I would have sought it out and supported it.

This may be the future of Evangelicalism—and we may all be witnessing the tipping point.

It’s all just my opinion—and I’m not endorsing anything— but I think some huge shifts are about to happen to the US Evangelical community.

Hang on—starting on the 15th we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Let’s hope we all can act like Jesus thru the process.

—-
Jimmy Spencer Jr is the founder and CEO of Love Without Agenda. He’s just a good guy trying to change the world—and himself—one act of love at a time.




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About the Author

Jimmy Spencer Jr.

Jimmy Spencer Jr.Jimmy Spencer Jr. (@jimmyspencerjr) is the founder and CEO of Love Without Agenda and author of Love Without Agenda: Moving Our Spiritual Goalposts from Heaven & Hell to Wholeness. He’s just a good guy trying to change the world—and himself—one act of love at a time.View all posts by Jimmy Spencer Jr. →

  • CanadianConservativeChristian

    i live in Canada and i find this notion is starting to become true for us here as well. I find it tragic though that people cannot negotiate between conservative rules and liberal love. My own theology is not perfect certainly but i dont think it is too hard to do this. I was raised fairly conservative and i do believe that we need to follow Gods laws: so i do not believe in pre-marital sex, gay marriage, or recreational drug use, and in fact believe these are sins. HOWEVER, if someone who is practising any or all of these and comes to my church they will be met with a smile and told that jesus loves them (by me at least). The old phrase of love the sinner and hate the sin is very applicable here and should not divide us as it seems to be doing. These are not opposing ideas and i know it runs a bit deeper than that, but why can we not tell someone that we love them, but not what they are doing. Anyone who is a parent should understand this phenomenon, all kids do things their parents don’t like at one time or another yet they are still loved; God is no different.

    So while i agree we need to let people know that certain lifestyle choices are sinful and not in Gods divine plan for them, we must do so out of Love. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” -John 3:17

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      “Anyone who is a parent…” Yuck!! Though children are conceived in Original Sin, they generally aren’t malicious. I like what an American foreign-aid activist, Michael Maren, had to say in an all-too-related context: “People usually do things for good reasons…” This goes double for children. They don’t know any better; they’re small and helpless; they don’t understand why certain words and remarks hurt; they’re powerless; they can’t say what they really think or feel without getting spanked or punished. And pretty often, what they’re doing isn’t bad at all!! Hate the sin if you must, Canadian, but Jesus DID preach forgiveness.

      • CanadianConservativeChristian

        I feel like you are not understanding my comment at all. i dont know if you have children but i know that as a kid i did things my parents didnt like. i am not talking exclusivly about 1-4 year olds either. 17 is still a child and even at 25 or 45 or 65 i would argue we can do things our parents do not approve of. Did you never date someone your parents didnt like, or go to a party your parents didnt want you to, even though you knew you probably shouldnt. I guess your right in that i cannot speak for everyone, but i can say that i definitly did. i am not saying there are little demonic children running around, i am saying that as children of God we often do things that our heavenly father would rather we not do.

        I am also not saying that we are not to forgive people, not even slightly. i believe 100% in the forgiveness gifted to us by christs redemptive work on the cross, but that is not a license to sin. Christ forgave people, but he also called them on their sin. We cannot preach forgiveness if we do not acknowledge there is something wrong, or to be forgiven off.

        So i hate the fact that people murder others, that they steal from each other, that they use drugs, or that some people feel the need to be very sexually promiscuous, but I DO NOT hate that person. We need to love those people and hate what they are doing. and if we are going to preach that christs forgiveness means we can do whatever we want and not worry then we really are in trouble. no point in the bible did jesus say that the tax collectors or the prisoners were not sinners, he said they need help all the more. they need to be informed that what they are doing is wrong so they can stop.

        Jesus definitly forgives us, but we have to want to be forgiven, and for that we have to acknowledge we have done something wrong

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          You’re not understanding MY point: my whole comment was on how compelling children’s reasons for “misbehaving” so often are, and here you go still treating them as miscreants. For that matter, you treat those whose sex lives are a little different than yours the same way. Holding someone else’s offense, real or imagined, over their head is not what the Lamb of God meant by the forgiveness of sins; He wanted His followers to make a clean breast of it.

          • Elisaulr

            Mmmm… wait a minute… (this is for both)… So your mythological figure (aka. YWH) loves her children soooo much that she constructed a “basement” with torture devices to use on her children for an eternity; because they did things this imaginary figure doesn’t like? *Note: the things she “doesnt” like vary from “revelation” to “revelation”… Oh, and I forgot: She, in omniscience and omnipotence, created the stage for these creatures to be imperfect and then blames them for their imperfection? I mean. Read the Genesis fairytale. It was clearly an inside job; she (YWH) putting the tree there in the MIDDLE of the garden to capture all attention… I bet it was shiny and very attractive… and she blames us for her creative bad designs & negligence, since she started it all? (Isaiah 45:7) Gosh… I wonder if god (whatever that is) isn’t offended by Christianity in general. In every way it damages the reputation of your god. I wish your god cared more for my opinion as she cared more for Satan’s opinion than Job’s well-being. Just a random thought. Greetings from Puerto Rico ;)

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Pardon us all, E. This is a blog written by committed believers. Personally, I don’t believe the Genesis story; I believe the story told by evolutionary biologists; and as for Jesus, I know plenty of good, thoughtful scholars beg to differ with us on that subject, too. And they have every right to do so. Some of my favorite reading about how the world really works is written by committed atheists, not least of all because they don’t go looking for pie-in-the-sky miracles to which they aren’t entitled; too many of us self-styled Christians do, unfortunately. The unbelievers settle for things as our God really intended, as things are really supposed to be. The recently deceased Reverend Peter Gomes, one of the country’s best preachers, got along just fine with the atheistic scientists at Harvard University, where he preached every Sunday. In his opinion, they were some of the sweetest, humblest people he knew.

            All the same I don’t think this is much of a place to trash Scripture, even the nastiest parts of it. There are surely online communities where you would feel a little more welcome and less bewildered and frustrated; www. randi.org or http://www.skeptic.com come to mind. Incidentally, the best Christian eschatology is more compassionate and sophisticated than the street preachers and fanatics who have no doubt pestered you make out. Those great intellectual saints really did put a lot of hard thinking into their theological pictures of our God.

  • Mike

    There are many in the ‘no one is going to Hell, a loving God would never do such a thing’ camp, but they are so into their ‘personal new discoveries’, if you will, that they think once this book comes out it will be like a pied piper. I think too many people, if they do take on this perceived argument, will take much time in doing so. nobody just throws out thousands of years of theology because there is a ‘movement’. Those who are already questioning God will of course be drawn to this argument, but those in the entrenched in ‘traditional’ theology will not be so quickly or easily swayed. I wouldn’t put as much hype on one book to be the tipping point. I believe it just opens up the discussion beyond those who are on the liberal side of things who have just been having it within their own circles. It’s as if the little brother is agitating the big brother into getting into a fight. Eventually the big brother will have to do something about it, but I’m not sure one book will be it. Yet to be seen though. We will know better when the actual content of the book is read and discussed.

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Uh, thanks, Mike…I think. Well, I’M one of those liberal Christians you’re complaining about — and I think PLENTY of people are bound for Hell! I just don’t agree with you on which ones or how many. Just look at it this way: if I’m at what I think is the Heavenly Banquet, with the Lord Jesus at the head, and I can’t find Mohandas Gandhi, Harvey Milk, or Danny the Red — not to mention Nigerian humanitarian and atheist Leo Igwe — anywhere in the hall, I’ll take it as a sign that I’m at the wrong banquet!!

      • Teranthor

        I have problems with this too, but unfortunatly the bible says that “Jesus is the way the truth and the life, NO ONE gets to the father, but through him” John 14:6. so unless those people confessed christ as their lord, we may not see them in heaven. I dont know about the others but i honestly hope Ghandi did convert, but we cannot believe christian doctrine and ignore this verse.

        this is a place of personal struggle in my life and i would honesltly like someone to tell me if i am wrong in this, or how they might arrive in heaven. But please know that i am a theology student studying for my masters degree and just a simple youre wrong, will not suffice

        • Pat

          Do you think that Gandhi’s actions could have actually been his ‘confession’, his aligning with the ways of Jesus?

          • Teranthor

            The short answer is i doubt it, but i hope so.

            The long answer is that in the quote above in John we see the words “through Him” which is a somewhat ambiguous phrase. What does it mean to be in Christ? The letter to the galatians sheds some light when paul writes “As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ (Galatians 3:27)” Elsewhere in the bible and through our christian tradition we find that those who are saved must confess with their mouths that Christ is Lord. to my knowledge Ghandi did not do this.

            Now i have heard other ideas along the lines of more pluralistic thinking, (that if what we believe does not matter as long as we are all working toward the same thing) but i do not think that works. One of the biggest points that the new testament makes is that humanity is sinfull and in no way can a singe person save themselves. No matter what we do we cannot be good enough to deserve salvation, that includes people like gandi. Now what i know about his life he did follow most of christs teachings, at least publically and he did read the bible. I read parts of his biography a few years ago for his paper and he is quoted as saying something to the effect of “liking jesus, but hating his fanbase (the church)” so maybe he was a christian, he had a lot to teach many people.

            I know many people have a hard time with this idea, that God would let good men go to hell and bad men to heaven (the criminal crucified next to Christ comes to mind). But that is who our God is, He is a God of second chances.
            Think of him as the parol board deciding wheather or not to release a prisoner, could be for jaywalking or for mass murder. God will pardon us every time, but if we do not go to the hearing he can’t. Hope this helps.

          • Ken

            It is my understanding that Gandhi once attended a series of “inquirers” classes at a white church in India, and was so drawn to Jesus that he asked to be baptized. He was told by the leaders that the would certainly arrange for his baptism but that if he wanted to be a member of a church, there was an Indian church down the road where “he would feel more comfortable.” I responded that there would be no sense in his becoming a Christian, if he would face that kind of prejudice in the name of Christ. He could stay a Hindu and experience that.

            Yet you can hear the words of Jesus echoing quite strongly in Gandih’s words.

          • Kern

            “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”

            “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever”

            “The law an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

            “The law of love could be best understood and learned through little children.”

            “Love never claims, it ever gives; love never suffers, never resents, never revenges itself. Where there is love there is life; hatred leads to destruction.”

            “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

            “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

            “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

            “Remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”
            “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

            “Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”

            “I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.”

            “A man with a grain of faith in God never loses hope, because he ever believes in the ultimate triumph of Truth”

            “Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.”

            “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Thank you for that important history lesson!

          • D-Dawg

            Do you have a source on that?

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Does Ken need a source? If you cannot find anything whole or holy outside a church sanctuary, then I feel sorry for you! Aesop’s wonderful fables, the Upanishads, the Buddhist scriptures, and the Tao Te Ching were all created by those lost, godless heathens of yours!!

          • D-Dawg

            I requested a source because he made a very negative claim against a body of believers. If it’s documentable, then I join in agreement that telling Gandhi to go down the road was a bad thing. But if it’s not documentable, then it’s just the spreading of rumor in an attempt to make a point that supports one’s view.

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Very well, D-Dawg, that’s a real point. But here’s another one: Gandhi is widely admired by white Christians precisely BECAUSE he spent so much of his life taking stands like the one we see in the racist-church story. He was allowed to give up his deepest convictions for “our” religion, but not to infiltrate or contaminate “our” church community. Things like this must surely have happened to him, and to many other Inidans, all the time; this is why he led India’s fight for independence: to shake off the yoke of white power, dominance, and discrimination. Incidents like this, both religion-related and otherwise, must certainly fill any decent biography ot this man. Maybe you should look for one at your nearest library.

          • D-Dawg

            That one thinks something probably did happen, or at least something like it, does not warrant taking the chance that, in one’s ignorance, one might end up bearing false witness. The Bible speaks repeatedly about this, whether speaking of bearing false witness, spreading rumors, gossiping, or slandering. Why do you think it is appropriate for someone to make claims about something with no evidence of the specific claim?

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Are you prepared to read a Gandhi biography to look for evidence of this episode? He did live in segregated South Africa as a young man.

          • Mike

            “Elsewhere in the bible and through our christian tradition we find that those who are saved must confess with their mouths that Christ is Lord. to my knowledge Ghandi did not do this. ”

            Did the thief on the cross do this?

          • D-Dawg

            Luke 23:38-42 (NASB)
            Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

            For the criminal to say, “…remember me when You come in Your kingdom” is an implicit acknowledgment of Jesus’ Lordship. That the criminal wants to be remembered by Jesus is an implicit statement that he submits to Jesus’ Lordship.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

            “No matter what we do we cannot be good enough to deserve salvation, that includes people like gandi.”

            Are we really so sinful that we deserve an eternity of unimaginable torture?

            Do Anne Frank (a jew), Ghandi (a hindu), and Katherine Hepburn (an athiest) deserve an eternity of hellfire and pain? Will they share Hell with Hitler and Stalin?

             

          • D-Dawg

            John 6:40 (NASB)
            “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

            John 3:14-15 (NASB)
            “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

            Why did Jesus connect belief in Him with eternal life if non-belief combined with actions could accomplish the same?

          • Pat

            Sheep and goats. Surprise endings.

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          Sorry, no sale. Ethically-oriented believers feel as you do about Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life; I don’t see any path to salvation except through Jesus, either. But we also remember the pillaging and blood-spilling done in Jesus’ name, and the moral examples set by Gandhi, Robert Ingersoll, and other heathens and apostates; we figure we could just pray silently for their souls, keep our big mouths shut about their convictions, and obey the Bill of Rights.

        • Richard

          Teranthor, I believe that what that verse means is that Jesus is the final authority on who gets into heaven. Jesus knows a persons heart and that is what he judges people on. Frankly I can’t believe that he judges people on what dogma they believe. As if he has a checklist. “Do you believe in the trinity? Check. Do you believe that I died for your sins? Check. Do you believe Mary was a virgin? Check. OK you’re in!”

        • D-Dawg
          • D-Dawg

            In case clicking on links by themselves in comments sections is a red flag, the above link is an article about an Indian who converted to Christianity.

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Good piece on that link — but nowhere in the article is Gandhi rebuked for his Hindu beliefs.

  • Phil Spray

    I think what applies here is:

    The special temptation of the conservative is to substitute saying “Lord, Lord” for doing His will; the special temptation of the liberal is to seek to bear the fruit of the heavenly vine without abiding in the vine. — Rufus Moseley

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Sounds groovy, Phil! It’s worth thinking about.

  • Thetruth77

    A house divided against itself cannot stand. What you predict is the end of Christianity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1388514701 Greg Dill

      The “house” has already been divided for thousands of years. When the Eastern Orthodox church split from the Roman Catholic Church. And when the Protestant Reformation split from the Roman Catholic Church. And yet the church still stands, albeit a weak stand.

    • Ken

      Or perhaps merely the end of Christianity as religion.

    • Ken

      Or perhaps merely the end of Christianity as religion.

  • Thetruth77

    Also, why did you change your post from what it was this morning? rethinking things are you?

    • Anonymous

      the text was improperly formatted when pasted friend. Content was not changed—simply formatted it to the way it was supposed to look. This should have made it easier to read for everyone. No conspiracy here :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1388514701 Greg Dill

    Jimmy – I hope you’re wrong. We don’t need more division in the Body of Christ.

    • Anonymous

      This has already happened in much of Europe. Which does not make it right or wrong—and with that said the US isn’t Europe..but I dont think I am wrong. It’s just observations. thanks for your thoughts

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1388514701 Greg Dill

        Unfortunately, I don’t think you are wrong indeed. I think you’re right. I just hope you’re not. I wish we can work through our mindless theological drivel and maintain unity in the Body of Christ. But, because we are imperfect humans trying to understand a perfect God, there will always be division each time we try to put God in a box.

  • Bob Longman

    It’s hard to describe how much I wish it weren’t so.

    It’s hard to describe how much I wish we *wouldn’t* brand other people ‘heretics’ or ‘haters’, especially not when labels (*including* ‘fundamentalist’) never fit individual people or even congregations very well, many of whom want no part of this battle. And how much these brandings, when heard by the public, simply reinforces the prejudices many people have about these sides.

    It’s hardest to describe how uncomfortable I’m feeling right now, having always stood on the edge of the mainline side of where it meets evangelical (and charismatic) beliefs. In some ways, it’s the *good* uncomfortable, giving me challenges to my mind, my faith, my view of what ‘church’ is, my identity, and (especially) my actions. In other ways, it’s the *sad* uncomfortable, seeing some newcomers increasingly buy into some of the [stronger than ‘waste’] that drove/drives me to the edge of mainline, [stronger than ‘garbage’] that kept/keeps edging large numbers of people closer to and into non-belief. Sometimes, even *sad* uncomfortable has to be, sadly, and that may be the case here. I can only speak my own piece, and keep listening for the voice of God in this.

    I know this is just a personal view of things, ‘from the outside’, from the only one I can actually change. It’s not about me, it’s about the Kingdom of God and its citizens, and where God takes us, we must go.

    Bob Longman

    • Anonymous

      Bob— I wholeheartedly agree with your post. To be clear I am not personally calling anyone haters or heretics. I am observing the unfortunate rhetoric that is out there and I believe is a strong indicator of how folks in both camps will increasingly see one another.

      I am also not championing a two camp mentality—but once again—it is powerfully there. I am simply predicting that this thing will tip over soon and…well…it is what it is.

      I especially enjoyed the sentiment in the last paragraph. I like the thought that we can only be responsible and change ourselves!

  • israel

    It will only be a big deal to those who WANT it to be a big deal. that’s my take. I’m down to sit across the table and chat about whatever…but, really. We got stuff to do. Lives to touch…by the truth and power of the good news of Jesus.

  • http://jskogerboe.com/ jskogerboe

    In many ways I agree with israel. “We got stuff to do.” Disciple making and deep communion with God, for example. I understand the sentiment of this post, but this here is no new “on the verge moment.” I’m not trying to be contentious, but I do disagree, because the Church has gone through these cycles of reexamination for 2000 years. In the end, Love wins, so to speak, and Jesus’ Church carries on. I think it is OK for those of us who believe the Bible is full of absolutes and the unchanging truth of God to stand with conviction and oppose the idea that core doctrines of the faith need to be “rethought.” Of course, the command to “speak the truth in LOVE” still stands. Thanks for the post Jim. I think it is a bit hyperbolic, but that’s not meant to have any sharp points. I think there is LOTS of room for continuing to challenge and encourage fellow believers under this big tent. God bless.

  • D-Dawg

    It’s not the war of words that is creating the division. That division already exists and is perpetuated by people who teach and gravitate toward one set of beliefs alongside others who teach and gravitate toward another set of beliefs. All the while, both groups claim the mantle of Christianity.

    While one says, “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and all sinners must receive the Son in order to be right with the Father,” another says, “Those who were presented with Jesus and rejected Him as Savior may still end up in heaven if they lived a good enough life.”

    Those two belief systems simply cannot be the same thing, no matter how much both sides claim the title “Christian.” It is like trying to say that “x” and “not x” are the same thing – they cannot be.

    To be able to come into His presence on earth and in Heaven, we must be made holy as He is holy. This only comes through being made righteous in His sight, for the wages of sin is death.

    God has communicated His standard for being made righteous before Him. Without this standard, we are sinners, fallen short of God’s glory, condemned of our own accord. The blood of His only Son Jesus Christ makes us righteous, if we will but believe in Him and receive this wonderful gift!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

      Rob Bell is on to something. As an agnostic, I can’t tell you how alienating Christianity is when it focuses on Hell.  I have to ponder: God created Hell, and in that Hell, an eternity of pain and suffering is reserved for those who don’t worship God or accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior?  What kind of God would create such a horrific reality? A reality in which a good number of decent, kind, even spiritual human beings are tortured forever for not having a certain belief over the course of a very limited lifetime. That God trumps all monsters throughout history; heck, even Stalin only killed 20 million of his own people; he didn’t create a system in which billions are tortured forever.  

      I sometimes imagine myslf in Hell; I share a room with Stalin, Anne Frank, Pol Pot, Katherine Hepburn, Ghandi, and Hitler. We’re all in excrutiating pain, suffering…forever.  I feel sorry for all of us, even Hitler, if you can believe it! Meanwhile, God looks on, and allows our pain to continue and continue and continue.

      Nope, I ain’t ever gonna be converted to that religion, let me tell you. That’s the Christianity of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who’ve done more to harm the faith than Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris combined.

      The religion that does attract me is that of the Amish community that forgave the man who killed six of their little girls, and treated his widow with such empathy. Or, the religion of Reg and Maggie Green, two northern Californians who, while touring Italy, lost their little boy to gunfire during a robbery; they donated all his organs to Italians who needed organ transplants. Or, the religion of the Danish people, who during WW II, risked their lives to save the Jews from the Nazis. Or, the religion of Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett and Lei Yuille, African Americans who risked danger to save the life of a white man during the violent LA riots. 

      What religion, what belief system helped create such people?   What grace, what magnanimity of spirit!  I’m a very mediocre human being: selfish, vain, reactive, and lazy.  But, when I hear such tales, my spirit soars!  I want to be better! I want to change the world! I want to sacrifice myself to high ideals!

      Uh Oh. I just remembered that the story of Jesus Christ is primarily of one of grace and magnanimity. Luke 23:34: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”  Jesus suffered an excrutiating death so that human beings could avoid Hell. It’s just a shame that the Father from whom he seeks forgiveness is the nasty character who created Hell in the first place.

      The more that Christians focus on the grace and magnanimity of Jesus Christ and the need to follow his example, and less on the horrific Hell that awaits nonbelievers, the more attractive it will become to sceptics such as myself.     

    • Philip153fish

      I don’t think Rob Bell ever offers a gospel of works. he simply is saying ‘what if God keeps his offer of salvation through Jesus christ open for eternity?’

    • F.R.O.G.fullyrelyonGod

      TOTALLY agree here…

  • Anonymous

    You know, the “red letter” sections of the Bible is where we derive most of our understanding of hell, including its eternal nature.

    I think the issue conservatives and I have is not just about hell. It’s about such a clear abandonment of the authority of Scripture (and Jesus).

    The evangelical world has been theologically sick for quite some time. This is just a clear manifestation of it. If God hadn’t left us a remnant, we would have been like Sodom.

    • Anonymous

      I think many people would agree that the evangelical world has been sick. I think everyone has a different prescription for health. I think everyone draws that prescription from the words of the Bible.

      I think everyone thinks of themselves as the remnant.

      And there you see the problem.
      Or possibly just God’s multi-faceted solution.

      • Anonymous

        But how about the “red letter” sections of the Bible? It would have better for Judas never to have been born… does love win there?

        We learn the most about hell from Jesus. I’ll be the first to admit I could do a lot more about helping the poor. But does this website really give weight to the red letter sections about hell? This issue is telling me “no.”

        How about the red letter sections about being on guard about false teachers and ravenous wolves that will devour the flock?

        • Anonymous

          This particular blog is not really about the existence of Hell Geoff, or about false teachers or ravenous wolves— but I appreciate your concerns. We are simply asking if the two camps can find a way to work together. Your reaction does lend me to affirm my prediction that the gap will continue to widen. This is unfortunate.

          I think I can safely speak for the bloggers here when I say that we will continue to do our very best to represent Jesus as honorably as we can—as we are sure that you will also. Be blessed and thanks for your input.

    • Pat

      When you say ‘like Sodom’ do you mean GREEDY?

      • Anonymous

        I mean desolate and abandoned by God. (Isa. 1:9; Rom. 9:29)

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  • Pat

    Jimmy, I agree that this will mark a major shift. Shift happens. ‘Christian circles’ are getting their axis kicked… again. Did we really think we were beyond the evolution of our theologies and traditions? No one is ever that enlightened. When we get God down pat, then it’s time to be scared. I’m thankful for guys like Rob Bell who have the bells to ask the hard questions and I’m sure he knew what he was getting into.

  • Ashley

    “I’m not endorsing anything.”

    Two paragraphs later…

    “Purchase your copy of Love Wins today by clicking here!”

    Funny.

    • Anonymous

      Hey now…I can’t control what they put at the bottom of the posts I submit! haha

      Cut me some slack :) I just submit the articles not set up the website…and they have no idea I would put that at the bottom. Besides…I DO believe that people should read and think about things that they disagree with.

      that is kind of funny though.

      • Anonymous

        I have my own book—and I didn’t even mention that…ooops. ;)

  • http://mjkimpan.wordpress.com mjkimpan

    i am tragically fascinated by our ability and insistence in american evangelicalism to ‘divide’ up into two camps (and usually many more spawning from that). it’s sadly part of our culture, part of our history (particularly within protestantism) and part of what we’re taught from an early age is ‘right:’ we’re told to stand up for truth; to defend our beliefs, country, faith, family, et cetera.

    we love to fight.

    we love to be right.

    we love to ‘prove’ other people wrong.

    we proof text, interpret, and make snide remarks. we dismiss those with whom we disagree with a mere ‘farewell’ and go on our merry way, basking in our supposed truth.

    after showing his followers the full extent of his love for them by serving, jesus said to them, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    my hope is that in the midst of this new split within evangelicalism on the issues of heaven and hell, whether eugene peteson and rob bell (or you or i) have slipped into a sort of christian universalism, or like john piper have taken a strong stand against it, that this book (among others that have been and are yet to be written) can continue to push followers of christ into a more healthy dialogue and living on the things that matter.

    loving God. loving people. that’s what matters.

    whether i’m a universalist or a non-universalist should not change how i interact with the people in my world. we are called an ambassador of reconciliation: as if God were making an appeal through us. so my task is not to prove john piper or rob bell wrong, or right. my task is to take the love, grace, and redemptive restoration found in the person of jesus christ and share THAT with others. not to share the romans road. not to share the four spiritual laws…but to share–through my words and my actions–jesus’s love, peace, forgiveness and joy.

    i pray that as we continue to grapple with the tough issues of scripture, salvation, heaven and hell, that we can (on both “sides” of the discussion) creatively seek opportunities to have conversations that show love to each other and to others. this is an opportunity to indeed reclaim the message of jesus as more than just a 2 dimensional flannel graph board and to actually LIVE what we claim to believe.

    • Anonymous

      I like this very much and resonate with what you’re saying. Please understand that I am not advocating people splitting and fighting. It is what I see coming down the pipe in the next few years though.

      I’ve said this somewhere else on the replies but I see Jesus is more concerned with how we live than what happens when we die. He is trying to move our conversations toward wholeness and what it means to be human, made in His likeness and image.

      I think the Bible is intended to inform that life and equip us to be better followers of Him-—thanks! Checked out your blog and enjoyed it.

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  • Dadofhomeschoolers

    well, I can tell you three things I know absolutely about heaven.
    1) it will be beyond our wildest imagination
    2)I will be amazed at who’s there
    3)I will be aghast at who’s not.
    Matt 7, Depart from me, I never knew you. knew, as in, know intamately, as in “Deapart from me, You never let me love you”
    That passage also shows that everyone will go to heaven, just not everybody’s stayin’.
    I really wonder if part of the torment of hell is the realization that I rejected the forgivness that was mine to grasp.

    • Dadofhomeschoolers

      Doh, typing quickly, disregard the misspeeelings.

  • http://twitter.com/dannonhill Daniel Griswold

    You’re right – this is a big moment in evangelicalism, but I don’t think it is framed according to age or youth vs the old guard. I’ve seen people of all ages on either side of this thing and the crazy thing is that people are still just finishing up the read. Bell’s brilliant for bringing this up and getting people talking about it because studies show that people had been forgetting or purposefully ignoring the idea of “Gehenna” aka Hell. But I don’t think this will end up being a two sides kind of thing, nor does it need to be. This can be a conversation as we talk about what Jesus said in Matthew about the Sheep and the Goats, and about the stark pictures that show us that what we do in this life matters. Our decisions matter. Pretty exciting stuff IMO.

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  • Steve

    “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” Nothing new here.

  • http://twitter.com/HamiltonMJ1983 Matthew Hamilton

    This blog has cited perfectly the observations that I have noticed since the “Love Wins” video leak, which have been trying to get into words.

    • Anonymous

      thanks for the encouragement Matthew. This is just me trying to put some vocabulary to what I have been seeing—and trying to communicate it in a loving way :)

      • James

        How is it loving to suggest that one group is more loving than another, while the other groups is legalistic? I just think that’s an unfair description.

        Do we really want people to choose between these two camps? And then if we do, to call one group legalistic and the other groups as more loving?

        Where would you put evangelical leaders such as Tim Keller then? Is he progressive and loving or is he legalistic?

        • D-Dawg

          I think it’s more a matter of seeking the most complete biblical truth. If we are to embrace the red letter words of Jesus, He Himself speaks of eternal punishment. He also speaks repeatedly of what one must do to gain eternal life, which strongly implies that there is a lesser alternative. What Rob Bell and others appear to be doing is effectively undermining the words of Jesus. While they find ways not to refute hell outright in how they frame things, the end result is that people are encouraged not to be very concerned about hell or possible punishment.

          If there is no punishment for sin, there would be no need for a Savior. One of the to-the-point themes of Jesus’ ministry was “Repent and be baptized.” Why do that unless there is consequence one way or the other, even if, at its least painful, the consequence is the lack of benefit that comes from not repenting and being baptized?

          Promised consequences have been with us from before the Fall, on through the Law and the Prophets, and throughout Jesus’ teaching. Promised consequences help us make decisions. There is nothing wrong or lesser when one chooses to follow Christ due, in part, to a fear of hell and the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell. However, downplaying promised consequences seems to be a theme of Rob Bell’s ministry and others who share his approach.

          Some things in Christianity can be practiced in varying ways and still be thoroughly biblical. However, to downplay promised consequences is to downplay a major part of the biblical witness, including the words of Christ.

          Thinking in terms of good and bad is less useful than thinking in terms of thoroughly biblical or setting aside large parts of scripture; being true to all of Jesus’ words, or diminishing the importance of parts of them.

        • Anonymous

          I would put Tim Keller squarely in the slim middle.

      • James

        What’d I like to see is trying to understand both sides. Why is one group so passionate about defending the doctrine of an eternal hell? Is it simply because they’re motivated to exclude people they don’t like?

        At the same time, why do people like Rob Bell have his differing views of hell?

        I’ll be highly interested in that.

    • James

      It may be between two groups, but I’m sure there are thousands of evangelical Christians from various denominations who don’t fit into these two groups.

      For example, are all Southern Baptists reformed?
      Are all non-reformed Christians progressive?

      There’s a tons of people in the middle. What you may have observed are those whose theology and gospel places a high emphasis on hell and people who don’t like the notion of hell. Of course there’ll be somewhat of an argument between them, but to affirm certain one group as legalistic and the others as more Christ-like seems a bit unfair.

      It’s like waging a war here, and we want more people to choose between these two groups… with a suggestion to pick the more loving one…

      Just my opinion.

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  • James

    I don’t personally enjoy these labels. They seem a bit prejudice like to me and too broad a generalization.

    For example, of these two descriptions, which groups will be now seen as the ‘bad’ Christians and the “good” Christians”…more legalistic traditions of Christianity here in the USA and the more progressive traditions who focus more on loving and serving others.”

    There are many non-progressive probably conservative Christians who still believe in doctrines of hell, etc, but I wouldn’t call them legalistic, but rather loves to love and loves to serve and places a high emphasis on grace, such as the likes of Tim Keller.

    Creating labels and then attaching negative views on them is like the media saying all Christians are like the Westboro Baptist folks… It also feels like gossip, where we’re trying to tear each other down.

    If we’re not part of these groups, it’s creating a false dichotomy that you have to choose, while trying to say one group is bad and the other represents love.

  • Jdomaille78

    And by act like Jesu, you mean be nice, right?

    • Anonymous

      by act like Jesus— I mean to do the actions of Jesus.

      Doing his deeds in each moment of our life…and to each person we encounter (even on a chat board)

  • Jdomaille78

    I love when people use words like “progressive” because it is completely based on the idea that we are evolving into something better. When people use it, it is almost always juxtaposed to others they’re passively calling neanderthals. It’s a nice way of saying, to use Charlie Sheen speak, “I am a more highly evolved warlock.” Saying you’re progressive implies you’re moving towards a goal (making progress) and assuming that goal is good. So what is the goal, and what is good about the goal?

    • Anonymous

      There was absolutely no intention of any of the thing you state here. I simply meant that Evangelicals would begin to put vocabulary to identifying themselves with either a more conservative based coalition or with a more progressive coalition of evangelicals.

      To make sure it is clear and unbiased here is the wiki link to the term Progressive Christian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Christianity

      Hope this clears up any misconceptions or perceived prejudices.

      • Jdomaille78

        jimmyspencerjr, whether you mean to use it that way or not, the implication is in the word. I’m not saying you invented it. I understand that the problem of these labels existed before your post. But, in addition to the presuppositions I already pointed out in how that word is used, there are others (from briefly glancing at the link you posted). For instance: if the accusation against “conservatives” is they claim a monopoly on the truth, then the accusation against “liberals” is they claim a monoploy on kindness. As if love and truth were ever in competition! We’ll notice in scripture that truth and love are intertwined. You can not have one without the other. When someone tells a truth which makes people feel uncomfortable, many times the uncomfortable person will respond, “You should be more loving. After all, God is Love.” This sounds spiritual but left alone it bypasses the fact that God is also Truth. It would make sense then that we are told in scripture to tell the truth in love. What is unloving ends up being untrue. And what is untrue ends up being unloving. You don’t lie to people you love. You’re not loving as long as you lie (whether the lie is intentional or not. Many people excuse telling ‘unintentional’ lies from the pulpit by saying things like “But you have to know my heart.” First of all, the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things. Who can know it? Second of all, a loving heart will understand the importance of clear communication and finding out whether certain ideas are true or not because it will see people at the end of those ideas. It will not be satisfied with sloppiness when handling the truth).

        The interesting thing about truth and love is that one is an abstract word, and one is an action word. Truth is something that is true whether or not any of us believe it or do anything about it. Love implies a certain way in which we treat other people and even God himself. What I find very bothersome is how so many people in the Church don’t see how one affects the other. Many people want love apart from truth, apart from study, apart from intellect. They think we can still act lovingly without first knowing what is true about how we should act. The same people, because they don’t have a healthy respect for truth, usually end up doing very unloving things, things which are completely avoidable if they were just more sensitive to truth, all the while professing to be all about love. But we have to see that our ideas are always connected to our actions, which is why it is so important that our ideas are as right as they can possibly be. Eventually the things that are in our heads affect the people that are in our lives.

        • Anonymous

          I think we very hard time seeing ourselves. For instance I dont hear anyone on the board being upset at the term “evangelical”. Doesn’t that imply that we are the only group of Christians trying to evangelize people? That my other friends such as Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Methodist friends don’t care about people going to heaven?

          We all have a tendency to see the speck in others eyes and miss the plank in our own. Evangelicals are no different.

          • Jdomaille78

            jimmyspencerjr, if that is your definition of progressive and evangelical then I don’t think it’s possible to be a Christian without being either and so I think the terms only serve to separate us which seems to be counterintuitive to what seems to be your goal: unity. That’s my point.

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          Great comment, buddy, but you’ve got to chill. “Progressive” in the sense used here has a long precedent, not least of all in the idea of charity as a sign of one’s holiness, starting right from the mouth of the Lamb.

          • Jdomaille78

            The point is, progressive as opposed to what? Is there any Christian groups arguing that we should be less kind? No. We may disagree as to the method of kindness, but all Christians agree we should be kind. It is a non sequitur and is usually juxtaposed to conservatives who, contrary to popular belief, also believe in kindness, hence why I say it is a non sequitur.

          • Jennifer A. Nolan

            Perhaps you can look up “humanitarianism” on Wikipedia; I haven’t done that, but no history of charitable activity, at least in the West, is complete without an extensive mention of efforts by devout Christians of various camps trying to improve the standard of living of the poor. After the wars of religion, Christian belief lost its sheen in the eyes of many, not least of all Jews and their best Christian friends, who took this humane tradition with them into the realm of statecraft and economics. Ergo, Communism, secular socialism, Christian socialism, liberation theology, the Red Cross, and humanitarian workers and missionaries of all faiths, and of NO faith tradition. Not to mention “Progressives” like Jane Addams. Clarence Darrow, and Dorothy Day.

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Like your point. But the original meaning of “progressive” as “supporting the well-being and development of as many fellow citizens (or co-believers) as possible” dates to the time between 1885 and 1920 or thereabouts, when the Progressive movement fought for things like shorter hours, livable wages, an end to child labor, and the right to teach scientific material which some in the church didn’t and don’t like. Recognition of human rights was seen as a mark of progress and superior moral development; in Christian circles like the ones that publish this blog and “God’s Politics,” it still is.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great article, but come on, spelling and punctuation! Getting ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ wrong is no good mate! http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

    • Anonymous

      i agree. I absolutely think your right ; -)

      • Anonymous

        actually this was originally a facbook note…and was picked up as an article—which meant it bypassed my editor—who takes my ramblings and makes the coherent. Sorry.

        • Anonymous

          Cool, well done! Thanks for you’re rely! :-D

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  • grammar girl

    You’re. ******YOU’RE*******!!!!!!!

    As for the rest of your message: Meh. I very much doubt there’ll be a schism over this. It’ll happen as it has been happening – people who meet Jesus just fade out, stage left.

    And omg, can people please stop talking and writing in incomplete sentences, a la Mr. Bell himself? It’s stupid annoying.

    • Anonymous

      hahaha. meh. We will see what happens—I think some shake ups are coming.
      btw—it’s called conversational styled writing. It was not originated by Mr. Bell, and as a guy as old as him I have been writing this way for years.

      In fact I have a whole book like this…
      Just to annoy people :)

      Actually it is the way some folks who are speakers can work out their thoughts onto paper—and have it sound like the thoughts in our head. For instance the use of that em dash in the last sentence is the grammatical device I use for a pause in my speech.

      I guess your right..this is an incomplete sentence ;-)

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  • Reggie

    There are some pretty serious grammatical/spelling errors in this post:

    Your witnessing something big right now.
    Your witnessing a new split in Protestant Evangelicalism

    Should have been written:

    You’re witnessing something big right now.
    You’re witnessing a new split in Protestant Evangelicalism

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  • D’brent

    I really don’t think it will be the huge split you are anticipating–at least not one where there is a moment in time and a change in name. After all “emerging” and “emergent” have been around for a pretty good time now and that really doesn’t seem to be what this “split” is going to divide into.

    Truth is, people have already left: either physically or mentally. Look at the Barna “Revolutionaries” or the booming house church/organic church movement.

    It won’t be what you think. It will be much more subtle and quiet.

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  • http://twitter.com/largecow Nathan Williams

    Both sides are dead. The mainline churches are dying because they have nothing to offer but form and tradition. There’s no challenge to change your heart or deal with sin, it’s more about social justice, and even that’s watered down. The young generation churches that are on this side will die because there are social justice groups doing this more effectively without boring church services attached to it.

    On the other side the evangelical churches are fighting the wrong spirit, and are entrenched in an archaic structure that’s not designed to meet the spiritual needs of people today. It’s not just about changing the structure though. The problem is that there’s way too much groupthink hanging over the institution. We’re in an age when information is readily available everywhere. If you feel you can’t ask a question or express doubt in the teachings of a church, guess what? It will feel like a cult and people won’t want to come, and as soon as they encounter a place where they can explore and express doubt (i.e. college, or one of the hip new evangelical churches that are adopting the mainline stance), they’ll drop off the map.

    If your faith is real, you can kick the tires without it falling apart and without the group subtly shunning you.

    • Anonymous

      I think this comment is widely the perception and feeling of the vast sea of young people I work with. Thanks Nathan for your honesty.

    • Anonymous

      I think this comment is widely the perception and feeling of the vast sea of young people I work with. Thanks Nathan for your honesty.

  • Northernfires

    Wow Spencer,

    For a guy trying to “change the world one act of love at a time” I don’t think that labelling Reformed Christians as “haters” will be particularly productive. Simply questioning whether a teaching is orthodox or not does not make one a hater.

    I am fully Arminian in theology and have real differences with the Calvinists, but your broad strokes and name calling are not helpful. It is not only the Reformed crowd that is bothered by Rob Bell’s open promotion of Universalism. All Christians should be bothered by that.

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately you have missed the entire point of the article.

      I am not calling anyone a hater, which seems to stress you out.
      I am not calling anyone a heretic, which seems acceptable to you

      I wrote the article to discuss how vocabulary, collaboration and communication has broken down between major groups in evangelicalism.

      “Heretics won’t be comfortable being lumped in with Haters
      Haters won’t be comfortable being lumped in with Heretics”

      i’m not personally calling anyone anything—I’m stating the perceptions the groups have toward ONE ANOTHER..

      I stand by my points:

      1#I do these perceptions being hoisted on others. 2# I do see a lack of willingness to work with one another because of the WIDE differences of how they experience Christianity. #3 I do see you’re clearly one sided reaction to the terms ‘heretics & haters’ as an affirmation of my observation.

      The label ‘heretic’ is not any kinder than the label ‘hater’…that needs to be recognized here for the discussion to actually take on it’s intended place.

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  • Hi

    You know, that’s what I really love about organizations like Youth With a Mission. People from all walks of life with just one mission statement: Know God and make him known. I was with them for about 4 years, and it was a very eye-opening experience. You get to know so many people with such different worldviews, cultural backgrounds, ways of communicating, and ways of worshiping God. And through it you learn how to relate to and love a melting pot of people who love God and then turn around and love others with them. I’m reading “Love Wins” right now, and it’s pretty mind-blowing. Still processing it all, but I can say that I’m really feeling inspired to love and serve people around me, which I’m so far taking as one of the key messages of this book. I’m interested to see where it takes the church.

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  • not a bell follower

    I’m sorry, this book has created more questions for me than before I read it! Basically what I heard Bell saying is that it doesn’t matter in the end, we will ALL experience eternal life with Christ. So that being said, why try so hard to live as Christ now? After all, I’ll be able to chose once again after I die.

    • Anonymous

      friend,

      If you can’t figure out why you should pattern your life after Jesus—beyond the idea of going to Heaven & escaping Hell—you have missed most of the point of Jesus.

      The life of Jesus warrants imitating & following far beyond our agenda to escape bad things and get good things.

    • Anonymous

      friend, following Jesus is much bigger than simply getting into heaven or avoiding Hell—it is about experiencing what God made you to be as a human and sharing that love with others that you meet.

      Its scary that people who consider themselves Christians can’t seem to be motivated to follow the Creator of the Universe beyond their agenda to get something. Paul discusses this and comes to the same conclusion—following Jesus is a process we engage in that honors God. I hope you can find the same joy and hope in the process of patterning your life after the Whole Pattern of Jesus that I have found—finding my humanity and purposehas worth it been worth every sacrifice for me!

      • D-Dawg

        To be fair, most anything we do can be linked to us getting something. To say, “I hope you can find the same joy and hope…that I have found” appeals to the listener’s desire for “getting” joy and hope.

        The idea of selfishness is one I have struggled with as well, but Jesus repeatedly talks in ways that deal with our receiving something. Storing up treasures in heaven. Gaining entrance into the heavenly kingdom. Having life more abundant. Receiving salvation from death and hell.

        Whatever we do is ultimately motivated by what we want. It’s just that God desires us to want what He wants.

        • Anonymous

          To be fair—would imply I was NOT being fair. I think your analysis is way off— I think God loves us without agenda—and we are to love others without agenda. I do hope for things for people. I do have a purpose in life—those are not to be confused with some underlying desire.

          God loves His children because they are His. Period. We must learn to love others in the same way. I think the systems of many forms of Christianity operate out of agenda—these are not to be confused with love or in my opinion with Jesus.

          • D-Dawg

            Saying “to be fair” does imply non-fairness on your part. I retract that.

            I think when we deny the “get something” part of our relationship with God, we end up rejecting large swaths of what He wants for us. He repeatedly expresses His desire to give us peace, protection, wisdom, life, and salvation, among other good things. He wants us to want these things. He created us with a will that is motivated by wanting things we believe to be good. He just wants us to desire the right things and conform our life accordingly.

            I don’t know that we completely disagree at the end of the day. But if Jesus says to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, then if only to be obedient, I must allow myself to be motivated in part by that fear.

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  • Doug

    I believe you are absolutely right, and this shift has been happening for a while as many people are finding evangelical Christianity to be politically aligned and too rigid to question anything,

    There is also a shift in people rethinking 4 walled Church settings and are leaving the institutional form of Christianity to a more home based personal setting and God is blessing it.

    There are articles I have read that are similar too your thoughts, good job.

    • Anonymous

      thanks man for the encouraging words. appreciate it.

  • Kate

    It seems to me that people are taking their eye off Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He never changes, and His Truth never changes. Regardless of what I believe, His Word is Truth and stand for eternity.

    Although it may be against current “PC” standards, God warns us about being “yoked together”” with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.

    In Romans 16:17, we are warned to “watch out for those who cause divisions, and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ…”

    And contrary to Rob Bell’s opinion and (in my opinion – actual assertion) that “A God who would allow people to go to hell is not a great God, according to Bell, and the traditional belief that He would is “devastating … psychologically crushing … terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7) — God is very clear in Romans 9: 11-23 that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion….”

    It’s a tough passage, and there are more like it. Ultimately, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is Holy, Just and Righteous in all He does, whether I understand it or not.

    His ways are not my ways.

    I found this review of Rob’s book, and I believe it is based not in opinion, but in the Truth of God’s Word:

    “Christians do not need more confusion. They need clarity. They need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. And let’s be honest–many truths are very, very hard to swallow.

    Love does win, but not the kind of love that Bell talks about in this book. The love he describes is one that is founded solely on the idea that the primary object of God’s love is man; indeed, the whole story, he writes, can be summed up in these words: “For God so loved the world.” But this doesn’t hold a candle to the altogether amazing love of God as actually shown in the Bible. The God who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), who acts on our behalf not so much because His love for us is great, but because He is great (Isaiah 48:9, Ezekiel 20:9,14,22,44, 36:22; John 17:1-5).

    (Me speaking, again) I am young, and for sure I have “refined” and examined how I live as a follower of Christ against what I was taught growing up in the Church. I think Jesus is different from some of what I was taught, and clearly he was loving, compassionate and kind. He was also brutally honest at times, and clear that He is the Way, Truth and the Life – and no one comes to the Father but through Him. (John 14:6)

    Acts 16:30b,31 “….what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…”

    I don’t think there has to be a polarization of “haters” and “heretics”. I honestly found your article to be … sad, and every bit as empty as Rob’s book.

    As Christians, I believe we have a responsibility to always point to Scripture – it is the only thing that will never return void. It doesn’t matter if I agree with it, or understand it. It is the Word of The Lord, and unlike our opinions, it will last forever and is incredibly powerful. Life changing, in fact. Words are empty apart from it.

    PS. D-Dawg, I appreciate that you continually point to Scripture.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Kate,

      Thanks for your comments on the article—I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts. There is one thing that I should make clear about both Rob Bell and many other Progressives…

      They take the Bible just as seriously as you do—they just read it differently. I think that is OK. I think there are lots of smart people who read the whole Bible and come to varying conclusions on things…but let us be fair about one thing…

      Just because someone does not read the Bible the way we do—doesn’t mean that they dont take the Bible—or Jesus—seriously. That is unfair and untrue.

      thanks!

      • Kate

        Hey Jimmy,

        I think the Bible is pretty clear on what it means, and if there are questions around the actual meanings of words, there are many resources to help us understand those original meanings. The Bible is inspired by God – it says exactly what He wants it to and He tells us that it is why would anyone thing they have the right to portray it means whatever they want it to?

        God gave us a free will, and we are free to worship what and whom we wish. I am completely down with people believing whatever they want to believe, and if they ask about the hope that is in me, I share Christ with them.

        I have a HUGE problem with people creating their own “interpretation” of the Bible apart from what God clearly intended, and then claiming it’s God’s word. Call it what it is – Your word.

        If it’s your own interpretation, if you don’t like parts of the Bible or decide to take some pieces out and maybe “adjust” some of the rest of what it says – at least be honest about that.

        People don’t need more deception, and young people don’t need people masquerading as Bible-believing Christians if they’re not. If you’re really in touch with us – you know that honestly and transparency are important to us.

        For sure there are sections in the Bible that may have more than one interpretation – but the stuff that Rob Bell is calling out – nope, it’s pretty clear.

        I think Rob Bell’s book. “Love Wins” is terrible. I think for a man that is supposedly a Christian leader, to write something that causes confusion, calls the truth of God’s Word into question (when God gives us most of those answers pretty clearly – even if we don’t like what He says), leads people away from the Truth of Christ and His Word, and in the end causes people to question if the Bible means what it says — is unthinkable.

        The Bible says we are to question what man says to us – and what standard do we question that against? The Word of God. Rob Bell falls seriously short.

        I think if Rob Bell has decided he doesn’t like what the Bible says, and he wants to live by his own ideas and interpretations, he should be honest about that with everyone. I believe he creates division with this book – and in essence is saying you either believe the “progressive version” like I do – or you are a hateful person if you believe God is like the Bible portrays Him.

        Where’s the Love in that? Where is God in that? Where’s the Bible in that?

        You can’t call the infallibility of the Word of God into question and still claim to be His follower. Christ warns us about that – he warned against replacing it with something else, or adding or subtracting from it. The Jewish leaders in His day had added to it with their Oral Traditions: Matthew 5:17; 15:1–9; 22:29; (cf. 5:43, 44); Mark. 7:1–12. (Destroying faith in the Bible as God’s Word will open the door today to a ‘new’ Tradition.)

        Jesus committed the task of all writing of the Word of God to fallible men—guided by the infallible Holy Spirit. The apostles’ words had the same authority as Christ’s: Matthew 10:14, 15; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 14:22; 15:26, 27; 16:12–14.

        “Progressives” (if that’s what it’s called) need to be honest about the fact that they don’t believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

        Again, God gives all of us the free will to believe what we want to. Let’s just be honest about what that is.

        If you don’t believe the Bible is true, or “too harsh” to be true – be upfront about that fact. Call it out. Don’t couch it in “questions” and “accusations” and intimations that if you believe the traditional belief that He would…is “devastating … psychologically crushing … terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7 of Love Wins).

        Again, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is Holy, Just and Righteous in all He does, whether I understand it or not.

        God is very clear in Romans 9: 11-23 that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion….”

        The Word of the Lord.

        • Jonmac

          Just a bit for you to ponder Kate…your summary line of, “His ways are not our ways,” in relation to accepting the reality of an eternal hell: You are quoting Isaiah 55. Read the context. It is about mercy…

          “Let the wicked forsake his way…let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord,” Isaiah 55:6-9

          Also your Romans 9 passage is out of context. Keep reading till the end of the subject matter, chapter 11 verses 32 through the end. This is also about incredible mercy ending immediately with the line, “O the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable His ways…they are past finding out!”

          God seems to think we tend to assume Him LESS merciful than He really is, not more. (See Jonah)

          Kate, before you continue to assume that people who believe this do not read or love their Bibles, please see free online book, “Hope Beyond Hell” and I guarantee you that you will at least respect where these people are coming from, ….Scripturally …and be able to accept them as true believers in and lovers of Christ. They choose to see the judgement verses through the lens of the mercy verses. In light of “love never fails” and “mercy triumphs over judgement,” and “Behold I am making all things new,” and “EVERY knee will bow,” what is the precedent for seeing it the other way around? What does the Bible say has the very last word? Death? or Life? Righteousness? or eternal perpetuation of sin, death, rebellion and evil embodied within billions of God’s image-bearers consigned to a place in God’s universe called hell to coincide with God’s holiness …forever? this si incoherent. It also smacks of dualism; evil never defeated.

          (The book is written by a solid evangelical missionary BTW)

          Grace and peace to you

          • Kate

            Hey jonmac,

            Thanks for replying. I understand the context of the verses – God obviously desires that we all come to Him, and He is merciful. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for that mercy. He wants “the wicked to forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord and He will have mercy on them…” (Isaiah 55) Mercy? Absolutely. Repentence as well? Yup.

            Please don’t mistake me – I do not wish for people to be judged. I LOVE that God is merciful and I thank Him every day for His mercy, that it is new every day — because I need it. I truly do. I wish every single person on earth would open their eyes and SEE Jesus, and I pray that they will see Him and His light in me.

            Rob Bell asserts that a God who would allow people to go to hell is not a great God, according to Bell, the traditional belief that He would is “devastating … psychologically crushing … terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7).

            In our humanness, because we try to make sense of things within our limited understanding, it is hard for us to understand the ways of God. In your mind these topics mentioned may smack of dualism, but I know that I cannot begin to fathom the reasons behind so much of what has and will happen – but He does. He is omniscient, all knowing, holy, just, and perfect.

            I don’t have to understand it or fathom it logically. From my perspective, that’s faith. There are many things I don’t understand, although I do my best to. When I can’t, I take the Word of God as it is, and trust Him.

            I know the Bible is true. I know it is Inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”).

            I will never think that my understanding is on par with God’s – or that it needs to be. Isa 55: 8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than you ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (That’s a pretty huge gap.)

            My point through this “exchange” is to point to Jesus and the Bible. It is the only thing that will not return void. It’s not about me or what I think, don’t think, can’t fathom, or judge as being “traumatizing” or conflicting. I love reading and learning. I compare everything that I read (regardless of who wrote it) to the Bible. In the end, it’s the Bible I believe.

            I am a democrat/progressive politically, but I constantly ask Jesus to help me keep Him and His agenda to love others in focus first. I believe in tolerance, caring for people, our earth, and love. However, when it comes to Jesus and the truth of God’s Word, I am like a lioness. That I will defend.

            It breaks my heart to see these men, that I once respected, turning people away from the Scriptures. Calling its truth into question, and creating confusion.

            We need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. I believe if Tony Campolo and Rob Bell continue to make their limited understanding and political beliefs at the center of their teachings, they will fail.

            Colossians 2:6-10 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”

            Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Scripture is God-breathed. This is what we should be pointing to.

            True, lasting change comes from a heart made new in Christ.

            (I’m not saying Rob Bell does not love God or that he doesn’t read or love his Bible. What has become clear he does not accept it as wholly true, or minimally wants to put his spin on it and incorporate his political beliefs into it. He is totally within his free will rights to do so – I would just appreciate a little honesty around that rather than trying to insinuate that taking the Bible literally (a more traditional view, if you will) is “psychologically crushing…”)

            God’s grace and peace to you,
            ~Kate

          • Jonmac

            Kate I am glad that you are able to keep the psychologically crushing ideas of an eternal hell out of your mind by not thinking about it and just “having faith.” Most people just cannot do that. And it was God Himself that has told us that He has written His law (sense of justice and right and wrong) on our hearts. He tells us to “make right judgements” and to “test all things.” He asks us to “come, let us reason.” He gave you a mind to think with. Traditions of men don’t take much reasoning.
            Consider David who meditated on God’s righteous judgements and rejoiced over them. Was he thinking of billions of humans burning and tormented in an eternal hell forever without end? Was this what he was dancing about? I believe there is a temporal destruction of our enemies that we do rejoice over but true justice always includes a hope in final restoration and reconciliation.

            No one is denying judgement, Kate. It is the nature of that judgement that is in question. Chuck Colson has written a book entitled, “Justice That Restores” advocating for a restorative justice within the penal system. He advocates, based on the OT and NT laws, for a justice that culminates in restitution and reconciliation between the offender and the victim. The stories are astounding. Does this justice, based on God’s moral law, have no bearing upon, no connection, no reference to God’s pen-ultimate justice in the universe?

            The Jews were extremely astute with the Scriptures and loved them with all their heart (they were not bad people as stereotyped). How is it they somehow missed the giant forest in the trees? If you look at the OT you have to admit it was a bit sketchy how they were supposed to expect a suffering servant as their Messiah. Do you think it’s possible we may be looking through the wrong grid? How in the world did the Jews miss the Messiah when they loved the word of God so much? (They still can’t see Him). Although, God does seem to have a history of “hiding things from the wise and learned.”

            I totally understand your objections Kate. I was exactly where you are a few years ago. If someone would have said I would be defending this view I would have thought they were crazy. But someone took the time to challenge me lovingly and patiently and I could not dismiss what they were saying and I could not answer their questions coherently. Hope Beyond Hell is a book written by s a solid GODLY Evangelical missionary. He honestly leaves no rock unturned as to your questions. Please at least read it so you can better think through your arguments and as well respect how many Christians can believe this is BIBLICAL. Really, I know it sounds impossible. But for unity’s sake you have to be able to know how to respond to Christians who believe this because they are growing in number. If you are an Arminian, i assume you accept your Calvinistic brothers and sisters even though their view of God is 180 in opposition to yours (look it up) Because of this they often call each other “heretics”. But should they? As well should you call someone who adheres to the church creeds (which do not contain an eternal hell BTW) but believes the verses of life, mercy, every knee will bow etc., trumps all others? Is someone to be called a heretic because they believe God’s last word is resurrection, not eternal death? Is it heresy to believe the cross is bigger, stronger, more effectual?

            Grace and peace to you sister

          • Kate

            Thanks, jonmac. I will read the Hope Beyond Hell book that you referenced, and I truly appreciate your concern and the geniune caring that I sense from you. (I’ll respond here once I’ve finished it.)

            In the end, I will not “test” it by my feelings or logic, but by the Bible and what it says.

            I don’t ignore ‘hell” and I don’t focus on it either. I focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. Am I “simple”? Maybe. When I look at people in the Bible that suffered beyond what I can imagine, and see how they clung to God/Jesus and praised Him even still — I see amazing faith that looks beyond human understanding to a God who is worthy of our praise, in every circumstance.

            I choose not to water it down so it fits my view of justice or what is right. I accept that there are some things I may never understand, and that God sees beyond what I can. His plan is perfect. His ways are perfect, even when I don’t understand.

            Faith.

            My reality doesn’t determine who He is, or his Love, or holiness. He is “I AM”.

            You are right about one thing – I sort of “get” why people try to bring God down to a human level and to understand Him. But for me it doesn’t change Him, or His truth, and I am so thankful for that.

            I don’t adhere to any particular religion or sect – those labels all seem very empty to me. I am a follower of Christ, through faith, not of my own works, but through His death, burial and resurrection. I am well aware there is nothing I can do in and of myself. I believe the Bible.

            With all that said, I also know God sees our hearts, where other people can’t. For sure, I believe what is there matters to Him more than any outward appearance, or words.

            I have learned from you — thank you, really. I felt angry with Rob Bell and disappointed in Tony Campolo that they have shifted from defending the inerrant, infallible Word of God. But it is God who tests our hearts (1 Thes 2:4, Prov. 17:3) and completely wrong of me to judge them. Now I will simply pray for them.

            Thanks again, jonmac.
            ~Kate

          • Kate

            Hey jonmac,

            I’m on page 15 of “Hope Beyond Hell” and all 3 verses of scripture on this page alone are taken out of context.

            I’m not easily led astray and I know it’s important to read God’s word in context. I already know that I cannot agree with Hope Beyond Hell. The final authority for me is the Word of God – I will not put my human reasoning above that.

            In essence, it’s as if they have done taken your words above, and said, “Jonmac believes the Jews missed the Messiah. He said we can keep the psychologically crushing ideas of an eternal heall out of our mind by not thinking about it. He believes we should rejoice over the temporal destruction of our enemies.

            — did the Jews miss the Messiah?
            — you are able to keep the psychologically crushing ideas of an eternal hell out of your mind by not thinking about it and just “having faith”
            — I believe there is a temporal destruction of our enemies that we do rejoice over

            How does that make you feel? Having your words above taken out of context and written in a way that they do not at all represent what you said above?

            I can do it easily, and people will be led to believe this is what you said if they don’t take the time to read it themselves and prove it against your original comment.

            I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Scripture is God-breathed. I believe it is true – all of it – not just what I want to believe.

            Not because I said so, but God does in His Word. Not my words – His.

            May He be glorified,
            Kate

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

          Kate, first off, I’m agnostic; I wanted to say that for the sake of intellectual honesty.

          In my past life as a Christian, it was my experience that everyone picks and chooses from the bible. Everyone. Even those pastors who go through the Bible chapter and verse in order, have to pick and choose to address events of the day. After all, when was the last time you heard a sermon on Leviticus 25:44-46 (the passage on how you may purchase and treat your slaves)?
           
          As for Rob Bell, does he claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, or does he believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but crafted by man? One may believe that the Bible is authoritative, but that because men created it, it’s subject to interpretation and even error.  That doesn’t make you less of a Christian.  

          You state, “I believe he creates division with this book – and in essence is saying you either believe the “progressive version” like I do – or you are a hateful person if you believe God is like the Bible portrays Him.” I read “Love Wins,” and certainly did not get that from the book.
          I do believe, however, that a Christianity that focuses more on the grace and magnaninity of Jesus Christ, than on the horrific Hell that awaits nonbelievers and sinners is far more attractive to skeptics such as myself.  

  • Barry

    An excellent Biblical account of Heaven and Hell:

    http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/luke/heaven-and-hell

  • Sam

    The “emergence” of Rob Bell and a “new” theology should not be surprising. This has happened before. Since it is the traditional church and its doctrines that are being called into question, I found it helpful to read an article from a man in that camp. This topic is so central to the question of our eternal salvation that it is vital to get the teachings from cool heads on all sides. Hope this helps to clarify.

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/16/we-have-seen-all-this-before-rob-bell-and-the-reemergence-of-liberal-theology/

  • Anonymous

    Sam, to be clear it is not the Traditionalist church being questioned—as if the authority lies there. There are thousands of years of history of Christians who do not agree with the theology of the current Evangelical churches (and pre-date it). Much of what Rob Bell and Progressives have been discussing are theological principles that have long stood the test of time in traditions such as the Orthodox church, Mainline Protestantism, and the Catholic church.

    You are correct when you say that these ideas precede the evangelical church.

    In fact—for the Evangelical church—the genie is very much out of the bottle. Meaning, that there is NO authority for leaders. Of course, there is the Bible—but ALL sides on any discussion claim to have Biblical views. ALL sides willingly submit to the authority of how they read the BIble. They each read the Bible VERY differently—and often it simply descends into a verse quoting debate.

    To imply that the Mr. Mohler’s article is needed to ‘clarify’ things is a bit misleading. It does however represent a particularly vocal faction (just like the Driscoll link below it) within evangelicalism—and that is more than welcomed on the discussion thread.

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  • Sean Daly

    hey Jimmy ~ I appreciate your perspectives. I see you speak of all this new exploring happening among the younger set? By that you could be implying the oldies will not have an ‘in’ on the new thing? So, here I am, knocking on the 60yr-old door; shaped for decades in the evangelic world [live in South Africa]; have moved on from traditional forms of evangelic expressions – but do not consider myself a liberal.

    Seems to me that my origins in the hippie days of late 1960’s & early 70’s still runs deep in my soul – that longing for a world that is in touch with a ‘kingdom coming’. As Rob says in his book, ‘here is the new there’. My experience in SA is that the [extreme] conservatives merely dismiss and reject those of us who long for more reality to this Jesus narrative.

    So keep in mind the ancient hippies who have been engaging with the Lord around this emergence for some decades already… Sean Daly 

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  • aspiechristian

    I’m now 58 years old. I became a Christian 40 years ago in a moderate-to-liberal, southern Presbyterian church (PCUS). I was happy there. In that church, I received, along with my pastor, the Charismatic Experience. Shortly thereafter, I did something I’ve always regretted: I allowed my peers, whom I believed were far more spiritual than me, to convince me to leave “dead denominationalism.” I jumped from there into a loud nondenominational church (I can still hear the tambourine in my left ear like cicadas). That move took a day to accomplish.

    From there, it took over twenty years to even begin to find my way back. Part of my motivation – my vocation attracted a significant minority of gay men, with whom I became friends. They came for dinner, or out to dinner with my wife and me, and we cared for them, so I wished I could have invited them to church, but of course, that was impossible. Instead of doubting the church as I should have, I doubted God. It’s easier to doubt God than it is to stand up to judgmental people. 

    I was just starting to read about gay people in the Episcopal Church, and after attending off and on for many years, I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church – just last year. I love this ancient, yet new kind of Christianity I discovered. One thing is certain: It’s safer on the soul to be a little bit conservative in a liberal church than it is to be a little bit liberal in a conservative church.

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  • Philip153fish

    If its a nail the thesis to the door moment for progressive evangelicals – better be clear what the thesis actually is! It might be ok to start with pre-eminently God is Love but thereafter there is work to do! Sola scriptura? Yes but with cultural perspective..? Sola fides? Yes but is it in vicarious atonement? ‘no man comes to the Father but by me’ as an inclusive not exclusive statement? Probably..

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  • Paul

    1. Read the Holy Bible.
    2. Questions?
    3. Have you considered asking the Holy Spirit? Why not?

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  • Joel Sutton

    I see signs of Phyllis Tickle’s semi-millennial “rummage sale.” Not a bad thing. The church has, for too long, been hanging onto some stuff that we can let go.

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