Categotry Archives: theological questions

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A Question to Make Your Brain Hurt…

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Categories: food for thought, theological questions

The “sinner’s prayer” is the basic prayer where we admit our sin and our need for a Savior, ask for forgiveness, and confess Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. It is generally considered by evangelicals to be the moment when someone is “saved”, when a spiritual conversion and rebirth takes place, and that person becomes a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17).

However…out of the approximate two thousand year history since the church was born…the “sinner’s prayer” has been part of our practice for less than 150 years.

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If God Is My Father, How Can Jesus Be My Boyfriend?…

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Categories: food for thought, missional, theological questions

Umm….don’t linger there too long. 🙂

A good friend of mine said something recently that has really resonated in my soul. He said, “Every metaphor breaks down at some point.” NOW does the title make a little sense? 🙂

Since the fall of man, when man essentially became separate and alienated from God…God has been on a mission to redeem man back to Himself, to restore the relationship that was lost. It is a constant theme throughout Scripture, and I believe it continues today. Emergent/Missional types like to refer to this idea as “Missio Dei”–the mission of God.

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The Plumb Line…

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Categories: food for thought, theological questions

(NOTE FROM THE BLOG-MEISTER: I spent nearly three hours working on this post, and I’m still not completely satisfied with it–because it deals with some hot-button issues, and I’m concerned that some of my remarks could be misinterpreted. If you find Biblical error here, please know that I’m in the process of working some things out theologically even as I write this. If you disagree, feel free to comment and tell me what you think. If it makes you think–then I’ve done my job.)
Hot Question 1: Is the Bible the sum total of the revelation of God?
Hot Question 2: Is the Bible inerrant?

These are questions that I put on the table in our home group meeting a few weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised at the consensus of those gathered; I’ll share about that in a moment.

There were a lot of Biblical catch-phrases that I picked up as a kid in the Word-Faith movement–things like “God and His Word are One” and Jesus being the “Word made flesh.” Maybe it wasn’t intended this way, but it came across to me as though the Scriptures were being presented as this mystical incarnation of God Himself, and somehow when we held that book in our hands, we were holding the complete revelation of Who He is.

Now, let me be clear up front that I highly value the Scripture (higher now, I think, than I ever have), and that I do uphold those Scriptures that identify God with His Word. But in recent days, a couple of questions have gnawed at me:
  • How can finite words, written into finite documents, compiled into a finite book, possibly contain the entire revelation of an infinite God? Wouldn’t that make God finite, and therefore, not really God?
  • If the Bible is the sum total of the revelation of God, why would we even bother seeking to experience His presence through worship experiences? Why not just immerse ourselves in the book and be done with it?
I submit that what is contained in Scripture is sound and totally trustworthy, that it accurately describes God’s will for us, and that those 66 books we identify as the “canon of Scripture”–the Bible–can’t be added to, nor subtracted from. But I think, in fact, most Christ-followers do recognize that there is more to God than we know and understand. The Word of God, the Bible, is absolutely consistent with His character and Person; but God is a Person, a Spirit; He must be more than words can describe. He is to be experienced, and He is to be followed.

When I posed these “hot questions” to the house church, this was the consensus of what they said:
  • To Hot Question 1: The Bible is not all there is to know of God; however, it is inspired by God to equip finite mankind with what we need to know of Him in this life. Also, while there may be more to God than we can know by Scripture, we take safety in knowing He will not say or do anything in violation of the Scriptures, which He inspired.
  • To Hot Question 2: While there are known translational and interpretational errors due to language and culture differences, we believe that God had a purpose in everything that has made its way into the canon of Scripture, and in that regard, we trust it fully.
That’s a summary of their answers. To which I add a hearty “Amen.”

Here’s what I’m saying…

When we take the Bible as the “sum total” of God, it can lead to dogmatic interpretations, legalism, and religiosity. And honestly, I think it de-values the mystery of God when we do that. But on the other extreme, when we de-value the Bible by telling ourselves we don’t have to take it seriously, that portions of it aren’t relevant to us, or that our experiences or other writings are just as relevant….it leads to error and heresy. Both extremes occur, I think, because we’ve not understood what the Bible is for.

I submit that the Bible was given, not as a complete description of God, nor as something we can take or leave; I submit that the Bible was given to be our plumb line.

A plumb line is not the sum total of a building; it measures the center of gravity to determine verticality (literally, to determine which way is “up” and “down”). By its point of reference the building is built correctly; every angle and line of the building is literally based on the plumb line. In the same way, we are to use the Bible as the reference point for every doctrinal idea we have about God, for every method we employ, and for every spiritual experience we have. No matter how much sense it makes, or how convincing it seems…if it doesn’t line up with the plumb line, it must be rejected as lopsided. The Bible is our Plumb Line. The Bible–and nothing else. Without it, we are doomed to build something that is unbalanced.

Here’s why I’m saying it….

There’s a lot of re-thinking and re-evaluating of institutional Christianity going on right now–and rightly so. I’m immersed in that process myself. Yesterday I wrote about being mindful of what needs to be rejected and what simply needs to be re-defined. In this process of de-constructing and re-thinking, I want to add this to the mix:

We need to always remember our Plumb Line.

When I say this, I fully recognize that there are many ways that people interpret Scripture, and I’m not saying that the “plumb line” is my take on Scripture. I am simply saying that the value of Scripture itself must never be compromised. In all that we are processing through, there has to be a plumb line, a reference point, that does not move. Otherwise, we run the risk of building a way of thinking that is just as unbalanced as the structures we’ve left behind.
I also said yesterday that there is a great deal of transition going on, and times of transition are messy. I think we need to allow for that, and give ourselves (and each other) plenty of grace as we find our bearings. So I don’t say these things as an indictment against anyone who is truly searching, but as a reminder to us all (myself included) where our “bearings” need to be. Since leaving behind my institutional mindsets, I’m truly excited by the possibilities I never knew existed. But I’m also overwhelmed by the magnitude of change; and in the process I need to make sure I keep my point of reference in view. Whatever this reshaping may look like…may we never lose sight of our plumb line.

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Hell? No??

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Categories: food for thought, theological questions

In checking a lot of blogs and in reading a lot of material outside my “normal” sphere, one thing I’m noticing is that there seems to be a significant number of people who question the existence of a literal hell. Even some higher-profile ministers (like a Tulsa local, Carlton Pearson) are now challenging hell’s existence. And with many thousands nearly a dozen people reading this blog now regularly, I felt it was my moral obligation to weigh in on the subject and give some food for thought.

I approach the Scriptures pretty practically, so I don’t intend to go into deep theological debate here. But regardless of how people are interpreting the Bible on this point, it seems the underlying argument goes something like this:

“I simply can’t believe that a loving God would create such a horrible place as hell, or send people there for their sins or for not accepting Him. Why would He do such a thing?”

The problem is, so many of us start with a premise or base belief like this, and then look for ways to back our premise with Scripture. That’s a backwards way of doing things. The Scripture itself needs to be our plumb line, and then we need to try to adjust our belief patterns from there.

That said, I’ve been thinking about a single verse of Scripture, one of many that makes reference to hell:

“Then He [the Son of Man] will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, ito the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25:41, NASB)

The actual discussion of “the sheep and the goats” is for another time, but for now just think about this verse. Jesus is telling a group of humans to depart to eternal fire, but He also mentions that this eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels.

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question here. Maybe instead of wondering why a loving God would send people to hell…maybe we should be asking why hell exists in the first place. This verse speaks a couple of things to me:
  1. There is an eternal fire, and people will go there.
  2. Contrary to the red suit/pitchfork mentality, the devil and his demons will not be the tormentors in hell; they will be the tormented. They will be suffering right along with every human who is there.
I want to submit to you that perhaps hell does not exist specifically so God can punish people. I want you to consider that hell was never meant for humans. Humans go there, but they were not meant to. And perhaps this can resolve the question why a loving God and a fiery hell can exist in the same universe.

Although angels and demons are mentioned in Scripture, the Bible really is more about God’s story of redemption for mankind than it is about the story of angels and demons. I do not know why fallen angels apparently cannot be redeemed; it’s one of the mysteries of God. I do believe from Scripture that angelic beings weren’t created to be children and lovers of God, like man was; they were created as servants, and not really designed to exercise free will. And perhaps fallen angels cannot be forgiven because they cannot repent. That’s speculation. But it is clear that God’s redemption through Christ is to redeem man–not angels.

So if hell is really intended for Satan and his angels–and not for the punishment of mankind–why do humans go there?

There is a principle I see in Scripture that when you ally yourself with someone or something, you inherit their judgment. I submit that by the time Satan appeared as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, he was already doomed to eternal fire. When the man and woman sinned, they committed treason and aligned themselves (and their seed) with God’s enemy, and so traded their destiny with God to share in Satan’s destiny, which was eternal damnation. And when this happened–from that moment–God set a plan in motion to redeem mankind from this very bad decision, to rescue us all from a destiny we were never supposed to have, and to restore us to the destiny we were supposed to have with Him all along. That plan culminates with Jesus, who paid the penalty and ransomed us.

So from this perspective, God isn’t “sending” people to hell. Our sin has already set that path in motion for us. Even as the Righteous Judge–like any other judge, when God renders a verdict, He is simply ruling on what is already true. But what God has done is make a way to rescue us, restore us, and redeem us, so that through Christ we don’t have to share in Satan’s damnation. It seems to me that God is more in the business of rescuing people from hell than He is in the business of sending people there. And from where I’m sitting…that’s exactly what a loving God would do.
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