Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bell, Baptists, and Hell

After controversy, Baptists affirm belief in ‘eternal’ hell

June 16, 2011

Categories:Christian, faith, news, RNS
c. 2011 Religion News Service
(RNS) Southern Baptists on Wednesday (June 14) called hell an “eternal, conscious punishment” for those who do not accept Jesus, rebutting a controversial book from Michigan pastor Rob Bell that questions traditional views of hell.
Citing Bell’s book “Love Wins,” the resolution urges Southern Baptists “to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”
Several leaders during the Baptists’ two-day meeting in Phoenix coupled warnings about hell with pleas for evangelism — especially in areas where there are no churches or missionaries.
“Is hell real? Is hell forever? Did God really say sinners would perish in eternal torment forever and ever?” asked pastor and author David Platt of Birmingham, Ala. “Oh, readers of Rob Bell and others like him, listen very carefully be very cautious, when anyone says, `Did God really say this?”‘
Bell’s book, released in March, criticizes the “misguided” view that “select Christians” will live forever in heaven while the rest of humanity will suffer eternal torment in a punishing hell.
Earlier this year, the Southern Baptist-affiliated Lifeway Christian Stores quietly removed warning labels from certain books — including Bell’s — that “could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.”
“At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that … hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins,” Bell wrote in “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived.”
Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright prayed that Southern Baptists would take to heart the statement they passed on hell.
“Father, because the reality of hell is so real, the permanent separation from you is so real, and our hours here on this earth are so limited, we pray that you will give us a fresh sense of conviction of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he prayed right after the resolution was adopted.
On Tuesday, Baptists elected a black pastor from New Orleans as first vice president, the highest office in the denomination ever held by a black man. Pastor Fred Luter of New Orleans is already being talked about as a prime candidate for SBC president next year.
“It’s a great feeling,” Luter said in an interview Wednesday, comparing his election to the accolades he received when he was tapped as the first African-American to give the convention sermon in 2001.
The mostly white denomination, which traces its roots to Civil War-era defense of slavery, voted Tuesday on specific measures to increase the ethnic diversity of its top leadership — which Luter cited as a genuine shift.
“I think the change is that the denomination is purposely at the point where we know we have to open up the doors for more ethnics to be involved in leadership roles in the convention,” he said.
As for a possible presidency, Luter said he’s not campaigning.
“I do hear the people talking,” he said. “They talk to me about it. But I’ve been telling them, ‘Let’s just take this one day at a time, one year at a time.’ … I’m praying about it and just praying that God will just lead us.”

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

If I were an atheist

The whole of Christianity stands on the resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Paul states, "We apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised" (1 Corinthians 15:15-16).  Paul says that without the resurrection of Jesus, they (the apostles) are all a bunch of liars.

One of the biggest evangelist of all times, the apostle Paul, gives atheism the blueprint for the destruction of Christianity.  If I were an atheist, I would not waste my time calling  Christianity false because I believe it to be a fairy tale, I would go right for the jugular - the resurrection.  If I were an atheist, I wouldn't waste my time on evolution as the best explanation, I would attempt to destroy the Jesus story.  If it can be shown that the bodily resurrection is untrue then Christianity is toast.  If I were an atheist I would use Paul's blueprint to blowup the Christian religion.

One problem exists for the atheist - the bodily resurrection of Jesus fits the evidence of truth.  Throughout the centuries various stories have been put forth to counter the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but all have come to naught.  If I were an honest and open-minded atheist, maybe I should reconsider the evidence, but where would that leave me?

Why God Allows Pain and Suffering - Lee Strobel

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When you hit reality

"Where do we come from?" and "What is real?" are two of the most puzzling and debated questions in the history of philosophical thought.  Today, the philosopher does not have the the microphone as in the past.  Today, it is the scientific community that has been given the reigns of authority when truth is in question.  In the past, the Christian community had some authority, but a paradigm shift occurred with Darwin's publication of the "Origin of Species" in 1859.

What does the scientific community have to make it the supposed bearer of truth?  With the medical advancements and the continued progress of science, it is easy to see why many would turn to science for answers.  But, what about the big questions of life, does science have absolute authority to answer?

One of the primary driving forces of science is the idea of empiricism.  Empiricism deals with sense experience.  In other words, all knowledge is driven by sense experience alone.  This makes the natural world the only world by which knowledge can be achieved.  Supernatural, therefore, is confined to superstition and fairy tale status.

If science is indeed king, then it follows that science should answer all, or at least point us to the truth of what is real.  Does the scientific method or science in general meet the criteria for answering all truth claims?  No, for the statement itself is not able to be tested in the lab, by the scientific method, or by any scientific means.  There are many instances where the field of science can do nothing but make subjective statements, because the answers to the questions fall outside the scientific community.  For example, the laws of logic, a human's first person awareness, the moral law, and mathematical entities all lie outside of scientific explanation.

Today, unfortunately, the culture has caved in to the idea that science is the purveyor of truth.  Before giving science the scepter of truth, shouldn't we first confirm if science matches with truth?  Truth is what happens when you hit reality, because truth corresponds with reality.  Science can in no way hit all reality to justify that it is the sole possessor of truth.  Many have opinions about science, but opinions don't count unless they match with truth.   Truth is objective and knowable.

When looking at the big questions of life, maybe we should be cautious and consider all the evidence, even if the evidence falls outside the realm of science.  Maybe we should be open-minded and follow the evidence without pre-conceived ideas.  When we do so, we are able to see more clearly the answers to the big questions of life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get off my ethics

We live in a very egotistical society today.  It seems the culture is falling apart wherever you look.  Most individuals will simply live for themselves.  None of us are living a perfect life, as Paul states, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) ."  But,  greed and sexual promiscuity seem to be the order of the day.  The sad fact is, some in the Church behave no differently than the world. 

Embattled congressman, Anthony Weiner said yesterday, "I did nothing illegal."  According to Weiner and others, it is man who decides what is right or wrong.  Question:  If Weiner did nothing wrong, why would he have to explain himself?  In other words, if a moral law does not exist, Weiner was completely unjustified in trying to make amends for his actions.  But, it is obvious that Weiner crossed some type of moral line.  He did something that was not right ethically. 

On an atheistic worldview, moral responsibility has to be seen as an evolutionary byproduct of the brain.  In essence, on a Darwinian viewpoint, morality is nothing more than acting on one's predetermined evolutionary program.  If this is the fall back position of society, then society is in trouble, because responsibility is thrown out the window.  When Weiner said, "I did nothing illegal", he was only acting on his egotistical ethical system.  Get off my ethics really boils down to man's wish to become autonomous in his relationship with the moral law-giver - God.

Is God just?

One of the most often debated subjects deals with the Christian God's sense of justice.  Statements like, "I would never serve a God who condemns individuals to hell" or "Why does God call for the destruction of others."  Usually, most individuals are just acting on sound bites of information they have heard other spew their way.  This perception of God has also troubled individuals within the church.  Looking recently at Rob Bell's interview on CNN, would seem to indicate that he has trouble with a just God.

Why is it that some within the Church have trouble with this aspect of God's nature?  I could be wrong, but it is my belief that a little egotistical attitude enters the equation.  Within the "Emergent Movement" there seems to be a disdain for a God of justice.  If hell is so wrong for some, the obvious push in the opposite direction would be toward universalism, but is this how God is described in the bible?  Absolutely not!  One of the aspects of God's nature is that of justice, for without justice, God is no longer loving. 

2 Peter 3:9 states, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  In other words, God does not take pleasure in some one's choice to continually rebel against Him and consciously separate themselves from His goodness.  For those who have a problem with the justice of God, are they not guilty of judging where only God can judge?