Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Even Worse Than I Thought

Update on yesterday's post. Apparently my little poking fun at the Rick Warren having baptized 800 marathon while talking about small groups really missed the mark. It is much worse than that! There was an actual attempt to reproduce the day of Pentecost with 3,000 baptisms. Here is the announcement.
Two thousand years ago - the Day of Pentecost was the first day of the Christian Church. Acts 2:41 tells us, "About 3,000 people were baptized and joined the church that day." If you'll join us this weekend, history could be repeated at Saddleback! Want to make history?

Which of these requirements do you need to complete this Saturday?

1. Open your heart to Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more.
2. Attend Class 101: Discovering Your Church Family. Sign up.
3. Sign our membership covenant (explained in class).
4. Be baptized the way Jesus commanded and modeled for us.
(Many of us were baptized as kids on our parent's faith. Jesus modeled believer's baptism at age 30 when he was baptized in the Jordan River) It would be my privilege to baptize you after Class 101.



1. I'm personally teaching Class 101 for the first time in ten years.

2. I'm personally baptizing after Class and you'll receive a photo & baptism certificate.

3. You'll get a free one year subscription to Purpose Driven Connection magazine. (Never offered before)

4. You'll get free copy of The Purpose Driven Church book.

5. Your name will be included in the historical list of Saddleback Pioneer Members who joined in our first 30 years. (This Easter is our 30th Easter and I want you included in this list.)

6. The class is 1 hour shorter than normal. You can watch session 3 here online now.

7. You'll be a part of making Christian history! The largest membership class ever!

8. We love you & want you in our family. There is no good reason to procrastinate.

I was asked, "Rick, If you could wish for anything to celebrate your 30 years of service at Saddleback, what would you dream of?" I said, "To experience a repeat of Pentecost - and see 3,000 people affirm their faith and join our church family on a single day." Will you be a part of making this a reality?
And here is the ending,
This is going to be fun. You're the greatest. See you Saturday!

Pastor Rick
Rick Warren
Saddleback Church
Purpose Driven Network
P.E.A.C.E. Coalition

I guess the necessity of preaching that actually brings about conviction of sin and true conversion of the soul is simply out of touch with reality. Well, at least it will be fun.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Small Groups

I thought these two statements from this BP News story were kind of funny.
"It's good to see God at work in so many people's lives," said Steven Tang, the small group leader. "This is what the small group community is about and what Pastor Rick is always talking about. It's amazing to be able to live and participate in the reality of it."
Saddleback Church baptized 800 people in a marathon three and a half hour ceremony March 28, after nearly 2,400 people attended a four-hour class for people interested in becoming members of the church.
Perhaps I am the only one with a strange sense of humor.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama Mania Will Pass

I think these people just sit around and lie to themselves. This story from Yahoo News about the Obama Mania press conference is a great example of the nonsense coming from the Drive-bys. One article states,
The buzziest moment came about 35 minutes into the press conference when Ed Henry of CNN asked the President why he didn't spew outrage as soon as he learned about the AIG bonuses. Why, Mr. Henry asked, did the president wait several days before speaking out? The president, with an icy stare, responded that he "likes to know what he's talking about" before he speaks. It was a pretty testy exchange that brought about nervous laughter from the other reporters and snarky responses from Twitterers. Boom! Next question.
Snarky responses? Nervous laughter? This is news? Is the media trying to show how tough they are? Is the media trying to show we have a tough President? I have no idea what this story is trying to say. Why should the Media be nervous? Is the messiah going to strike them down to purgatory?

The Reporter's question of why did the President wait before he targeted AiG is silly. Never mind the fact that President and congress had written the bonuses into the law. The questions really ought to be, "Why is Obama overthrowing the Constitution?" and "Why is the government targeting private citizens?" and "Why is the government creating mob rule?"

Perhaps the bigger question is "Where are the Republicans?" Why are they sitting idly by or aiding and abetting the Left while Democrats destroy liberty and freedom? Notice this statement,
The president responded that he expects Americans to do what they've always done "which is working hard, looking after their families, making sure that, despite the economic hard times, that they're still contributing to their community..."
Why do we allow these Drive-bys and the Left to determine false premises? Why should the President expect anything from us? Why should the question even be asked? Who is the President to tell the American people that HE expects us to do anything? We don't work for the government. This is just sick. I used to live in the United States. I am not certain where I am at the moment. Perhaps I am on my way to the gulag?

Obama Mania will end, though. I was reminded by my 13 year-old son about American history from his history class yesterday. Not only did this country survive the Civil War, but Roosevelt did very similar things during the Great Depression to prolong the Depression and institute permanent Democrat power. We eventually not only survived those times, but managed to even prosper after them. Even if we do not, as a Christian I am reminded the tastes of freedom in this age may be fleeting. Those shadows of freedom will only be fully realized in the age to come, when the true Messiah comes and destroys the wicked and the "meek shall inherit the earth".

Note: the image comes from a wrestling forums website.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thumbing Collective Nose?

I thought this CitizenLink was interesting. The brief article sounds as if all of Rome is upset.
There’s a clear contradiction between his policies and that which a Catholic institution is presumably bound to promote.'

President Barack Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement May 17.

Longtime Notre Dame philosophy professor Ralph McInerny called it "a deliberate thumbing of the collective nose at the Roman Catholic Church to which Notre Dame purports to be faithful."

Yet I have to ask, "What is the big deal?" I don't see Rome excommunicating church members such Nancy Pelosi. She has actual political power. Notre Dame is a school, not a church or government institution. Perhaps Rome will act in an appropriate manner towards Notre Dame. I highly doubt it though. These guys may speak tough all they want. Until Rome does something about it, nothing is going to change.

In my opinion, Rome is hardly getting snubbed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jacob Reads

Jacob has taught himself to read.

Well, ok...we have been reading more. He loves reading Stop That Ball! and Green Eggs and Ham.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Working Together

A good friend of mine sent me a quick note concerned about my post on evangelism methods. I basically stated that Calvinists may not use the method of walking up to complete strangers and unbelievers and say "Christ died for you". This has become a test of faith for many Southern Baptists. Yet I think this point of contention may easily divide unnecessarily. So I thought I'd take another post to explain a situation that has arisen among Southern Baptists.

1) First, I think for many, the phrase "Jesus died for you" is inconsistently being used by the non-Calvinist. However, I don't think there is real detrimental harm in its usage depending on how it is defined. For instance, even Calvinists such as John Piper will use this phrase when witnessing to the lost. But as in his conversation with Bruce Ware on Limited Atonement makes obvious, Piper is careful as to what he means by this phrase. The average Christian probably is not.

The average non-Calvinist when using the phrase "Jesus died for you" most likely means what the Calvinist means when he says, "Christ's death is able to save all those who will trust in His finished work on the cross." This is a point of agreement and something we should all work together in advancing the Kingdom of Christ. We all want the same thing. We want all men everywhere to be reconciled to God through the atoning work of Christ.

2) Second, simply because the Calvinist may not want to go to unbelievers and say "Jesus died for you", does not mean he is not willing to evangelize. The non-Calvinist must keep in mind that the Calvinist desires to be Biblical in his method of evangelization. The Calvinist does not believe that God has been silent on the issue and also believes God has ordained certain means to accomplish the salvation of the lost.

A side point must be made. Hyper-Calvinists may strongly disagree with this side point. For they not only seek doctrinal perfection. They see doctrinal perfection a must in order for anyone to be saved. This the Calvinist does not believe. Many people are saved through poor or inconsistent presentations of the Gospel. For years, I believed certain beliefs that are either inconsistent with the Bible or just plain wrong. I have used poor theology and means of evangelization. I am glad that God uses weak vessels to save the lost.

Nevertheless, the non-Calvinist must grasp this side point to understand that the average Calvinist desires to be consistent in his theology. If you are a non-Calvinist please grasp this next point. If you do, much heart-ache may be alleviated.

For the Calvinist, the phrase "Jesus died for you" is defined to mean that Jesus actually takes away the sins for those whom He died. In other words, this phrase must be understood in the context of the doctrine of Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement. Calvinists believe that on the cross, the union of the elect in Christ have their sins dealt with. That Jesus actually satisfies the wrath of God in the place for whom He died. This is not a hypothetical idea where Jesus makes men saveable, but actually accomplishes the work of redemption as a perfect substitute.

Therefore, for the Calvinist to say to an unbeliever that "Jesus died for you" is to say "Jesus took away your sins, you are already forgiven, now believe and get to heaven."

This simply makes no sense and is completely inconsistent with the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. The Calvinist is simply seeking consistency in how he evangelizes. If this is going to be something which Paige Patterson and others seek absolute unity, then they will drive a wedge between believers that neither Scripture nor our Confessions require.

3) I realize this post is getting long, but I believe I need to make one last point about the non-Calvinist's use of the phrase "Jesus died for you." Since it is often used inconsistently, this statement may lead to Universalism or some bizarre form of Universalism. I once asked Dr. Tom Nettles of Southern baptist Theological Seminary why some pastors will say "Your sins are already forgiven now believe and get to heaven" based upon verses such as 1 John 2:2. His response was interesting.

What happens is that certain pastors see some Biblical texts and see Jesus dying as a perfect substitute. They also see texts such as 1 John 2:2 and incorrectly interpret these texts as being universal. On the other hand, they see other texts that speak of men going to hell. Since they start with an incorrect interpretation of certain texts, they still try to be consistent with what they understand. Therefore they attempt to reconcile these two beliefs (universal atonement and men going to hell). Therefore the conclude falsely that men, who go to hell, have their sins forgiven, but they just did not believe to get to heaven.

Although there are other false presuppositions that go into this view, this view simply doesn't work with other texts such as Revelation 20 and John 5 and Mathew 28. Jesus speaks of men being judged and their works play a major role in their judgment. Therefore this view should be rejected by all Christians, while recognizing good Christian men have erroneously held this position.

In conclusion, Baptists and other Christians can and should work together in the proclamation of the Good News of Christ. We should not let the phrase "Jesus died for you" divide when quite often we may very well mean the same thing. Although theology matters and we should seek to be consistent with our theology (even my son has said to me, "What you save them with is what you save them to"), God is able to take a sinner like me with imperfect theology and use me to His own glory. This I believe is true for all Christians.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Priests for Life Video

Here is an excellent video produced by Priests for Life. There is a lot of information on this site about abortion. Kudos to Townhall.com for linking this site. Although, I still maintain that I will not be convinced until Rome starts ex-communicating her own members that legalize abortion. If she did, perhaps others would follow her lead and abortion would come to an end more quickly. It is time for all churches to do the one thing they ought and can do. To cut off from their midst members that promote abortion.

Watch the Video!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cooperation in the SBC

Last month Wade Burleson caused a little hub bub at South Western Baptist Theological Seminary about potential layoffs of Calvinistic professors. To be honest and although I have taken some classes with SWBTS, I just don't worry about these things. However, I do find interesting some of the statements in a recent article by Christianity Today. Tom Ascol of Founders, a Calvinistic group within the SBC, is interviewed in part:
"It's not going away," said Ascol. "The question is whose vision of the future will prevail?" In other words, can Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the denomination work together?
Now for churches that use the New Hampshire Confession, working together certainly may be possible. That is why the Confession was written. According to Dr. James Renihan in a personal letter by e-mail,
J. Newton Brown, who was a pastor in Southern New Hampshire, sought a way to bring together churches from these divergent groups, and produced the New Hampshire Confession as a compromise document. You will notice, as you read the 'Declaration' that it words things very carefully, and in a way that can be accepted by both sides. It never addresses matters like the extent of the atonement nor effectual calling, and even the statement on perseverance can be palatable to a careful thinking Arminian.
I find it odd that Calvinists in the past were able to work together with non-Calvinists. Yet now the trend has gone in the other direction. Arminian Baptists are not able to work with Calvinists while claiming their position is Biblical and while borrowing and redefining Reformational language such as the term Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement. Notice this portion of CT's article,
"We're hopeful that we don't have to cut any professors," Patterson said in the taped interview, posted on Kenney's sbc Today website. The president said he would not hide behind a screen of economic problems if he thought a professor needed to be removed because of certain Calvinist beliefs. "I will say," Patterson continued, "that Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, 'Christ died for your sins.'"
Again, please notice this last sentence.
I will say," Patterson continued, "that Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, 'Christ died for your sins.'"
Could anyone please show me where this is taught in the Bible? Ironically, I was thinking about this issue earlier today. Why do so many Christians feel the desire to be able to say to a perfect stranger, "Jesus died for you"?

There are plenty of texts that speak of the Christian's ability to say "Jesus died for me". This however, is a logical extension of the Biblical teaching of passages such as Romans 8. The New Testament says that Jesus died for us. The "us" is the church. Therefore, we are able to apply that teaching to the individual.

However, where does the New Testament teach us that we must take this to the illogical conclusion that Christ died for those who do not believe and receive Christ's forgiveness of sins? It is simply an emotional ploy and an emotional desire. There is no passage that teaches that unbelievers have the benefits of Christ's death applied to them in a salvific way.

To put this another way. The Scriptures teach that all who believe may say that Jesus died for them. The Scriptures teach no where that unbelievers may say, "Jesus died for me."

Now, I also realize there is a way in which the preacher may preach the Gospel as to allow the Spirit to create faith in the unbeliever. That may in some qualified sense cause the preacher to speak in such a way as to bring the Gospel to a person in a very personal way. Again, this must be done Biblically and with all of the Biblical warnings as well (ie: Hebrews 6).

So in conclusion, I find it odd that the Calvinistic professors at SWBTS could be fired because they may not profess a statement taught no where in Scripture nor in their baptist confessions.

I also find it interesting that over the years, Calvinists have been accused of reading their theology into the text of Scripture. Over the last few years, it should be patently clear who is going to the text of Scripture, who is willing to publicly debate the issues fairly, who is willing to interact with the actual positions and beliefs of the other side, who is willing to not set up straw-men for execution. Not only do I see this on a daily basis to Calvinist scholars and pastors, it has also happened to me. If you are still not certain that this occurs, then you must be a non-Calvinist, or you have your eyes wide shut.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Victorious Christian Life

As I was mediating on the teaching of Sanctification, I remembered a conversation I had with Dr. White. I was struggling with the relationship between Justification and Sanctification in the language of a couple of New Testament texts.

So often I hear about the "victorious Christian life". Yet there is only one victorious Christian life. Since we have been freed from sin by that victorious Christian life lived by Christ, many think we are freed from particular sins in our daily living. I am coming to see more and more that that is simply not the case.

Many will see the epistle of 1 John as saying that Christians should no longer sin in the sense of repeating the same sin over and over. Yet I'd like to know what sin that would be? For example, I may struggle with a particular sin such as drunkenness. As A Christian, I may always go to Christ to be forgiven of that particular sin. Perhaps in my walk with Christ, I have been given the power to stop drinking altogether. Does this really mean I have overcome that particular sin?

Over time I have come to see that on the one hand, the Christian loves the law of God and desires to live a godly life because he has been freed from Sin's dominion. On the other hand, the Christian never overcomes anything and sin continually abides in him in some powerful way.

Is this not parallel to the power of the Devil as taught in the New Testament? Christ truly has conquered the Devil at the cross. The New Testament's teaching is that the Devil is bound. Yet is not the Devil also described as a roaring lion seeking to destroy the lives of men?

So now I am wondering about this text and would like to hear from others about this.
Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Normally when I have read this text, I would have thought that "I live" my life in such a way as to be living for Christ. But now I am seeing something vastly different. It seems to me that Paul is saying that the life he is living is Christ's perfect life. His life is not worth anything. So Paul is looking to another Person's lived life.

To put it another way, it seems to me that Paul is saying that in our union with Christ through faith, Christ's life is the life we live. Not that we are actually doing the things Jesus would do, but that we are trusting the things Jesus did. This is why Paul can say he had been crucified. Obviously Paul was not the one put on the cross. Therefore Paul is speaking of living Christ's life by faith. Christ's perfect life is ours through faith. Therefore, the earthly life Paul lived is set aside as dung, and instead he trusted in Christ's life by faith. That was the life he lived by faith.

It is precisely when we understand the Gospel as freeing us totally from our current lives will we be able to live at all. We are in union with Christ. Because we are in this union, our lives will at one time be wicked and sinful, and godly as we grow in godliness. So on the one hand, I will always be sinning the same old sins. On the other hand, I will be freed from that same sin to abandon that old man and life.

In conclusion I see the Christian life is truly paradoxical. I think God has purposely left us in this position. The reason being that we must always look to Christ. We must always be coming to Christ. We must always be praying to Christ. We must always be asking for forgiveness. We must always be reminded of the cross.

Soli Deo Gloria

Time Reports On Calvinism

I wonder if things in the SBC will get a little warmer with Calvinism appearing in all places...Time! Read a Time's article noting the emergence of the new Calvinists here. The last paragraph states,
Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy.
Although I hardly think Calvinism will return to the stage or prominence as it had at this country's founding, it certainly may continue to "rise" among Evangelicals as they continue to study the Scriptures during a "dark time". As the article points out,
Like the Calvinists, more moderate Evangelicals are exploring cures for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance. "A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation," says Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. "They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God."
I agree. What Christians need is the One True and Living God, not a buddy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gingrich Is Irrational

Another reason to chuck this guy under the bus. Again, Rush is right. This is not a policy war. This a fundamental war of ideas. The basic principles and philosophy of government is at stake. Obama is overthrowing the very foundations of a free society, and Gingrich wants to have a policy discussion. I find it hard to believe this guy led the 94 Revolution. In my opinion, he will go down in history as leading the biggest failure. He simply has no endurance as a leader.

I must confess one thing. At least with the Left, they don't back down from their principles. They won't articulate and be honest with the American people as to the wickedness they are seeking to perpetrate on the American people, but at least they are sticking to their guns.

Let's be real. Obama is watching the economy go down the toilet, and he isn't going to waver from his position no matter what destruction it brings upon us. Gingrich seems to be cheering him on. To disagree is to be "irrational".

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Problem of Hell part 4

The problem of hell is tied directly, I think anyway, to the problem of evil. Why did God let that evil man rape and slaughter that woman at the truck stop's bathroom? Why did mommy have to die of breast cancer? Why did 3 year-old Billy get run over by his own brother in the drive-way? Perhaps another question may hit a little closer to our American psyche. Why did God have those terrorists bomb the twin towers with our own planes causing massive death and pain and suffering?

Now I must confess, I do not know the answers to these specific questions. I don't know God's purpose in every detail of life, nor am I meant to know. Nevertheless, my first answer is a little more man centered and is only dealing with one facet of this problem.

I think God ordains some men to become unrestrained in their evil passions to remind us of our own evil. Instead of looking at those pesky terrorists from merely an American cultural perspective, we who are Christians should look at them from a theological one.

Every time we see a sinner commit an evil act we should be reminded of our own evil. We should be reminded that we are no better than those who act upon their sin. We should be reminded that God's wrath is continually being revealed from heaven above so that we may always be reminded that Judgment Day is quickly approaching.

To put it another way, whenever we see a bank robber that is caught, we rightly desire that he go to prison or bear some kind of punishment. Instead of thinking too highly of ourselves though, we should be reminded that if we are offended enough to force the bank robber to bear society's wrath, how much more should we sinners, who have offended a holy and just God, bear the wrath of this holy God? Every time we see justice being carried out in this present evil age, no matter how fallible or full of errors they may have, we ought to see that one is coming on the clouds of heaven. His Name is Jesus Christ. He has been given full authority by God to judge all of mankind. We all must face this judgment.

The other answer I hope is more Christ centered. Romans 9 teaches us that God raises men such as Pharaoh in order to display His power and make His Name known in all the earth. God ordains the life of Pharaoh in order to destroy him and to display His wrath against sin. When we ignore the truth that God wants to display His wrath, we ignore something God has revealed. We ignore a huge purpose in the problem of evil.

It is at the point of the Cross that God has chosen to display all of His attributes. It was at the Cross that we see God's wrath and judgment poured out upon our Substitute. It was at the Cross that we see the law of love fulfilled and all of the requirements of the law met. It was at the Cross that we see grace and mercy displayed in behalf of the elect. Romans 9 states it this way,
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
This is no mere "what if" scenario. This is something God actually did, and the Apostle Paul contends. We must start with God's revelation to man if we truly desire to answer these truly difficult questions. Therefore I leave you with the Words of the Son of God.
Mat 10:28 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The Problem of Hell part 3

In my last post dealing with Keller's view that men basically create their own hell I acknowledged there is some truth to that. Although I thought the "hell is our own psyche" to be a little weak, Keller does attempt to deal with man's apprehensions about hell. He offers an interesting anecdote on page 72 that shows that it is not the Christian who believes in the contradiction, but the western mind. He writes,
In one of my after-service discussions a woman told me that the very idea of a judging God was offensive. I said, "Why aren't you offended by the idea of a loving God?" She looked puzzled. I continued, "I respectfully urge you to consider your cultural location when you find the Christian teaching about hell offensive." I went on to point out that secular Westerners get upset by the Christian doctrines of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture see Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about "turning the other cheek" makes absolutely no sense. It offends people's deepest instincts about what is right. For them the doctrine of a God of judgment, however, is no problem at all.
Basically, American culture abhors the idea that men are evil. If there are a few evil men, then they should go to hell, but those would be a few exceptions, perhaps those like Hitler.

In my phone conversation with my college friend he tied this with the problem of evil. Why would God allow some of the most wicked and seemingly non-purposed evil. But notice the question, "WHY?" When we ask the question "Why?", we are not asking about the specific scientific facts or even the reasons why a particular person did what he/she did. We are asking intuitively why God has allowed any particular evil event to happen in our lives.

I'd like to offer two brief answers in my next post.

Obama and Abortion

Fox News reports,
President Obama intends to repeal a Bush administration rule that has become a flash point in the debate over a doctor's right not to perform abortions.
This is great. President Obama is now starting a new fight. It is one thing to declare abortions to be legal. It is quite another to tell someone he/she must commit murder. This is just like the days when Christians had to stand before Caesar and confess that he is Lord while rejecting Christ.

Now I understand one need not be a Christian to stand against Obama, but this only helps the Prolife movement to go beyond mere religious groups. Now political groups that may have not united before may do so with every political and moral reason to stand against Obama.

My question is "Will Obama really force this issue?" Is Obama really going to force doctors to commit murder or give up their practice or worse (lawsuits/jail)? This seems to me to be fighting words. I guess time will tell. To be honest, I hope he goes full tilt.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Problem of Hell part 2

Chapter 5 has a section titled, A Loving God Would Not Allow Hell. Keller states on page 76,
Modern people inevitably think that hell works like this: God gives us time, but if we haven't made the right choices by the end of our lives, He casts our souls into hell for eternity. As the poor souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says, "Too late! You had your chance! Now you will suffer!"
Keller then interacts with Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Although he rightly points out that men freely choose hell in some sense. After describing the mind of a man that deteriorates He writes,
There is increasing isolation, denial, delusion, and self absorption. When you lose all humility you are out of touch with reality. No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham.
Basically Keller argues from the parable that the rich man never wants to leave hell. The idea just does not occur to him. Again, although I think Keller is overstating the reading of the text, I have no doubt that the Rich Man was not wanting to enter the holy presence of God. But to say that he wanted to remain in hell is contradicted by the Rich man begging Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers of the torments of hell. Clearly he did not want to be there either. He simply had no option to leave, and he knew it.

To use another example from Scripture, we may go back to the Garden of Eden. Adam sinned. Yet Adam was not trying to leave the Garden. Instead He hid from the presence of God. God had to expel Adam and Eve out of the Garden.

There is a big difference from choosing to go directly to jail and living in such a fashion that you know jail is your destination. Sinners want their cake and the ability to eat it too. For example, a bank robber knows that if he gets caught robbing a bank, he will go to prison. That is why he wears a mask and has a get-away-car! Yet his nature and desire are so bent on evil that he perverts his thinking to do what he knows he ought not to do. So on the one hand, Keller is right. Men choose to warp their own minds and become lost in their own hells. But on the other hand, they will run from God's wrath if given the chance.

What makes hell so terrible is that sinner's will be totally restrained from being able to act upon their evil desires. They will bear God's wrath in their own minds and bodies. As Jesus said,
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Problem of Hell

The other night a college age friend of mine called me to discuss some questions. He is attending a theologically liberal Christian college (liberal Christian, an oxymoron if I ever heard one), so you can imagine the struggles he has been having not only with supposed Christians around him but his professors as well.

One of the questions he asked about was the issue of hell. If God is love, how could he send people to hell? It is interesting that he should have asked such a question. As I am preparing for the Garden City outreach reading The Reason For God by Timothy Keller, last night I finished reading chapter 5, "How Can a Loving God Send People To Hell". He refers to Rick Warren's interaction with Journalists in which one journalist said,
Maybe you can hold in your mind the contradiction, which is that Wendy [a non-Christian reporter present] is a full American citizen deserving of every protection that the most senior member of your church deserves. But when she dies, she's going to go to hell because she is not saved. The question is, do you think your followers--or the people who come to church, the people who read your books, the people you are talking to all over the world--are sophisticated enough to hold this contradiction in their minds?...
Now Keller goes on to deal with this and several other objections. Some of his answers are excellent as he brings out some presuppositional problems of his objectors. He also offers some illustrations that are most helpful. Some of his answers, though, are a little too much on the psychological side.

Over the next couple of posts I'd like to add some thoughts to the discussion he has in this chapter.