Monday, March 28, 2011

More Modern Psalms for Lenten Journey; Manchester Orchestra

I continue to be enriched by the quest through “Modern Psalms for the Lenten Journey.” Even more, the songs suggested by students in the Imago Dei Youth Ministry remind me over and again that the Spirit of God is alive and well in the theological and prophetic imaginations of today’s adolescents. In a previous post I highlighted Mumford and Sons and their album, "Sigh No More". I learned rather quickly how much my students are entrenched in their lyrical creativity and musical brilliance. Many had even attended their quickly-sold out concert in Philly this past year. However, many of them also were left in awe when they engaged the album’s theological overtones that crafted a beautiful Lenten path to the cross as they “held on hope” for an Easter resurrection. It was even enlightening to learn that recently Marcus Mumford’s parents had been in Brooklyn in conversation with U.S. Vineyard Church communities [1], the tradition that formed and fed many of the band's members.

Yet the dialectic journey that holds in tension the contemporary prophets of modern music and the still-speaking biblical witness does not end there. Instead, one of my students suggested we engage Manchester Orchestra [2] and their postmodern hymn, “The River.” I was not disappointed:

I fought the Spirit with a sword in my side
Cheat...What a way out.
Crack my rib, wait to die,
I think I know you the best when I sleep
I think I know everything
Me and my brothers, we have tongues sharp as knives
I found a way out, make a noise, close your eyes
I think I talk to you best when I sing
I sing about almost everything

Oh God I need it
So let me sing again.
Take me to the river
And let me see again
Oh my God
Let me see again
Oh my God

Let me see again
Let me see again

Grace taught a debtor
Daily I'm strained to be
God how I feel it
Fetter pride to Your feet

I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
I'm going to leave You the first chance I get

Oh God I need it
Well I was wrong again
Take me to the river
And make me clean again

Oh my God
Make me clean again
Oh my God
Let me see again.

After I listened to the song over and again, to include many discernments about the poetic references and proper lyrical compositions, it was apparent that, much like “Thistles and Weeds” by Mumford & Sons, this song also spoke to the season of lament. Moreover, not only were the Psalms potential inspirations for this track, but also the ancient hymn, “Come Thou Fount.”  Essentially, Manchester Orchestra interweaves honest confessions with intense longings for deliverance throughout each poetic stanza. One cannot help but hear echoes of the psalmists along with God’s people past and present, all who thirst for the river that cleanses and liberates all humanity and all of creation.

And may the Orchestra's prayer, be our prayer this Lent, Oh God we need it, take us to the river and make us clean again…

Recommended Scriptures for Meditation: 
Psalm 36; Psalm 42; Psalm 51

2011 Modern Psalms for the Lenten Journey (Thus Far)
1. "Hard to Be" (David Bazan)
2. "Thistle and Weeds" (Mumford & Sons)
3. "The River" (Manchester Orchestra)

[1] John and Eleanor Mumford, Marcus' parents, are national directors of the Vineyard Church in the United Kingdom.  A friend of mine recently spoke with them while they were visiting the States.
[2] Relevant Magazine iterviewed the group in their March/April 2009 issue: (see p. 74).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is God to Blame By Gregory Boyd: Unpolished and Unrefined Reflections

The reality of suffering has plagued humanity from its earliest beginnings. In response, religious myths, theological systems, and spiritual quests have been developed and pursued not only to explain suffering, but also to give meaning to human movement through it. However, when entrenched within real and personal experiences of pain and distress, versus as theories or speculations, commitment to and communication of Christian theology is severely tested. That said, the contributions of Gregory Boyd within his book, Is God to Blame?, liberate the Christian to consider fresh possibilities that are not only faithful to distinctly Christian theology, but also and especially to real manifestations of a world caught in between the already and not-yet kingdom of God.

The most difficult phrases to hear as a pastor and theologian in the wake of pain and suffering are, “God has a plan” and “God is in control.” When friends, family, neighbors, even acquaintances encounter awful and horrific circumstances, Christians tend to feel the need to serve as God’s defense attorneys. In other words, those who are called to practice the presence of Jesus elicit renditions of fatalist apologetics that, while well-intended, fuel anxiety and polarize humanity and God. Moreover, these theological assumptions are often void of reflections on the nature and person of Jesus. Instead, they hinge on Western obsessions with Cartesian certainty that fuel related systems of power and absolutes. These systems are ultimately threatened by the ambiguity that accompanies the reality of suffering. Boyd critiques this ironic lapse in “Christian” theology:
When our picture of God is built on any foundation other than Jesus Christ- whether a foundation of experience, philosophy or Scripture interpreted apart from Christ- we will be vulnerable to believing a lie about God (30).
When challenged to reform our theology of suffering in light of Christ it is difficult to learn of the devastating consequences that have resulted from naïve shifts of hermeneutical, even practical, focus. In essence, Christian obsessions with closed theologies of control and blueprint existential paradigms continually neglect the reality that God does not cause suffering and evil rather, through the person and vocation of Jesus, enters into it for the sake of personal and cosmic redemption and transformation.

The arguments developed within Boyd’s text ultimately deconstruct what he refers to as the “blueprint model.” This theological system maintains the conviction that “God ordains all that comes to pass,” i.e. both good and evil (41). The blueprint model, in its attempt to defend the sovereignty of God and convictions that nothing is outside the realm of God’s will and plan for the world, leaves many questions either unanswered or with responses that conflict with the nature and person of Jesus. In other words, if all is ordained by God, then does God will for children to live on less than two dollars a day? If God is ultimately in control, does God then cause the genocide in Nazi Germany, Darfur, and Rwanda? If God has a plan for everything, then do the many infants who die due to malnutrition or S.I.D.S. do so at the hands of their Creator for some yet-to-be-discovered purpose? Moreover, if the blueprint model is true, then God not only causes good and evil, but also is both good and evil. As Boyd writes:
In the midst of all things God is working with us for our good. But we need not assume that he is the cause or the ultimate reason behind all things (156).
Said differently, in the midst of the wide varieties of evil and pain, God does not take comfort in a static plan, but chooses to side with the weak and wounded, i.e. those who suffer. This is most beautifully revealed in that, through Jesus as the crucified Messiah, God also suffered [1].

In contrast to the blueprint model, Boyd suggests that God is not the culprit, rather the creation, still caught in between the chaos of the curse and the redemption yet to come, is to blame. Boyd suggests, in light of the book of Job:
But the point of the book of Job, and a lesson we can appropriate from chaos theory, is that it isn’t a mystery about God’s will or character; it’s a mystery about the vastness and complexity of creation…Every particular thing we think we understand in creation is engulfed in an infinite sea of mystery we can’t understand (98-99).
That is to say, it is not for us as the people of God to offer concrete and definitive explanations in light of human suffering. Rather, the biblical witness goads God’s people to wrestle with the mystery of creation, a la Job, and ultimately to “pray as we live- in a sea of ambiguity” (150). Furthermore, the most appropriate response to human suffering is not reductionist apologetics, but prophetic and imaginative incarnations of God’s will for liberation and redemption from suffering (84).

The above noted observations lead to another problem within the blueprint model. That is, if God ultimately ordains suffering then why would God’s people work towards the transformation of it? If God is in control of all human events and thereby causes injustice, why would God’s people work for the liberation from it? Moreover, if God’s people do choose to work towards redemption from the evil that God is in control of, are God’s people thereby working against God? As Boyd suggests, “When people believe that everything’s already part of God’s ‘secret plan,’ they won’t work with passion and urgency to establish God’s will on earth as it is in heaven” (74). This is evident in the concern of many Christian communities that to be entrenched within social and political issues and injustices is to depart from Christian mission and gospel. Instead of followers of Jesus being sent to the forefront of dark and devastating affairs in the world, this closed theological system rests in the assumptions that God is in control, has a will and a purpose, and will work “good” out of suffering, because he allowed it in the first place. Christians are then charged to remain focused on “spiritual matters.” Again, Boyd’s wisdom is significant:
We aren’t called to accept everything as God’s will; instead, we are called to transform everything to bring it into conformity with God’s will. Only when we live with this mindset can we claim to be doing God’s will (159).
In essence, the paradigm offered by Boyd invites Christians, in light of the incarnation and vocation of Jesus, to enter into real experiences of oppression and suffering and practice resurrection as called and sent agents doing the will God [2].

While the contributions of Boyd are important and promote a theology of suffering that I would, for the most part, endorse, there still remains one significant question: How does a Christian respond pastorally to those who find comfort in the blueprint model? That is to say, while I agree that the blueprint model neglects a Christocentric theology, distorts the character of God, and compromises the will of God for humanity and the world, many people do find peace in the belief that God is “in control.” There is a degree of hope that some find in that their suffering serves a divine purpose that explains their once-believed arbitrary experience. The work of Boyd certainly engages the biblical witness, like Romans, 1 Peter, etc., that reminds the Christian that even though the creation groans in chaos, as do God’s people, God can and does work good out of evil and birth redemptive meaning out of suffering. Nonetheless, to suggest that God may not be in control and that their suffering is the mysterious result of a world in distress, may evoke more questions many may or may not be prepared for, and potentially for good reason. Therefore, Christians must be wise enough to know when the human heart and the discipline of compassion is more appropriate then well-developed theology. I suggest that this is the primary oversight of not only Job’s friends, but also many contemporary proponents of blueprint theology.

[1]  While I recognize that it is somewhat counterintuitive to reference Rabbi Harold Kushner, whose theology is not Christocentric for obvious reasons; his words are still helpful in light of Boyd’s argument, “Instead of feeling that we are opposed to God, we can feel that our indignation is God’s anger at unfairness working through us.  That when we cry out, we are still on God’s side, and he is still on ours” (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 52).  This is also a focus of the theological contributions developed by Jurgen Moltmann as well as Liberation Thelogy, i.e. in Jesus God suffers as a means of identifiying with and bringing salvation to the poor, oppressed, and marginalized of the world.

[2] I also have appreciated the insights of Gustavo Gutierrez in his brief work, On Job, “To go out of himself and help other sufferers (without waiting until his own problems are first resolved) is to find a way to God…The needs of others cannot be left in abeyance until everything has become clear” (On Job, 48). In other words, as Boyd has aptly noted, we must move beyond the trivial questions of  why? and into fresh incarnations of  how?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lent, Thomas, and Faith-filled Questions

Reflections on John 11:7-16 // John 21:24-29

One of my favorite things about being an uncle is the opportunity to witness the playful curiosity of my little niece. While she certainly has a mind of her own, a little Miss Independent, she also is never short of questions. I somewhat relish the adoration she has for me as her uncle, her very wise and, in her eyes, all-knowing uncle. So she presses me endlessly with questions as she tears through the toy box in our living room…what’s this? Why that? It’s almost as if it is a game for her, sometimes wondering if she can stump me. This cute and playful curiosity is a celebrated season of childhood development. Questions are cute. We invite exploration. Imagination is encouraged. Rationale answers and well-developed reasons would be silly to offer a two-year-old little girl.

Yet, as we grow-up, at least in our culture, the expectation is that we will have more answers than questions. And this is somewhat of a healthy expectation. We should, in a sense, know more than when we were two. On the other hand, to boycott questions is only to surrender what it means to be human, even created as a reflection of the divine image. Yet, we often label those who ask too many questions as cynics, skeptics, and doubters. We may even go so far as to call them pessimistic trouble makers who strive to upset the status quo. Especially when they ask the wrong questions.

As I prepared a youth talk a few months ago I was in need of an image for the church. So, like any astute researcher, I Googled it. While there were many that sparked my interest, the one that particularly drew my attention was a photo of a clever church sign with a not-so clever slogan: Church: Where to turn when Google can’t answer your questions. In other words, the church is a place with answers. Better said, church is where to find the answers. I appreciate the spirit behind this sign, but I could not help but baulk at the suggestion. Is church really about answers? Are God’s people really the ones who have everything figured out? Are churches to be void of questions and curiosities, even without critics and healthy doses of cynics? Even more, as I thumb my way through the pages of Scripture, I find that questions are everywhere.

Let us take a pilgrimage of inquiry through the biblical witness:

“So [Hagar] named the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi,’ for she said, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?’” (Gen 16:13)

“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” (Gen.17:17)

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh , and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (Ex. 3:11)

The prophets are loaded with questions. In fact, pull out the prophetic questions and you have nothing but puny statements from whiny critics. Jonah is by far my favorite example of prophetic dissent, whereby the entire book ends with a question delivered, in a twist of irony, from God, which leaves the reader puzzled:

“‘And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’”(4:11)

Job, despite his over-characterization as a figure of confidence and humble submission, is also saturated with poignant, even offensive questions:

‘Why did I not die at birth, come from the womb and expire?…Why is light given to one in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to one who cannot see the way, whom God has fenced in? For my sighing comes like my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes.’ (3:11, 20-26)

“Why are times not kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days?... From the city the dying groan, and the throat of the wounded cries for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer.” (24:1,12)

We also cannot forget the Psalms:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13)
“O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?” (Psalm 74)

We then can turn to the New Testament:

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, struggles, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting along in years?”(Luke 1:18)
Mary questions: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Dare we be reminded of Jesus, quoting Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46).

We could go on and on, an endless adventure through the many questions posed by God’s people in the midst of devastation and despair- waiting, even hoping, for God to be near, to be present, and to act in and for God’s people, maybe even the whole world?

Are these the marks of cynics? Are they pessimistic remarks of faithless people? It appears as though questions are not avoided by the biblical narrative and characters there within, rather underscored and highlighted as par for the course.

Then there is Thomas. We know him by one little yet powerful word that has marked him forever: doubt.

I find this amusing because Thomas never actually poses a question. In fact, all of the questions listed above, especially the one elicited by Jesus on the cross, are far more distressing than anything Thomas utters. Yet we do not refer to Moses as doubting Moses; Job as doubting Job (in fact, we celebrate his apparent “faith” [1]). The psalmists are not doubting Psalters; Mary not the doubting virgin. We certainly would refuse to refer to Jesus as the doubting Messiah or cynical Christ. But Thomas, despite his only other recorded statements in Scripture, “Let us also go [with Jesus], that we may die with him” (John 11:16), is forever marked as a doubter, one preoccupied by questions about the resurrected Christ. We fail to hear that Thomas, as legend has it, was the one to bring the gospel to India. It is said that Tomas’ longing to “die with Christ” would also eventually come to fruition, eventually martyred for his faith. Still, we know him as doubting Thomas.

But Thomas’ speculation is our speculation. Thomas’ pilgrimage, a sojourning in between the tension to die with the Messiah yet also unsure about the real possibility and hope for resurrection, is our quest and crossroad experience. And questions can be a mark of faith…

I am grateful for Thomas. When I was a teenager, an eager youth in my Lutheran church, I was asked to teach one of the adult Sunday school classes on my favorite disciple- Thomas was mine. His story was my story. I was at the front of the line, even at 15, willing to die for the Messiah and the gospel that saved me. But I was also fearful, and still to this day I have my occasional doubts… is this all really true? I need to see the holes and pierced side…there just is too much chaos in the world around me…

Lent is a season of sacred, faith-filled questions. We are invited to provoke. We are challenged to inquire about ourselves, the world around us, and our confessed hopes in the One we trust. And we question not alone, rather alongside our Redeemer. Still, we are invited, in our questions, in our doubts, to hold on hope, journey with Jesus, and Thomas, to the cross, with all our questions and speculations.

We then are invited to venture forward to the Day of Resurrection, whereby we shift, along with Thomas, from questions of impossibility to declarations of probability, “My Lord and My God!”

And such declarations invite, not the possession of answers, rather new and sending questions:

How can I practice this resurrection?
Where am I called to live into this hope?
Where is the Spirit opening my eyes to injustice?
Where is the Spirit opening my ears to the cries of the poor?
Where is the God of new life sending me to practice deliverance in West Chester and beyond?
Who are my neighbors in need that Jesus is calling me to love and to serve?
How can I be generous with my time, monies, resources, and talents?
With whom can I share the good news that in Jesus the world is being put to rights?

The people of God are characterized not by our claim to hold all the right answers to unfulfilled questions on Google. Instead, God’s people can be discovered en route, on a crossroad pilgrimage of prophetic and faith-filled questions. And these questions invite us to be God’s people in and for the world during Lent and especially as we move all the more closer to the final Day of Resurrection. And may we be blessed, despite or through our doubts, because we have come to believe.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Modern Psalms for the Lenten Journey: Mumford & Sons

Every year the Imago Dei Youth Ministry navigates the Lenten season with the Scriptures in our hands and the lyrics and medleys of contemporary songs ringing through our ears. We have called this pilgrimage, “Modern Psalms for the Lenten Journey.” One year we even compiled our own playlist and “album” that included a wide range of popular tracks coupled with modern psalms written by students. What has become an annual discipline is yet another way the Imago Dei Youth continue to have their hearts, minds, and imaginations formed by the biblical narrative that holds in tension the sorrow of the cross and the hope of the resurrection. And such formation has allowed them to claim the truths, even occasional laments and cynicisms, heard on the radio…or Bonaroo…so to then particiapte in God's dreams for the world.

This year’s playlist began with “Hard to Be,” by David Bazan. Read more about this song and related album in a previous post: David Bazan: Curse Your Branches

However, week two of the Lenten journey welcomes a ballad from Mumford & Sons, [1] a recent discovery thanks to the recommendation of a good friend and articles found within more recent issues of Relevant Magazine [2]. The song of choice, “Thistle and Weeds,” from their album, Sigh No More. This song could be paired with any of these selected Scriptures: Psalm 10, 13, 71; Matthew 13; Romans 8:18-25

Spare me your judgments and spare me your dreams,
Cause recently mine have been tearing my seams,
I sit alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind,
Alone in the wind and the rain you left me,
It's getting dark darling, too dark to see,
And I'm on my knees, and your faith in shreds, it seems.

Corrupted by the simple sniff of riches blown,
I know you have felt much more love than you've shown,
And I'm on my knees and the water creeps to my chest.

But plant your hope with good seeds,
Don't cover yourself with thistle and weeds,
Rain down, rain down on me,
Look over your hills and be still,
The sky above us shoots to kill,
Rain down, rain down on me.

But I will hold on
I will hold on hope

I begged you to hear me, there's more than flesh and bones,
Let the dead bury their dead, they will come out in droves,
But take the spade from my hands and fill in the holes, you've made.

But plant your hope with good seeds,
Don't cover yourself with thistle and weeds,
Rain down, rain down on me

While I would love to engage in a brief discourse about this song in particular and album in general, I will save that for another day. Instead, may this “modern psalm” speak to your heart and soul this Lenten season. Even more, may the Spirit of the crucified Christ uproot the thistles and weeds within us and rain down upon us the hope for a resurrection yet to come…

Another notable song that may be engaged as we draw closer to the Day of Resurrection , “Roll Away Your Stone.”

2010 Modern Psalms for the Lenten Journey (for links: )

“One Day” (Matisyahu)
“Always” (Switchfoot)
“Silence” (Matisyahu)
“Falling Slowly” (The Swell Season)
“Better Way” (Ben Harper)
“Ten Thousand Angels” (Sandra McCracken)
“Resurrect Me” (Jon Foreman)

[1] Here is a brief excerpt from their on-line bio: “Since they formed in December 2007, the members of Mumford & Sons have shared a common purpose: to make music that matters, without taking themselves too seriously. Four young men from West London in their early twenties, they have fire in their bellies, romance in their hearts, and rapture in their masterful, melancholy voices. They are staunch friends - Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane - who bring their music to us with the passion and pride of an old-fashioned, much-cherished, family business. They create a gutsy, old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the might of Kings Of Leon, and their incredible energy draws us in quickly to their circle of songs, to the warmth of their stories, and to their magical community of misty-eyed men.”

[2] Relevant Magazine recently discussed the contributions of bands like Mumford & Sons for liturgical rhythms and compositions. See “When the Sacred Is Secular,” written by Liz Riggs:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Between the Panes: Ash Wednesday and Lenten Reflections

The Cold Pane by Wendell Berry
Between the living world
And the world of death
Is a clear, cold pane;
A man who looks too close
Must fog it with his breath,
Or hold his breath too long.

We come to this season of lent in a spirit of grief. We enter with an attitude of lament. We begin a season of confession and repentance. But what does that all mean. If we are honest, many of us hesitate during this season and it makes us uneasy, uncomfortable, and discontent. We like control, we prefer stability, and confession hints that we are all in need of deliverance. Still, we are like this man, peering closely through that cold window, caught in between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

So it says in Genesis, in the beginning God created, and God said it was good. And God created humanity in God’s image…So it says in the final book of Revelation, See God is making all things new…But we are here, in between, and not everything appears good. All things are not new.

It doesn’t take a skilled theologian, an educated seminarian, or an eloquent pastor to notice that the world is not the way it should be. Poverty. Disease. Famine. Pollution. Earthquakes. Depression. Unemployment. Insufficient healthcare. Strained and broken marriages. Wars that appear to have no end.

If we are honest, we need this season of Lent. We are desperate for it because the world is not as it should be. You and I are not as we should be. The image we were all created in and the good creation itself have become distortions of their divine intentions.

This season of Lent is the occasion to embrace repentance and confession, not so much as reinforcements of guilt, but in order to change our minds about what we consider good, to recover our imaginations that have been trained only to think according to the systems and structures of culture, and to grieve that which weighs us down and distorts the life we were all created for and the union with God to which we are all destined. Ultimately, the season of Lent moves us to a recovery of the story of creation that begins with God creating all things as good and culminates in the resurrection begun in Jesus.

So it says in Genesis, in the beginning God created, and God said it was good. And God created humanity in God’s image…So it says in the final book of Revelation, See God is making all things new…But we are here, in between, and not everything appears good. All things are not new.

And this is where Jesus meets us at the table, in the middle, in between the window panes. A reminder that God has not abandoned or forsaken God’s image bearers in God’s good creation. Instead, God has offered God’s very self in the person of Jesus, who became broken for you and I and the whole world. As we come to the table, we are reminded that repentance prepares us to receive Jesus’ invitation to resurrection; confession enables us to be honest and able participants in Jesus’ mission to and for the world; Lent invites us to change our minds of what is good and moves us towards Easter and the resurrection celebration with new understandings of what it means to be fully human. It is then that we not only peer through the window, but open it and climb out.

A homily I delivered in an Ash Wednesday service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2010.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Love Wins: Rob Bell on Heaven and Hell

I am very familiar with Rob Bell and his clever and creative books.  I have engaged his Nooma videos in a wide variety of ecclesial settings and ministry forums.  I have tuned into and am a subscriber to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcasts, where he is the teaching pastor.  I read his interviews and have attended one of his "tours," The God's Aren't Angry, at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.  This is not because I have some sort of fanaticism about his method or have been won over by his somewhat iconic Christian status, especially among my generation (I actually find this quite annoying).  Instead, I believe that Rob Bell is able to raise questions, tackle tough issues, and explore the Christian tradition, the Biblical witness, and serious theological discourse in a way that is thoughtful, honest, and deeply concerned about the gospel that is for the whole world. This is not to say that I have always agreed with all of what he has to say.  Thanks be to God that the Christian faith and related discourse is "modest" and dialectic in nature (thanks Karl Barth).  Rather, I do believe that Rob Bell's contributions to the Christian conversation are important, especially as he often uncovers historical teachings of the church that have been overlooked, overshadowed, and forgotten by the dominant voices of (Christian) culture and reflection.  While Bell's newest book, Love Wins, is certainly not ground breaking, it is significant. 

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

The questions raised in this video, along with the soon-to-be released book, have been foci of some of my previous posts.  It has been suggested by some, to include Karl Barth, who has often been pigeonholed as a Christian Universalist, that to teach such doctrine (even if one believes it to be true) is unwise at best, disastrous at worst.  Is that true?  Origen, Moltmann, von Balthasar, and many others (even some writers of Scripture?) beg the question.  This is not to say that any or all of the "conclusions" drawn by the above mentioned are once and for all representative of mine or the content of this blog, although they could be ;)  Instead, I find this to be a very significant conversation and deeply Christian inquiry for the formation of missional church communities and individual interpretations of vocation.  In other words: why Jesus? what is the gospel? why the church?

I hope you join the conversation, not in hostility, but in hope, that the God of the Resurrection can, and maybe will, make all new and right...

Here are some other helpful links:

CNN: Belief Blog

Sojourners Magazine

Christianity Today

Bell's Book Judged Before Read?

Scot McKnight on Rob Bell and Christian Universalism

A Great Post by a Seminary Friend

My Related Blog Posts
Christian Universalism: An In-House Debate

The Hopeful Elect

Thinking, Being, and Validity of Generous Orthodoxy

Jurgen Moltmann and Theology of Hope