Damn! (ch 8 from FOUR LETTER WORDS)

Time Magazine Apr 25, 2011

Spurred by the sizzling sales of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, the April 25 issue of Time Magazine features the Cover Story: WHAT IF THERE’S NO HELL? 

Here is an excerpt from Four Letter Words, my latest book. Leave your email at the end to continue reading, and I’ll notify you as future chapters released. Please share this link…   

Chapter 8


The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.

A.W. Tozer[i]


  1. Hell is real.
  2. God’s justice and God’s love exist in perfect harmony; therefore, the teaching of Hell in no way contradicts the loving heart of God.
  3. Love can’t win if holiness loses.
  4. A person’s response to Jesus in this lifetime determines his or her destiny in the next lifetime.
  5. This destiny is permanent and unchanging; Scripture describes no post-mortem second chances.


  1. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27.
  2. “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:31.
  3. “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Romans 2:5.
  4. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15.
  5.  “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11, 12.

* * * * *


In researching this chapter, I stumbled upon some ultra-disturbing statements. In these statements, famous leaders of church history celebrate the damnation of lost people. In the interests of full disclosure, here are some horrid examples.

I apologize in advance.

  • Tertullian, pastor, author, (A.D. 160-220). “At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness…”[ii]
  • Jonathan Edwards, pastor (1703-1758). “[T]he sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever… [I]t will really make their happiness the greater…”[iii]
  • Samuel Hopkins, pastor (1721-1803). “This display of the divine character will be most entertaining to all who love God, will give them the highest and most ineffable pleasure. Should the fire of this eternal punishment cease, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed.”[iv]

“Entertaining?” Are you kidding? Grab your popcorn, and I’ll race you for a front row seat to watch the torment of the damned.

If this reflects the spirit of Christ, count me out.

The premise of this book is that Christianity is the most plausible, coherent, and beautiful system ever offered the world. But this “I [Heart] Hell” theology spoils that beauty like a stink bomb in an elevator.

The Bible does not whoop it up over hell. Jesus wept over the lostness of people (Luke 19:41). St. Paul wished he could accept damnation himself in place of his countrymen (Romans 9:3). God is not willing that any should perish, declared Peter (2 Peter 3:9). No damnation “happy feet” in sight.

The celebration of hell perverts biblical Christianity. As a pastor and a follower of Jesus, I apologize if this creepy teaching has ever messed with your mind. I’m sorry.

Yes, we have our share of nut-job God-defenders, picketing their hate, but this attitude does not reflect the majority of Christ’s followers today. None of the churches, seminaries, or organizations I’ve been a part of has ever fanned the flames of hell. In fact, the opposite is true. The idea of hell has only prompted sadness and concern among the Jesus-followers I’ve known.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a refined, highly-educated London preacher named R.W. Dale encouraged a rough, uneducated American evangelist named D.L. Moody. Moody conducted a preaching tour in England, and many of the snooty British pastors boycotted him. Dale however, joined forces with Moody. He said, “Moody is the only preacher who has the right to preach on Hell, because he can’t do it without tears in his eyes.”

The Bible’s revelation of Hell should melt your heart. Divine justice should cause silent awe, not giddy happiness. When Jesus unleashes the forces of judgment in the future apocalypse, the universe responds with stunned silence, not clap-happy glee (Revelation 8:1).

If you’re doing a slow burn right now, I get it. For some, even the idea of hell seems obscene. And, nobody can prove heaven, hell, or an afterlife. Like everything else we’re talking about, it’s a matter of faith. I’m just asking if it’s a plausible faith. I think it is, and I’d like to explain why. Right after we explore five hellish viewpoints that wave the “Christian” banner.


1. Universalism, a.k.a., Pluralism

Universalists believe all will be saved through sincere devotion to the religion of their culture, choice, or upbringing. Under this view, Christ is not the only way to God. All roads lead to heaven, like hiking trails converging on the same mountaintop. Universalists claim scriptural support in verses that say God desires “all” people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that God reconciled “the world” to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). For them, the character of God begins and ends with love.

In their world, God’s love wins, even at the expense of his other attributes of holiness, purity, and truth.

Carlton Pearson, a prominent pastor in the United Church of Christ said he did not believe “God would consign countless souls – or anyone, for that matter – to hell.” He teaches a “gospel of inclusion” which he describes as “basic universalism.”[v]

My Inner Nice Guy wants to be a Universalist. No hellfire. No smoldering brimstone. No four-letter words hurled my narrow way. No knots to unravel about why I was born in a Christian land and some jungle guy wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. The story of humankind is one, gigantic happily ever after.

You’ll find universalism in churches that call themselves Unity, Universalist, or Unitarian. It is the unofficial position of what can be called liberal Christianity; segments within mainstream groups like some Methodists, Episcopalians, or the United Church of Christ tilt toward Universalism. So do some Ivy League seminary professors, populist authors, many leading institutions of western civilization – arts, media, education – and celebrities like Oprah.

Warning: from here on, the names get extra confusing. Sorry. I didn’t make them up.

2. Universalistic Inclusivism

If my Inner Nice Guy wants to be a universalist, my Inner Conflict Avoider wants to be a universalistic inclusivist. That way I find salvation in Jesus alone and still unclench my hell muscles without losing my evangelical street cred. How does that work?

Universalistic inclusivism works by creating a nifty category called “Anonymous Christians.”[vi] Under this view, salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone, but people can be saved by Jesus Christ without knowing him by name. Sincere non-Christians benefit from the work of Christ just as much as Christians. Their sincerity proves their “implicit faith.”

Sounds like a win/win situation.

The Catholic church tilted hard this way in the mid-1960’s in an epic update called Vatican II. It said,

“Those [who have not yet received the gospel] also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds [emphasis added] to do His will as it is known unto them through the dictates of conscience.”[vii]

This position appears so win/win, in fact, it’s also called, “Lenient inclusivism.” Who wouldn’t want both sides of that label?

If you’re looking for universalistic inclusivism, check out your radically up-to-date nearby Catholic church. Also visit some non-Catholic churches formerly known as “emerging,” i.e., younger, hipper churches heavily influenced by popular authors like Spencer Burke,[viii] Brian McLaren,[ix] Rob Bell (?),[x] and Chuck Smith Jr.[xi]

3. Universalistic Exclusivism

A really nice group of friends began attending my church. They volunteered to duplicate audio and print media for our ministry. They were fun people. As I got to know them, they explained how they had spent most of their lives in a cult, and that their whole cult repented of their false teachings, and came to Jesus.

That got my attention…


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You’ve been reading an excerpt from FOUR LETTER WORDS: Conversations on Faith’s Beauty and Logic, by Bill Giovannetti.  © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

REVIEWERS: For an advanced digital copy for review, please email the author.


[i] The Knowledge of the Holy, 1975, p. 95.

[ii] De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX.

[iii] From his sermon, “The Eternity of Hell Torments.”

[iv] Quoted in Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, The Christian Hell: From the First to the Twentieth Century (1913?), p. 38.

[v] In Nancy Haught, “Ten Minutes with the UCC’s Carlton Pearson” on the United Church of Christ website, retrieved August 13, 2009.

[vi] The term, “Anonymous Christians,” was coined by Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner. For a discussion, see LeRoy Miller and Stanley James Grenz, eds., Fortress Introduction To Contemporary Theologies (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1998), pp. 194, ff.

[vii] From Walter M. Abbott, The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966), 35, as cited by K. Neill Foster, in “Implicit Christians: An Evangelical Appraisal” in Alliance Academic Review.com, retrieved on July 29, 2009, http://www.allianceacademicreview.com/1998/AAR1998-7Foster.php

[viii] “I’m a Universalist who believes in Hell… [Grace] is ours simply because God has invited us to the party. We’re in unless we choose to be out. That is how grace works. We don’t opt in to it – we can only opt out.” Spencer Burke, A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity (John Wiley and Sons, 2006), pp. 196, 202.

[ix] Brian McLaren describes a conversation with his daughter, Jess: “I tried to help Jess that Saturday afternoon by telling her about “inclusivism,” an alternative to the “exclusivist” view she was unhappy with. While exclusivism limited eternal life in heaven to bona fide, confessing Christians, inclusivism kept the door open that others could be saved through Christ even if they never identified as Christians… Exclusivism was my starting point, inclusivism was my fall-back, and conditionalism [that Hell and/or its punishment is temporary] was my last resort.” In his article on Beliefnet.com, “If Christianity Is True, People I Love Will Burn in Hell,” retrieved July 30, 2009. McLaren has not yet self-identified with any specific position on universalism other than to say he is not a universalist, though his writings flirt with and tend toward universalism.

[x] Rob Bell. Love Wins. 2011. It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint Bell’s position. He might be classified as a universalist exclusivist, see below. 

[xi] “New-school believers are asking if it is possible for people who do not know the true Jesus to still be covered by his re­demptive work, because he (alone) knows their hearts.” Without explicitly affirming universalism, the authors hint at it strongly in this chapter. Chuck Smith Jr. (not to be confused with his father, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement) and Matt Whitlock,Frequently Avoided Questions (Baker Books, 2005), p. 166.

A.I. and the Ministry of Deconfirmation

americanidolAmerican Idol has returned and all is weird with the world. I’m hooked. I admit it. Enough drama to fuel a fleet of Kia’s.

“I just want someone to tell me that I’m great,” says a weeping contestant. Fine, then work your way from badness to goodness to greatness. Greatness is not bestowed by a three- four-judge panel; it is earned by years of hard work in obscurity. Or sold by the Governor of Illinois to the highest bidder. Or thrust upon you by the vote-counters of Minnesota.

I am always surprised by the talentless auditioners who display genuine befuddlement when the judges reject them.  In my humble opinion, their friends and family should crawl to them in contrition for half a lifetime of duplicity.

simon-cowellWe’ve been told for decades that the younger generation lacks confidence. Not the young people who audition for AI. They brim with confidence. Misplaced confidence. Too much confidence.

Have we raised a generation of young people who really believe they’re good at everything?  Have we deluded these poor Gen-whatever’s into thinking the world really is their oyster?  It’s not. It’s your sieve, and you’re a lump who’s just been sifted. Welcome to the real world.

Whatever happened to speaking the truth in love?

Friends don’t let tone-deaf friends do American Idol.

By the time I reached high school, I knew I’d never be a rock star. Or a football player, talk show host, financier, engineer, builder, or dancer. See how many options I crossed off my list? Whew! Ka-ching on the college savings. I was good with that then; I still am.

Maybe we need to manifest the ministry of deconfirmation. Maybe our kids are baffled about their careers because no one has helped them rule options out. Deconfirm them: “No, honey, you won’t succeed as a singer; stick with math.” “No, little Jim-Bob. Rudy notwithstanding, you’re too small for football. But you’re great at biology–remember how fast you cut apart that frog?” See how loving that sounds? By the time they’re burning wheelbarrows of dollars at college, they should have crossed a few dozen options off the list.

wingedladyThe sky is not the limit, the bottom branch of the apple tree is. Quite a relief.

Spurgeon’s pastor’s college refused to admit preachers who couldn’t preach. They had to audition. I guess that made Spurgeon preaching’s Simon Cowell. I can only hope to follow in his footsteps.

Is everyone an apostle? Of course not. Is everyone a prophet? No. Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? Does everyone have the gift of healing? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in unknown languages? Can everyone interpret unknown languages? No! (1 Corinthians 12:29, 30, NLT).

Can everyone sing?

My mom says I can be anything if I only believe. I hear belly dancing pays well. I’ll start tomorrow. Need entertainment for your next party?

[P.S., Dear Church Veteran, please look up satire, hyperbole, and irony in the dictionary before you take offense.]

A Christless Cross and a Crossless Gospel



In the mid-1980’s, I bumped into a college friend I hadn’t seen for a few years.  He worked in an inner-city church with multi-lingual immigrants.  He had an excellent ministry in may ways, and I was a little jealous.  As my friend described the dysfunction and poverty of the people he served–especially the kids–my heart sank.  I asked, “So what do you have to give these kids?”  When I got his answer, I wished I hadn’t asked.

He said, “Well, Bill, I really don’t have anything to give them except myself.”

My heart sank.  I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought WHO WANTS YOU?  What good are you?  You’re going to leave them someday!  You’re going to move or die!  Then what do they have?  Fond memories? Is that why God called you here?

Sharing the gospel means more than hugging a kid.  And I served full-time as a children’s and youth pastor for almost eight years, in the city of Chicago, so I have a little street cred on this issue.  I planted a church in Chicago and served with wonderful people for 16 years.  The people in our church ran a food pantry (the biggest one in our part of town), a clothing center (pressed and ironed and given free in the name of Jesus), and a ministry to homeless people on Chicago’s lower Wacker Drive, where people lived in cardboard boxes and people from our church brought them food, shared Christ, and sang and prayed.  I’ve planted an urban church, eaten at soup kitchens, spoken at women’s shelters (and played piano poorly there), prayed and served and slept overnight at a mission, and ran an urban high school group.  This isn’t about boasting… it’s about forestalling the criticism that I don’t care about “social ministry.”  I do.  But, as my urban-pastor friend, George Rice, once said, “Social ministry only gives your gospel ministry credibility.”  And, as my urban-pastor friend, Jimcrossceltic.jpgQueen, said, “I don’t care how many people you feed, shelter, or clothe, if you’re not getting people saved, you’re not Christian.” AMEN!!!

I am getting jittery about some developments I see, especially among a generation of Christians raised with post-modern… uhhh… let us call it “mega-flexibility.”  I speak of one branch only of the emerging church (new school theology)–the other branch I really like (new school methodology).

I know, I sound like an angry old guy, ranting. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to be the guy who’s always complaining about something.  I want a positive ministry. I want to build up and encourage. I do have a tolerance for a broad spectrum of evangelical opinion. I can work with and love people I disagree with. I’ve done it all my ministry years. So please take this critique as from a brother who sees friends he loves steering off course–perhaps without even realizing it.

Here are the symptoms of “Mega-flexibility”

  1. Disdain for personal evangelism because you have an “agenda” or an “ulterior motive” in your relationships.  The evangelistic motive poisons the well, and makes lost people doubt your sincerity, they say, so you shouldn’t make it your goal to get people saved.  “Just love them.”But isn’t this a Christless gospel?  Doesn’t this scrape across the grain of Paul’s declaration “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16, NKJV)?  And doesn’t “Just love them” sound like Oprah or Deepak Chopra or whatever guru is out there?I have many wonderful and warm friendships.  I try to be loyal to my friends, and expect them to be loyal to me.  Isn’t Jesus my friend too?  Should I keep him under wraps?  I have never met a self-respecting evangelical who wants to cram Jesus down somebody’s throat.  Yes, it happens in Starbucks and in so-called intrusional evangelism.  I get that.  I’m not talking about that though.  I’m talking about Christians not communicating Jesus and his saving love WITH THEIR WORDS, the much overused St Francis quote notwithstanding.
  2. A fondness for the saying, “It’s not our job to get people saved.”  In context this phrase means, don’t cram Jesus down people’s throats, which we all agree with.  But it goes deeper.  It also means don’t enter relationships with the idea of leading a person to Christ.  This represents a departure from generations of evangelical faith.  The problem with the statement is called equivocation.  Equivocation is what happens when you use the same words with two or more different meanings.  It’s a slippery way to communicate. Pastors who say, “It’s not our job to get people saved” are using the phrase in two different ways (equivocally), and if they is called on it, they can retreat to whichever meaning suits the need at hand. Equivocation. Don’t fall for it. Here’s what I mean…Meaning 1:  It’s not our job to get people saved… because only God can save people.  Only God can redeem and forgive.  You and I have not died for anybody’s sins, and we’re not the Savior. Meaning 1 merits a big Amen, but that’s not what most young hearers of this line will think. They will think…
    Meaning 2:  It’s not our job to get people saved… because we shouldn’t be out there talking about Jesus because Jesus turns people off and we should just love them and let them see our love and that will save them… and so you don’t have to, indeed you shouldn’t bring up Jesus, and certainly not his saving work on the Cross… [some even go this far]  and people are saved by love anyway, and if they’re sincere, they’ll maybe go to heaven…  I wonder how far this train of thought will go before we’ve all become universalists.  

    Look, friends talk about friends, right?  If I’m your friend, over time, you’ll discover that I’m also friends with Dave and Dale and Jim and Gail and whoever else.  It’s natural.  It’s normal.  

    Well, I’m friends with Jesus.  Should I lock him in a closet?  Isn’t it unhealthy to hide Friend A from Friend B?  Sorry, I won’t do that.  If you are going to be in relationship with me, you will hear about my friend, Jesus.  Not in a rude, obnoxious, or preachy way (unless I’m preaching). But in a natural way, as part of my life. Doesn’t it seem disloyal to actually suppress Jesus?  To hide him?  To not speak of his love and sacrifice?  It’s not natural, if you ask me.

    And I’m not talking about Jesus this, Jesus that, Jesus everything… Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  That’s weird too.  I’m talking about a friend who helps me through every day, and it’s just normal to express that.  A friend whose death gave me life and heaven.  It’s natural to express that.

  3. A redefinition of Jesus’ death… This is the part that makes me saddest and maddest.  To use theological terms, I see a trend away from Substitutionary Atonement and toward the Moral Example Theory of the Atonement.  The Moral Example theory states that the Cross is the supreme expression of love. Jesus didn’t die to pay for our sins; he died to show us the extent of the love we must have for one another. And so the good news we Christians have is not so much about a once for all Savior who died in place of us sinners;  it is rather the good news of our self-sacrificing love for others, especially “the least of these.”This posits something the Church has routinely rejected:  A Christless Cross.  A concept of Cross that centers on US instead of HIM.  Ouch.  So we say thing like, “All I have to give them is myself.”When we should be giving them the gospel, which is so clearly defined as Christ-centered and Subsitutionary:
    Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV). 

    Do a study on the Greek construction of “for our sins” and you will discover that the preposition “huper” plus the genitive “sins” indicates the idea of substitution.  Christ died as substitute for our sins.  That’s the idea.  And that’s the gospel.  Any other theory of the atonement must be secondary to the Substitutionary Theory.

    Or else, let’s just throw out all theology since the Reformation, which, sadly, too many emerging church leaders are all to quick to do.  They say things like, “Christ has been so misrepresented we must start over.”  Start over?  Really?   Ouch.  Luther and Calvin and Turrettin and that great cloud of witnesses that did the linguistic and theological work, standing on the shoulders of their forebears, to give us this most precious, utterly unique message of a Savior who loved us and gave himself up for us.

jesuspowerI thank God for the men and women who loved me enough to tell me about Jesus.  It thank God for people who believed in the Great Commission and built churches to keep spreading the gospel.  I thank God for the people who bugged me to Christ.  Now it’s our turn.  Keep Christ central to the gospel.  And keep the Cross central to Christ.

Beware the Crossless Gospel and Beware the Christless Cross.

BIBL2220-Biblical Hermeneutics

6I just saw a sight so beautiful it made my heart skip a beat. Better than a blue-orange sunset. Better than Mt Shasta on a snowy day.  Better than Walter Payton streaking like a gazelle toward the goal line.  I saw young people digging into God’s Word.  I mean really digging in.  We had a Bible research day in my hermeneutics class at Simpson University.

Click “more” for some pictures… Click the thumbnails to enlarge. Read below if you want to download their worksheets and give it a shot yourself.

Continue reading

Does Salvation Have a “Moment”?

As I grew up, the preachers I heard and read referred to “the MOMENT of salvation.” They viewed the inauguration of salvation as an instantaneous event. Much like birth: you can write down the date and time on a birth certificate. It is like crossing a threshold, either you’re in or out. There’s not much gray area.

Maybe that’s why Amazing Grace was so popular: I once was lost, but now I’m found/was blind, but now I see. There’s a BEFORE/AFTER sense to salvation.

Maybe that’s also why Christians can ask, “Are you saved?” There’s a dividing line, a delineating moment. A crisis experience.

I believe that salvation has a moment. That moment is distinguished by faith, or as John Newton put it, “how precious did that grace appear/the hour I first believed.”

This is not to say…

  • that all Christians remember that moment. I don’t. I have only vague memories of it because I was so young.
  • that the moment itself isn’t long in coming. For some, the move to faith is sudden and decisive, like flipping on a light switch. For others, it is gradual, like the coming of dawn. In either case, the light has come. But salvation doesn’t occur until that moment we claim by faith, and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
  • that there’s no linear aspect after salvation’s inauguration. Our emerging church friends rightly point out that an emphasis on the moment of salvation so often means a de-emphasis on the rest of the Christian life. We must be concerned with both. BUT… initial salvation RESCUES A SOUL FROM CONDEMNATION, so that’s why I believe in the priority of evangelism (getting people saved).

Let’s look at a Scripture or two:

  • “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” Col 2:6. Notice the two phases in this verse. “As you have received…” There’s the MOMENT of salvation, expressed beautifully in an aorist indicative verb (for you James). A past tense verb, which in this case what’s called a “punctiliar aktionsart”, a “point of time” quality. There’s a point in time when you received Jesus. After that, the verb, “walk” is in the present indicative, referring to the ongoing lifestyle of our post-salvation Christian experience.
  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” Joh 1:12. Again, the moment of salvation is captured in the aorist (timeless) verb, “received.” It is proper to ask whether or not a person has received Jesus. In this case, John explains what he means by receiving Jesus: Believing on his name. Faith alone in the person and work of Christ. You receive him by believing in him, trusting in him, and relying upon him. When the word believe is coupled with the preposition “in” or “on” you have one of the strongest expressions for trust.
  • ““I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.” Ga 2:20. When was Paul crucified with Christ? At the moment of his salvation. Here, the verb is in the perfect, passive, indicative. The perfect tense indicates an action that was completed in the past, once for all, with abiding results. After that, he can say, “Christ lives in me, and the life which i now live…”
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Eph 2:8. I much prefer the old KJV translation here; modern English has gone away from the conventions on translating perfect tense verbs. The old KJV reads, “for by grace are ye saved.” The main verb, “saved” is put in an English past tense, and the helping verb, “are” is put in the present. Why? To differentiate a perfect (completed) action from past action. English doesn’t do this very well. “Saved” is in the perfect tense… an action completed in the past, with abiding results into the present. “Are saved” expresses both perfectly, don’t you think? We could translate… “for by grace you were saved in the past with the result that you are saved now and will always be saved…”

Salvation is more than inviting people to be active in the church. It is more than welcoming lost people into community with Christians. It is not something we grow into, though we grow toward it. Still, at the end of the process, there must come a crisis. There must come a full dawn. That moment of we first believed. That moment we crossed the line, whether we remember it or not.

That’s why, in one sense. all Christians have the same testimony, like the father said of his prodigal son: “‘It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”” Lu 15:32.

At Last… The Emerging Church Defined

mssnl-1.jpgIt seems that the body of Christ is having a tough time naming its latest protuberance. What is this soft mass we’ve been calling the Emerging Church? It has been said to mean many things. It has been said to defy definition. It has been said to be so new (emerging) that we don’t know what it is yet.

Well, I believe I have it figured out. You are welcome to join the conversation. Here is the essential glossary of the emerging church. Continue reading

Spirit or Flesh: How do you know?

mountainmeditation.jpegIn my recent blog on legalism (scroll down to see it) Sherri asked, “How do you know if you’re walking in the flesh or the Spirit?” (in essence).

I’d like to tackle that question today.

The wounderful* fundamentalist church in which I was reared placed too much focus on motives (*not a misspelling). “Check your motives. Check your heart. Have a clean heart.” Continue reading

Control the Story, Control the World

galileo.jpgHalf a millennium ago, the predominant cosmology viewed the earth as the center of the solar system. Geocentrism was the story of the day. An Italian researcher named Galileo told a different story. He argued for heliocentrism; the data proved that the sun, not earth, was the center of the solar system. But that didn’t fit the story line.

So the stewards of the story–at that time, the Catholic Church–condemned Galileo to spend the last years of his life under house arrest. Thank you, Inquisition. Never mind that his view fit the facts. It didn’t fit the story so it was false and he had to be punished.

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The Magic Pill

magicpill.jpegWhat cures all, solves all, heals all, comforts all, is free for the taking, and most people have a huge supply sitting on their shelves?

“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 2:21; 5:13, NKJV.

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An Old/New Way of Ancient/Future Thinking

rader1a.jpgPostmodernism/emergentism loves paradoxical/slash thinking/reading so I thought I’d take a shot/stab at it.

Not really. Too many slashes would be annoying/unkind to you, my merciful/forgiving maxgrace.com reader/visitor. Really. I’ll stop. I’m done. Seriously.

Can I say that I’m alarmed by some trends in the church today? Mostly in terms of theology. The alarming trend bouncing in my brain this morning is the changing view of the church’s and Christian’s mission. Continue reading