Can Politicians Bring About Biblical Morality?


I remember a moment, as clear as if it happened yesterday, although it was about 40 years ago (!) and it prepared me for what is happening today. Indeed, it was crucial, even though I did not know it at the time. Thank you Lord.

Fast-forward to today. I watched a short video [thanks to OnesimusFiles] that examined today’s political and religious events in America (America principally, but also affecting the rest of the world). That too recalled the truths I refer to above. Both roots sprang up together – because everything in our lives is ordered by God. Continue reading

What Is The Mandela Effect?


Nelson-Mandela
You may or may not be aware that there’s a new major conspiracy on the block, based on a genuine psychological phenomenon called the Mandela Effect.

However, this one has reached worrying levels of absurdity, and is hotly defended by its followers.
Continue reading

‘Jesus’ Wife’ Papyrus is a HOAX


May 1, 2014 7:17 p.m. ET

In September 2012, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced the discovery of a Coptic (ancient Egyptian) gospel text on a papyrus fragment that contained the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’ ” The world took notice. The possibility that Jesus was married would prompt a radical reconsideration of the New Testament and biblical scholarship.

Yet now it appears almost certain that the Jesus-was-married story line was divorced from reality. On April 24, Christian Askeland—a Coptic specialist at Indiana Wesleyan University and my colleague at the Green Scholars Initiative—revealed that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” as the fragment is known, was a match for a papyrus fragment that is clearly a forgery.

Almost from the moment Ms. King made her announcement two years ago, critics attacked the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife as a forgery. One line of criticism said that the fragment had been sloppily reworked from a 2002 online PDF of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas and even repeated a typographical error.

But Ms. King had defenders. The Harvard Theological Review recently published a group of articles that attest to the papyrus’s authenticity. Although the scholars involved signed nondisclosure agreements preventing them from sharing the data with the wider scholarly community, the New York Times was given access to the studies ahead of publication. The newspaper summarized the findings last month, saying “the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.” The article prompted a tide of similar pieces, appearing shortly before Easter, asserting that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was genuine.

The ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ fragment is about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches. Karen L. King/Associated Press

Then last week the story began to crumble faster than an ancient papyrus exposed in the windy Sudan. Mr. Askeland found, among the online links that Harvard used as part of its publicity push, images of another fragment, of the Gospel of John, that turned out to share many similarities—including the handwriting, ink and writing instrument used—with the “wife” fragment. The Gospel of John text, he discovered, had been directly copied from a 1924 publication.

“Two factors immediately indicated that this was a forgery,” Mr. Askeland tells me. “First, the fragment shared the same line breaks as the 1924 publication. Second, the fragment contained a peculiar dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which fell out of use during or before the sixth century.” Ms. King had done two radiometric tests, he noted, and “concluded that the papyrus plants used for this fragment had been harvested in the seventh to ninth centuries.” In other words, the fragment that came from the same material as the “Jesus’ wife” fragment was written in a dialect that didn’t exist when the papyrus it appears on was made.

Mark Goodacre, a New Testament professor and Coptic expert at Duke University, wrote on his NT Blog on April 25 about the Gospel of John discovery: “It is beyond reasonable doubt that this is a fake, and this conclusion means that the Jesus’ Wife Fragment is a fake too.” Alin Suciu, a research associate at the University of Hamburg and a Coptic manuscript specialist, wrote online on April 26: “Given that the evidence of the forgery is now overwhelming, I consider the polemic surrounding the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus over.”

Having evaluated the evidence, many specialists in ancient manuscripts and Christian origins think Karen King and the Harvard Divinity School were the victims of an elaborate ruse. Scholars had assumed that radiometric tests would return an early date (at least in antiquity), because the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment had been cut from a genuinely ancient piece of material. Likewise, those familiar with papyri had identified the ink used as soot-based—preferred by forgers because the Raman spectroscopy tests used to test for age would be inconclusive.

It is perhaps understandable that Ms. King would have been taken in when an anonymous owner presented her with some papyrus fragments for research. What is harder to understand was the rush by the media and others to embrace the idea that Jesus had a wife and that Christian beliefs have been mistaken for centuries. No evidence for Jesus having been married exists in any of the thousands of orthodox biblical writings dating to antiquity. You would have thought Thomas Aquinas might have mentioned it. But this episode is not totally without merit. It will provide a valuable case study for research classes long after we’re gone and the biblical texts remain.

Dr. Pattengale is executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, with appointments at Indiana Wesleyan University and other institutions.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304178104579535540828090438

 

Mission Impossible?


What are we aiming for?

Almost every modern enterprise, and many a ministry too, now feels the need to have a “mission statement” outlining the ultimate aim of their endeavour. This set me off thinking – what it the aim, the endgame, the goal of the work of ‘discernment ministries’ as we have been labelled by some?

It’s quite easy to look back and see the aim in the 80’s when the churches were first infiltrated and wooed by such aberrant doctrines as the New Age, Restoration, Dominion Theology, Prosperity Doctrine and suchlike.
Continue reading

IHOP’s New Breed Leaders


(A Report From Herescope/Discernment Research Ministry)

The very strange teachings about Bloodlines, New Breed, Elect Seed, New Order and Abortion in the history of the IHOP movement

  • “The best of every blood line”
  • “300,000 that will have a special measure of the Spirit”
  • “getting the next generation into the warfare”
  • ” the elect generation”
  • “leadership over the one billion” (Mike Bickle & Bob Jones)[1]

The IHOP (International House of Prayer) movement is now front and center stage as a national controversy continues to swirl around Texas Governor Rick Perry and his upcoming prayer rally The Response featuring prominent IHOP and NAR leaders as “endorsers.” The national media is scrambling to catch up with the significance of this event, and a few reporters are bungling it badly.[2]

In the meantime, The Response showed no signs of faltering, as James and Shirley Dobson, Max Lucado and Maine Governor Paul LePage added their weight to a new promo webpage for the event, “What Others are Saying.” This quasi-political prayer event continues to be controversial because of the potential political ambitions of Gov. Perry who, according to one reporter, “may be counting on apostles and prophets to help propel him to the White House.”[3] This same article recounts the attempts by the NAR and IHOP movements to bridge racial divides:

[Alice] Patterson’s aim, as she makes clear in her book [Bridging the Racial and Political Divide: How Godly Politics Can Transform a Nation], is getting black and brown evangelicals to vote Republican and support conservative causes. A major emphasis among the New Apostles is racial reconciliation and recruitment of minorities and women. The apostolic prayer networks often perform elaborate ceremonies in which participants dress up in historical garb and repent for racial sins.

The formula—overcoming racism to achieve multiracial fundamentalism—has caught on in the apostolic movement. Some term the approach the “Rainbow Right,” and in fact The Response has a high quotient of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans in leadership positions.

Lou Engle, for example, is making a big push to recruit black activists into the anti-abortion ranks. “We’re looking for the new breed of black prophets to arise and forgive us our baggage,” he said at Trinity Assemblies of God, “and then lead us out of victimization and into the healing of a nation, to stop the shedding of innocent blood.”[4]

What do these self-proclaimed apostles and prophets of IHOP and NAR mean when they talk about race and abortion? Do they mean what YOU think they mean? They have a long history of double-speak. You might think they are against abortion, for Israel, and against racism. But are they really? This group is noted for their clever use of language and unique terminology, especially the concoction of new doctrines. Note the terminology in the quotation above: “new breed.” And note the reference to “ceremonies” which supposedly repent of “racial sins.” These ceremonies are based on a Dominionist teaching called “Identificational Repentance” which puts more focus on ethnicity than language, a strange practice if one is concerned about spreading the Gospel.

From their inception these self-proclaimed prophets have articulated what they mean by these terminologies. They claim that they got their teachings from “God.” And what they actually believe should give any American truly concerned about race relations, the right to life, pro-Israel and freedom of religion pause for sober concern. Their agenda may be totally different than what appears on the surface. Like any cult, they may seem sincere. But they also have scary ambitions, which are both political and religious, and they fall far outside the American mainstream. And they intend to use the current young generation, what they call the “New Breed,” to achieve their political aims.

What follows are a series of quotations and excerpts from old Discernment Ministries newsletters. Discernment Ministries began publishing newsletters in May of 1990, chronicling the rise of the Kansas City group in particular.[5] The most important pieces of documentation are the graphic image exhibits that were common during the era when the Kansas City group merged with the Vineyard.

Exhibit A above this post is a poster that was for sale from Kansas City Fellowship two decades ago which depicts the “manchild” — a fair-skinned baby who represents the “New Breed” becoming “god-man.”

Exhibit B, alongside, the military knight in armor holding a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby, represents the “New Breed” that is to become “Joel’s Army.”[6]

THE NEW BREED:

“The children are the best of all the generations that have ever been upon the face of the earth. . . those ELECTED SEEDS that will glorify Christ in the last days. .. they will move into things of the supernatural that no one has ever been in the Bible – They’ll move in it consistently. . . they themselves will be that generation that’s raised up to put death itself underneath their feet. . . . a church that has reached the full maturity of the god-man!” (Transcripts, Kansas City Fellowship, 1988 Interview Bob Jones with Mike Bickle).[7]

ABORTION and the NEW BREED:

“…every time God ever planned to do anything, the devil would get wind of it and he’d go out there and try to head if off. . . when he knew how Moses was coming, what did he do to stop him. . .. he killed all the babies. What did he do when he figured that Jesus was going to be born at a certain time? He released a decree through the wicked ruler to kill all the babies. Don’t you see? And what’s he doing now? There’s mass mutilation and murder of thousands and millions of unborn babies. Abortions on every hand. So, you must know something’s coming up greater than Moses, greater than. . . even in Jesus’ day, because the Devil is trying to kill off the NEW BREED, he’s trying to kill off the Bride of Christ and he’s trying to kill the whole thing off, but the Lord has well planted this seed of the New Bride and the New Breed. . . . He’s about to open the womb and He’s about to give birth to this NEW THING. . . . when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us we beheld the glories of the only begotten of the Father and when YOU begin to become that Word I want you to know the world will behold the glory of the Father and that’s what we’re waiting to see. . . I want you to know that we’re going to have some channeling one of these days, but it’s going to be channeled right out of the throne room of heaven.” (Paul Cain, speaking at the Vineyard Prophetic Conference in 1989)[8]

A NEW SUPER RACE:

“Praise God, our Creator has a plan to restore order to His creation. Two thousand years ago He raised up a “fourth race” of man, descended from the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. This fourth race is a true super race which will fulfill God’s divine purpose to bring righteousness to earth. That super race was created to rule over every nation, every tongue, and every people on this planet. This fourth race… transcends the human body and time itself! God ordained that this earth be conquered and ruled by a super race of spiritual beings who are united by a single scarlet thread – the blood of Christ! God’s super race of man in our generation!” (Turnel Nelson, Destiny Image Digest)[9]

ABORTING the RIGHTEOUS SEED:

“God’s expressed intention of using the Seed of the woman to crush the head of satan (Gen. 3:15) clarifies His divine hope of generations… Satan’s purpose is to steal, to kill and to destroy our children. He is especially targeting the righteous seed. He is afraid that a godly generation will rise up to crush his head.”(Dr. Patricia Morgan, Destiny Image Digest)[10]

NEW ORDER TRANSFORMATION:

“….the Gospel of the Kingdom is not just the Word, it is the Word and power… until we get millions of Christians to have that incarnate Word come to them and them be the Incarnate Word… that’s the only way we’re going to see a nation turn to the Lord in a day…. God’s strange act is going to bring a New Order of things and bring a NEW BREED in and bring a transformation…. The nations will come to your light… you’re going to be the LIGHT OF DAY and the LIGHT OF LIFE. Capital L-I-G-H- T, Capital L-I-F-E. You’re going to be the Light of LIFE, just as Jesus stood on the Mount of Transfiguration and went through that Chrysalis Metamorphosis Stage and they saw Him shine – His raiment did shine – His whole being did shine brighter than the noon day sun and God’s going to have a whole company – a whole group of people that are going to be like that… Things are about to change… and when God begins to move in these last days, He’s going to shake the chains loose and there’s going to be a chain-reaction and people will die…. I tell you, God is going to have His army and they’re going to be a fearful bunch and they’re going to go into everyplace on the face of the earth….” (Paul Cain, KC “prophet” speaking at the Anaheim Vineyard “School For Prophecy)[11]

JOEL’S ARMY:

“There will be a special anointing released for mobilizing the army of the Lord…. There will be an impartation of strategic vision… to boldly march against the greatest strongholds of our time… This army of which Joel speaks is about to be revealed…. They will take cities. They will burst through the enemy’s strongholds and take houses (families). The very heavens and the earth are about to shake because of this great army… the time has come.”(Rick Joyner, advertising a conference)[12]

MIKE BICKLE’S NEW BREED:

“It now appears that God is raising up a New Breed of leadership to do the ‘new thing’. This NEW BREED will be young and fresh, with a pioneering spirit – whether chronologically young or old in age. Last year I had the opportunity to meet several young men whom I believe represents this NEW BREED of leadership…We invite you to learn more about Mike Bickle, a part of God’s NEW BREED for the 90’s.”[13]

(For additional quotations see the Herescope post “The NEW BREED defined,” 2/03/06.)

Teachings about a New Order,[14] a New Breed, and a superior Race, are not new. They are actually very old. Combined they are very potent, and very disturbing. Discernment Ministries warned back in 1990, as the Kansas City movement began to rise in prominence with its association with Vineyard which spread these teachings throughout the evangelical world, that

This NEW BREED mentality is one of the most dangerous and divisive doctrines facing the Church. It threatens existing denominations and churches across the nation. Pastors, brace yourselves to face growing confusion as a result!

Again, it needs to be emphasized that this NEW BREED doctrine is the kernel thought that undergirds most of the known cults. Hitler, in the name of God was religiously obsessed with the idea of a NEW BREED of people, a PURE RACE, a NEW GENERATION and A NEW ORDER. Books and publications have attributed the rise of the Third Reich to the spirit of occultism. Many of the great theologians in Germany at that time gave Hitler’s “pure race” ideology theological cohesiveness. Amazingly we are now seeing history repeat itself. However the modern “prophets” interpret their NEW BREED of religion, the fact remains it is the same seed thought (elitism) that gave rise to Hitler’s THIRD REICH that plagued Germany and the world. It was this spirit of “elitism” that led to anti-Semitism. Nazism, the New Age Movement and the NEW BREED are one and the same: they are merely different manifestations of the same evil seed – “elitism”.

The NEW BREED spirit in Hitler’s day permeated the churches in Germany. One of the first things the NEW BREEDERS sought to do in support of their “elitist” race was to unite all the churches in Germany. With this NEW WAVE of “elitism” once again flooding the Church, it comes as no surprise to hear the apostate Church speaking of UNITING all the churches at the expense of SOUND DOCTRINE.[15]

Furthermore, Discernment Ministries warned back in 1990 about the rise of this “New Order” and explained in the November 1990 Discernment Newsletter that “THE NEW ORDER that is arising is, among other things, a REPLACEMENT for the Nation of Israel.”[16]

So what is the NAR/IHOP political action alliance agenda? Do we really know? We see the public facade, the Tea Party political rhetoric. But do Americans really understand the depths of bizarre occult ideas that lie barely beneath the surface — the fervent military heresies that are so powerful and seductive, engaging youth and political activists with the cause to fulfill their calling as a New Breed race, becoming a Joel’s Army marching in lockstep, to build a New Order Kingdom on earth?

The Truth:

These prophecies in the quotes above were said to come from God. But it should be noted that they expressly contradict God’s Word, the Bible. So which “God” is driving this movement? In June 1990, warning about the rise of this “New Breed” heresy, Travers and Jewel van der Merwe, writing for the Discernment Newsletter explained the biblical truth:

The whole NEW BREED concept is totally unscriptural. The only way they can attempt to prove their false doctrine is to twist, misquote or allegorize the Scriptures. According to the “prophets” all believers are not a part of the NEW BREED because it is reserved for a special quality of Christian in the last days. But Praise God, the Bible refutes this fallacy. On the contrary, it gives all believers the following assurance:

1. All believers are equal in Christ. Galatians 3:28.
2. All believers are new creatures. II Corinthians 5:17.
3. All believers are made righteous by faith, that is of grace. Romans 4:16.
4. All believers are of the seed of Abraham. Romans 4:16.
5. All believers were baptized into one body. I Corinthians 12:13.
6. All believers are members of the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:14.
7. All believers are part of the ELECT. I Peter 1:2.
8. All believers are a CHOSEN GENERATION. I Peter 2:1, 2.
9. All believers are “born again.” John 3:3, 15.
10. All believers are lively stones and a holy priesthood. I Peter 2:5.

The word BREED is not found once in Scripture, much less the term A NEW BREED.[17]

Endnotes:
1. Background documentation for understanding these teachings of the Kansas City group is the taped excerpts of a discussion between Mike Bickle and Bob Jones, which is transcribed at this Herescope post, 2/3/06, “The NEW BREED Defined,” http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/02/new-breed-defined.html Note the focus on the New Breed generation.
2. For example, Cathy Lynn Grossman in USA Today, 7/10/11, referred to C. Peter Wagner as C. PORTER Wagner in her brief article, “Critics hit Texas Gov. Perry for prayer day ‘endorsers.” http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2011/07/prayer-rick-perry-christian-/1
3. Forrest Wilder, “Rick Perry’s Army of God: A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man,” 7/13/11, The Texas Observer, https://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/rick-perrys-army-of-god. (This is an example of a highly-researched and credible article by the press.)
4. Ibid.
5. Discernment Ministries has original sources, including eyewitness experience, for most of this documentation. The newsletter archive is posted here: http://www.discernment-ministries.org/newsletters.html
6. Jewel (van der Merwe) Grewe has spoken extensively on this topic, using these two graphic images of the New Breed babies as exhibits in her speeches at Discernment Ministries conferences over the years. Discernment Ministries has on file the original documentation on this matter.
7. Excerpted from the June 1990 Discernment Newsletter http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Jun.pdf and also posted in its complete context on Herescope http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/02/new-breed-defined.html
8. Transcribed and published in the September 1990 Discernment Newsletter http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Sep.pdf
9. Turnel Nelson, “The Emerging Super Race,” Destiny Image Digest, Volume 1, Number 1. This is cited in the March/April 1993 Discernment Newsletter, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1993MarApr.pdf, which remarked that this was a “new prophetic magazine.” It was published by Destiny Image Publishers, which continues to be the chief publisher for the New Apostolic Reformation and the Kansas City group. See the current list of authors: http://www.destinyimage.com/index.php?main_page=diauthors
10. Ibid, quote attributed to Dr. Patricia Morgan, “professor at ORU” (Oral Roberts University). This quotation and the one by Nelson above are included as examples of how these teachings were spreading as early as 1993.
11. Paul Cain, KC “prophet” speaking at the Anaheim Vineyard “School For Prophecy,” Session 7, quoted as an example of Manifest Sons of God teaching in the Discernment Newsletter, May/June 1994, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1994MayJun.pdf Cain, Bickle, Bob Jones and others at KCF were said to be the “FIRST FRUITS” of the “NEW BREED” leaders to come (June 1990 Discernment Newsletter).
12. Rick Joyner, The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin, August 1994, footnote 20 in the Oct/Nov/Dec 1994 Discernment Ministries Newsletter, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1994OctNovDec.pdf
13. Oct/Nov/Dec 1994 Discernment Ministries Newsletter, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1994OctNovDec.pdf quoting from the Fullness Fellowship Communique, Vol. 3, No. 4, April 1990.
14. The Latter Rain cult was actually called “The New Order of the Latter Rain,” which is explained in “The New Order,” Discernment Newsletter, November 1990, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Nov.pdf
15. “The New Breed,” Discernment Newsletter, June 1990, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Jun.pdf For detailed documentation on these points, see the book published online STRANGE FIRE: The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/StrangeFire.pdf
16. “The New Order,” Discernment Newsletter, November 1990, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Nov.pdf
17. “The New Breed,” Discernment Newsletter, June 1990, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Jun.pdf
Ed. Note: Many of the quotation from this post can also be found in the document by Pastor Ernie Gruen, “Documentation of The Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries),” http://www.deceptionbytes.com/AberrentPractices.pdf and many are also transcribed in the book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion by Al Dager (Sword 1990). These and many other of the original recordings and pieces of documentation are in the possession of Discernment Ministries.

posted by Discernment Research Group @ 7/16/2011 06:44:00 PM

Harold Camping responsible for massacre of Christians in Vietnam


NOTE: This slaughter is confirmed by reports from International Christian Concern (‘persecution.org’) and other sources. Harold Camping’s false prophecy from earlier this year caused hundreds of Hmong people to be slaughtered. Below is a new report from Jacob Prasch in the actual region describing how it happened:

FALSE PROPHECY Causes HUNDREDS KILLED
-by Jacob Prasch.

As most of you are aware I am at this moment in North Vietnam helping the much persecuted Hmong people of the tribal mountain areas.

After listening to a translation of Camping’s prediction 7,000 of these people (known in The West as Montagnards) gathered on a mountain praising God – their suffering at the hands of the Communist regime was supposedly about to end because Jesus was returning that day in May to establish a new kingdom.

The police and military police slaughtered many of them at gunpoint beheading two pastors. Others were arrested. I am told by Hmong pastors that so many were shot dead that they were buried in mass graves bulldozed over in an episode that I read about in Britain but did not understand the magnitude of until I got here. I am now trying to clean up the mess at the request of local Hmong leaders.

I spoke to a secret convocation of Hmong pastors only yesterday who came to Hanoi, explaining to them about false prophets and false teachers.

Due to a combination of poverty, ignorance, and persecution these poor Christians don’t understand much so they believed Camping’s shortwave broadcast which is how most get their teaching in a certain village area with heavy persecution. Their families don’t know if their missing loved ones are among the many shot dead, among those arrested and imprisoned, or among those from the 7,000 hiding in the jungle.

I am not the nicest guy in the world let alone the best Christian and I can’t pretend to be. But anyone who had to deal with the confusion and devastation I am dealing with now due to Harold Camping would also blow their top. These people already suffering for their faith in Jesus had it bad enough. They are not like the undiscerning whackos in The West who should have known Camping was a crackpot and a proven false prophet & false teacher.
This is a persecuted church who just had no means to know any different. This is why I get angry at those who deceive the Body of Christ and why I warn so much about false teachers and false prophets. It may be an extreme case but these people, some of them children, were shot dead. Of course we can blame Satan and the communists but their blood is on the hands of Harold Camping and his Family radio. Women without husbands, children without parents, husbands without wives – thank you Family Radio; thank you Harold Camping.

Frankly, this has been a rough week for me. One of the worst I ever had. I am up to my eyeballs in muck trying to explain to tribal pastors how to explain to their people why their families were massacred needlessly and trying to advise them how to potect their flocks from such wolves in the future…

The anguish of the Hmong folk took my concentration off of my own problems… because their problems are so much greater after what they refer to as ‘the mountain massacre’ due to Harold Camping.

Please pray for these people and the work of Moriel Asia branch here among the Hmong. We are trying to get 5,000 outlawed Hmong Bibles printed or smuggled in via Laos.

Where does it end?  These people are suffering terribly while Camping is still in business in Oakland, California – as usual telling more lies…  Come Lord Jesus.

“Love Wins” book questions existence of Hell


Is There Anything Wrong With Rob Bell’s Gospel? 

Book Report by J. Lee Grady.

The popular author’s controversial book  “Love Wins” celebrates God’s love but drifts dangerously into Universalism.

I’m usually quick to speak my mind. But in the case of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins, I’ve withheld comment until now because (1) I don’t think Christians should judge books before reading them; (2) the theological issues addressed require careful analysis; and (3) I have many young friends who are fans of Bell’s books, and they may write me off if I don’t treat him fairly.

So I’ll begin with a compliment. Bell is a masterful writer whose prose is poetic. As pastor of the 7,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, Bell has gained a following because of his casual style, his ultra-cool Nooma videos and the previous books he’s released with Christian publisher Zondervan (especially Velvet Elvis).

Bell’s core theme is that Christians have been too narrow in their view of God and His mercy. He argues that God loves people too much to banish them to hell. In the end, he says, after this life is over, everybody will find ultimate reconciliation in Christ.”

With Love Wins, he’s taking his message mainstream. HarperCollins published it, and Time magazine featured a cover story in April about the firestorm Bell has triggered among conservative Christian leaders who have accused him of heresy. So what’s all the fuss about?

Bell’s core theme is that Christians have been too narrow in their view of God and His mercy. He argues that God loves people too much to banish them to hell. In the end, he says, after this life is over, everybody will find ultimate reconciliation in Christ. Bell claims this is what the Bible teaches, and he suggests that Christian theologians have promoted the idea for centuries.

He writes: “At the center of the Christian tradition … have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.”

That sounds a lot like Universalism, the idea that all spiritual paths ultimately lead to heaven. But pinning the Universalist label on Bell isn’t easy because he doesn’t write authoritatively. He muses, hints, speculates and suggests his views, so not to offend. Rather than preach with conviction, he invites his readers to a “conversation.” It feels friendly and non-confrontational.

Near the end of the book Bell sounds solidly evangelical when he emphasizes that people must receive the grace God has offered to us. But he sounds more like Oprah when he asks: “Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow this, and claim to be a loving God?”

I can appreciate Bell’s desire to distance himself from the mean-spirited side of American fundamentalism. Young people today are horrified (so am I) by self-righteous, Bible-toting believers who burn Qurans or spew hatred toward immigrants or homosexuals. Bell despises the “turn or burn” attitude that has made Christians look judgmental. He also believes we’ve trivialized salvation by turning conversion into a formulaic prayer, and by focusing the Christian life on the idea of “getting into heaven.” I agree with him on those points.

But Bell is also guilty of trivializing salvation. He writes about an ooey-gooey God of love but leaves out God’s justice and holiness. His gospel, at times, sounds squishy and spineless. You can’t correct the abuses of fundamentalism by disregarding the severe side of God’s nature. You can’t bring balance by swinging the pendulum too far the other way.

Because of Bell’s popularity, Love Wins could steer the American church into dangerous waters. You can ignore the book if you want, but you can’t ignore the fact that younger Christians are turned off by certain attitudes in the church, and they need solid answers. We must address the key doctrinal issues that Bell raises:

1. The reality of hell. Bell downplays Scriptural support for the existence of hell while admitting that Jesus talked about it more than anyone in the New Testament. At times he suggests that hell is just a state of mind, or maybe a manifestation of evil on earth. He also questions whether God would send anyone to hell since He’s so forgiving.

Yet when the apostle Paul preached the gospel he warned of “the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25, NASB). The essence of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from eternal separation from God. Don’t we still believe this?

2. The exclusivity of Christianity. Bell makes a strong case that Jesus died to reconcile all people to God, but then he suggests that not everyone will realize it was Jesus they were praying to. The inference is that Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists will show up in heaven since they were responding to a divine impulse they didn’t understand.

If that’s true, why did Jesus Himself say the road to salvation was exclusively narrow and the road to destruction was wide? (see Matt. 7:13-14). Why did He command us to take the message of salvation to the nations? Why did the early apostles preach that salvation was only in His name? Were they narrow-minded fundamentalists too?

3. The necessity of evangelism. Bell comes close to ridiculing Christians who share their faith, and he wonders if it’s really necessary for missionaries to share the gospel abroad. He asks: “If our salvation … is dependent on others bringing the message to us–teaching us, showing us–what happens if they don’t do their part? What if the missionary gets a flat tire?”

I’m sure Bell gets laughs when he repeats that line in a sermon. But it’s really not funny. He’s suggesting that there’s no urgency about preaching the gospel, and that lives aren’t at stake when we ignore our responsibility to evangelize. Tell that to the apostle Paul, who wasn’t laughing when he said he felt an overwhelming obligation to preach so he could save sinners (see Rom. 1:14).

Bell says he asked Jesus into his heart when he was a child, so I’m treating him as a brother in Christ. I’m not picking a fight with him. But I can’t endorse Love Wins. The doctrines of heaven, hell, salvation and damnation are too serious to be treated haphazardly. May the Lord help us to reclaim a truly New Testament gospel in an hour of spiritual compromise.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

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