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On March 26, 2011, the Telegraph Magazine reported that well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens, suffering from cancer of the oesophagus, is undergoing treatment by Dr Francis Collins.

Many of my American readers will recognise Dr Collins as the Founder and President (2007-2009) of The BioLogos Forum, whose slogan is ‘Science and Faith in Dialogue’.  Not all of my readers from the other side of the pond will appreciate Dr Collins’s efforts in this area, and he has raised hackles in the US among more orthodox Christians.  Personally, I think he is doing wonders for both science and Christianity, although I recognise that I am not fully in tune with the zeitgeist of American evangelicalism and received my education at a different time in America’s history.  Enough said.

On the About page of the BioLogos site, we discover that Dr Collins was an atheist until sometime in his 20s

after realizing his perspective did not provide answers to profound questions about the meaning of life and was inconsistent with observations about the nature of the universe and humankind. He wrote about finding harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, which spent 20 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Collins coined the term BioLogos to define the conclusions he reached about how life, or bios, came about through God’s word, or logos. DNA, therefore, may be considered God’s language.

Collins received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Virginia, a doctorate in physical chemistry from Yale University and a medical degree from The University of North Carolina. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and in November 2007 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the president, for revolutionizing genetic research.

Collins gives frequent lectures about science and faith on college campuses that regularly attract more than 1,000 people. His book on personalized medicine, “The Language of Life” was published by HarperCollins in January 2010.

President Obama swore Dr Collins in as the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on August 17, 2009.  Collins had resigned from his post at BioLogos the preceding day.

Christopher Hitchens says that he is a

‘guinea pig’ for a new personalised medicine

which Dr Collins, a former director of the National Human Genome Research Project, helped to develop.

The two had often met in the past as adversaries in the debate about whether God exists.

Against the odds they had become friends.

Now Hitchens is one of the few people in the world who has had his entire genetic make up mapped and is receiving a new treatment that targets his own damaged DNA.

“I’m an experiment,” Hitchens said.

If successful, the treatment should attack the primary site of Mr Hitchens’s tumour.

“It is a rather wonderful relationship,’ said Hitchens.

“I won’t say he doesn’t pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn’t discuss it with me.

“He agrees that his medical experience does not include anything that could be described as a miracle cure – he’s never come across anything.”

Hitchens, 61, originally from Portsmouth but now living in Washington DC, is an old Oxford University friend of the writer Martin Amis and has had a long journalistic career on both sides of the Atlantic.

In September 2005, he was named one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.

Despite the gravity of his illness, Mr Hitchens has not changed his views on God.  He has undergone chemotherapy but is now taking medication only once a day.  As such, he is relatively upbeat:

“At least it spares me some of the boredom of being a cancer patient because what I’m going through is very absorbing and positively inspiring,” he said.

“But if it doesn’t work, I don’t know what they could try next.”

He remains hopeful, although he has been told that of 1,000 men of his age and in his condition, half could expect to be dead within a year.

Yet, he is hesitant about fellow atheists becoming too optimistic about his chances for success:

Hitchens said that he is constantly contacted by other atheists telling him he can beat the cancer and this in itself makes him feel “alarmed to be a repository of other people’s hope”.

It seems as if Dr Collins might be the ideal physician for the redoubtable unbeliever.  It takes one to know one.  And Dr Collins might just, in the end, effect more than a remission from cancer for Mr Hitchens.  That would be an even greater story.

At the end of last week, I remarked to my regular commenter Lleweton that it wouldn’t be long before Rob Bell came to the UK.  No sooner said than done.  Okay, admittedly, I thought it might be at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who rather likes the emergent church.  (Maybe it keeps him young.)

But, no, it’s an organisation called Greenbelt which is a fusion of emergent-type Christianity with secular events such as music and arts festivals.  They’ve scheduled four events around England so that people can see and hear Bell in person.  (And buy his new book, Love Wins, which I featured in last week’s posts.)

You can read more about Greenbelt on their site, but here’s a very brief summary:

The diversity of content not only demonstrates our commitment to the arts, faith and justice, but also our underlying values of tolerance, dialogue and hope.

Our 37-year history is firmly rooted within a Christian tradition which is world-affirming, politically and culturally engaged. Ours is a belief that embraces instead of excludes. And, as such, the Festival is family-friendly celebration, inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief.

Bell will be appearing in London (Central Hall, Westminster – April 18), Cheltenham (Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse – April 19), Liverpool (Anglican Cathedral – 20 April) and Cambridge (Corn Exchange – April 21).

Maybe the Archbishop of Canterbury will be in Liverpool on April 20.  The two would get on quite well.

Here’s what some of the members of Puritan Board had to say about Rob Bell (emphases in bold mine):

‘I am from Grand Rapids, so I oftentimes feel like I am on the front-lines of the war on heresy. Rob Bell is a very dangerous man.’

‘It is deception, pure and simple; he is twisting a beautiful thing and whoring a pure woman. And some of my family would make a hajj to Grand Rapids just to hear him in person.’

‘This is nothing new. There will always be false teachers among God’s people. Flee from them and don’t cozy up them like Korah’s tent.’

‘Providentially we also found ourself in a text that deals directly with this issue. Amos 5:16-27 which specifically mentions the “Day of the Lord” and Israel’s failure to prepare for it and its false hope in its own righteousness.’

‘It is not like we need this book by Bell to know he has universalistic teaching.’

And from a member who is also a Fuller graduate but has since adopted orthodoxy:

Mr. Bell is one of the most “illustrious” graduates of my alma mater. Inhaling the heady air of Pasadena, he heard these things the same place I did, from our profs. Graduating several years before Bell, annihilation was taught/promoted in my Sys Theo III class way back in the ’70s when Bell was in 1st grade!

To my extreme dismay, he is uber popular with many young evangelicals.

Now, this cautionary note from Trevin Wax at Kingdom People:

Whenever theological discussions like this erupt, it’s always a good idea to think about why certain views are popular. One of the six counterfeits I discuss in Counterfeit Gospels is “The Judgmentless Gospel” and in that chapter, I point out three reasons why it is attractive:

1. It removes an emotional barrier to Christianity.

Let’s face it. One reason we are attracted to this counterfeit is because it helps us get past a significant emotional barrier to sharing our faith. If we remove the obstacle and offense of eternal judgment, we will be in a better position to make Christianity more palatable to a society that has no room for judgment in its understanding of God.

Unfortunately, when we downplay or deny judgment, we lose one of the reasons to share our faith in the first place. Our desire to remove the obstacle actually removes the urgency.

2. It eases our conscience.

Another reason this counterfeit is attractive is that it eases our conscience when we fail to evangelize. It would take a load off my shoulders to affirm, along with Origen, that all will eventually be saved, including the devil. But the Bible doesn’t let me go down that road. Adopting the counterfeit also helps us deal emotionally with the fact that we have unsaved friends and family members who have died. We don’t want to imagine that Grandpa may be in hell. Downplaying judgment helps us cope.

3. It keeps us from having to come face to face with our own evil.

Most of us in the West have been shielded from the atrocities of humanity. If we were to have experienced Cambodia’s killing fields, or Auschwitz, or Rwanda, we might be more concerned about justice. Os Guinness quotes Winston Churchill as saying that the evidence that God exists was “the existence of Lenin and Trotsky, for whom a hell was needed” …

In the end, though, the judgmentless gospel is no gospel at all. It leaves us with a diminished God and no need for grace

I pray that Rob will once again preach the glories of the God who truly loves, the God who upholds his own glory at all costs, the God who loves us despite our sin, the God who takes on flesh and dies for us in order that we might find eternal satisfaction in him. In the words of Tim Stoner, Holy love wins …

I’m sorry to say that Rob Bell will likely build a significant fan base here in England.  I’ll keep you posted …

Having spent several hours reading and digesting events over the past weekend, what follows is a roundup of recent news.  Incidentally, Knut, the world’s favourite polar bear, died at age four.

Before I get to the protests in central London, people around Britain were deciding whether to fill in census forms.  Some will because it’s just easier to get it over and done with.  Others will not because Lockheed Martin will be managing the data (thanks, Labour!) which will be shared among various international government departments.  As with the US census last year, many people in the UK find our questions just as  intrusive and of a similar nature.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that all this information is pooled among Western nations under some pretense like the War on Terror, which is about as effective as the 20+-year old War on Drugs.

I found the order of the answers to the question for religion interesting, as did Stewart Cowan of Realstreet (emphases mine throughout):

The first choice in the religion question is “None.”

That’s odd. Normally “none” appears at the bottom of a list of choices. Is this an attempt to encourage a vote for “none” I wonder?

Then, we had Business Secretary Liberal Democrat (an oxymoron) Vince Cable proposing the equivalent of a window tax (I could see this coming about five years ago, just not from him).  The Guardian reports:

Cable, who argued … for a 0.5% levy on properties worth more than £1m, told the BBC’s Politics Show: “I and George Osborne agree that we have to move away from extremely high marginal rates of tax on income, including that [the 50p rate of tax]” …

Asked if he was advocating a mansion tax, he said: “Well, there is a very strong argument … that you need to have a proper base for taxing property and I’m sure that’s one of the things we’re going to have to look at as we change away from these very high marginal rates.”

So much for elderly widows living quietly in a home which their late husbands helpfully provided for them in an attempt to ensure they had a comfortable residence.  A £1m property in the UK these days is not what it was 40 or 50 years ago, I can assure you.

A few commenters on the article asked if council tax would be adjusted accordingly, otherwise, it would be double taxation.  However, coming after the protests over ‘cuts’, the majority of people writing in were baying for blood.  One of the more sensible commenters warned against soaking ‘the rich’, which to most Guardian Comment is Free (CiF) readers means anyone with a private sector job:

panpies 27 March 2011 10:10PM: Only 1% of the working population earn more than £150,000. Yet even before the 50% rate came in they contributed 24% of all income tax revenues (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8417205.stm), while owning 21% of the wealth (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_in_the_United_Kingdom) …

Government spending in the UK is £700 billion. About 50% of that is raised through income tax and NI. That’s equivalent to £12,000 for every working person in the country. In other words, if you are earning less than £45,000 per year, you are being subsidised by someone else

If nobody in the country earned over £50,000 (and there are always a lot of posts on CiF suggesting that no-one needs to earn any more), tax rates would have to soar if government spending as to be maintained …

So to all those who say good riddance to bankers…remember that if they do go, you’ll be paying for it for the rest of your lives …

The general tone on CiF posts is that if you support less government spending you lack empathy.  Yet, as Anna Raccoon points out in ‘Public Sector Efficiency’, waste abounds:

– South Wales –Workmen have travelled from Manchester and Coventry for window repairs and heating engineers have come from Somerset.  Local contractors could clearly carry out the job competently at a cheaper rate

– Cumbria – Staff report an office in Cumbria has just had two new catches put on its windows.  The job was undertaken by two men from South Yorkshire over a seven day period including working a weekend.  Staff report there was nothing much wrong with the windows anyway …

– North West – A hostel is charged £29.50 for 12 cartons of juice – £2.45 a carton – while the local Tesco charges 89p. The company also charges £25 for a catering size 750 gram tub of coffee, yet a similar purchase in the supermarket would cost £14.99.  It also supplies the hostel with diluted orange juice (which is described as horrible) at £6 for three litres, yet three litres of juice from ASDA costs £2.99.  The company charges £11 a kilo for lamb, while the local butcher charges £6 …

Now for news and views on the London protests.  First, from Leeds, with The Appalling Strangeness in ‘Cut Protesters and Their Idiocy’:

As up to a quarter of a million people descend on London to protest against unavoidable spending cuts, I sit in Leeds shaking my head in mild despair.

These people truly are economic dullards. To bring London to a standstill on a Saturday afternoon is an immensely economically damaging plan. Businesses will face reduced custom – if not having to close – on their busiest day of the week. Which will lead to less revenue for businesses, which in turn will lead to less tax for the government. Which in turn will lead to what? More spending cuts. So in order to protest about spending cuts, the protestors could risk future spending cuts. Meaning they truly are absolute lackwits.

Then, on targeting fat-cat bankers in the City of London, Samizdata notes:

The protesters who want to protect final-salary public pensions, vast numbers of state jobs, etc, are choosing to do so regardless of the debt being loaded on the shoulders of future generations. And in their adolescent fantasies, they imagine that all the mess can be somehow put right by taxing the evil rich bankers. There is, in this worldview, a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, usually located in a tax haven. But what these folk don’t seen to understand, or perhaps, don’t want to understand, is that taxing banks even more means lower savings rates, higher borrowing charges, worse service, lower investments …

A difficulty for any government is that once the drug of state dependency has been created, it is a long, hard road back to sanity. I don’t like this government, which is hardly close to my own classical liberal worldview, but some measure of credit is due here. A larger chunk of voters than is perhaps realised have no conception of self reliance, independence, or a desire for said.

Many voters have been clients of the state all their lives; changing that will be enormously difficult. Whole cities, such as in the north of the UK and pockets elsewhere, derive the bulk of their incomes from taxpayers in the more prosperous parts of the UK. Londoners are a fairly stoical lot, but we are getting a bit tired of folk coming to the capital, trashing it, and demanding that this evil den of capitalism should go on providing them with the lifestyle to which they think they are entitled. Maybe London should declare itself an independent state and we’ll see how well the rest of the UK can cope without this high finance.

Yes, London was trashed in parts.  The Telegraph has a round-up of direct action — or wanton destruction:

Police fought mobs of masked thugs who pelted officers with ammonia and fireworks loaded with coins …

Over 200 people were in custody today after the trouble flared following a separate rally where hundreds of thousands protested against the Government’s public spending cuts. The Met Police later said at least 31 police officers were injured during the protests

The violence began as Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, addressed a TUC [Trades Union Congress] rally of at least 250,000 peaceful protesters in Hyde Park …

As he spoke, an apparently co-ordinated attack began on shops and police in Oxford Street as a mob tried to storm into shops including Topshop, BHS and John Lewis …

The move was the first of a string of actions by anarchists in which:

– There was violence last night in Trafalgar Square, with protesters setting banners ablaze and throwing missiles including broken bottles at police officersClose to Charing Cross railway station, a fire was started near shops;

Fortnum and Mason, the department store, was occupied by 200 “anti-cuts” protesters who smashed windows and knocked over displays;

A huge fire was started in the centre of Jermyn Street, the Ritz hotel was attacked with dustbins and a “Trojan horse” set on fire in Oxford Circus

After five hours of running battles, there were 202 arrests. At least 30 people, including five police officers, were injured. Police said the anti-capitalists threw lightbulbs filled with ammonia at them

They ordered limited use of “kettling” to contain the rioters but admitted that such was the scale of the violence, they could not protect property

Retailers, who were assured … that their premises would be safe, were privately furious at the damage …

Brendan Barber, the TUC general-secretary, said he “bitterly regretted” the violence but insisted that the march was important.

Anna Raccoon notes that Fabian Ed Miliband, son of a Communist who was buried on request near Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery:

called for people to ‘fight’ to preserve the towering edifice of support services – and ‘fight’ they did …

If Fortnum and Mason’s have any business savvy whatsoever, they will … promptly relocate to somewhere like Monaco, where they can continue to relieve the rich of their millions and despatch their hampers by mail order …

They smashed up the offices of Singapore based HSBC,  the one High Street Bank which neither asked for, nor needed, bailing out by the government, and which is shortly to make a decision as to whether to pull out of Britain altogether.

They smashed up the premises of Topshop, a company which has made millions out of bringing cheap affordable clothing to those who are not rich – apparently in revenge for Sir Phillip Green only paying that tax which the British tax laws say he should pay …

In a final irony, they smashed up property belonging to Lloyds Bank, 40% owned by the British public. 40% of the bill for repairing the damage will be paid from the money that might have gone to the public sector, but what does that matter?

The BBC, 100% owned by the British public, was cringingly supportive of this nonsense, Newsnight produced this gem:

UK Uncut is a new kid on the block. They only got together after the Chancellor’s Budget cuts last year but they’ve already got quite a following. They are a social media success story and more than 1,000 of them will be out tomorrow. They think that’s more than enough to close down shops and banks.’

Your Freedom and Ours explains the ownership of Fortnum and Mason:

despite the TUC and other union control, several hundred demonstrators, who came in order to cause trouble, did just that, smashing shops, banks and occupying Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, a store that is owned by Whittington Investments Limited that is, in turn, owned largely by the Garfield Weston Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the world or, in other words, an organization that actively helps people through various targeted charitable donations. But that is not what UK Uncut is interested in. All has to go through taxes because otherwise there will be no employment for that section of Middle Britain that turned out in central London today.

And who was involved at Fortnum’s?  The answer might surprise you.  The Daily Mail tells us (don’t miss the BBC connection):

The invasion was masterminded by UK Uncut leader Thom Costello – a 22-year-old Oxford graduate whose middle-class background suggests he might be more at home as a customer of the store than organising the mob attack on it …

Costello, who has a first class English degree, grew up in Lewisham, South London. His father Martin runs a theatre in nearby Catford.

At 18 he won a BBC World Service writing competition, while after leaving university he briefly worked as a teacher at his old school, Langley Park School for Boys in Beckenham …

After finishing teaching to take up a job as a researcher on The South Bank Show, he posted on Twitter: ‘Just finished my last day of teaching, or as I like to call it: promoting homosexuality to children.’

He has previously used the pseudonym Sam Baker, saying: ‘I just think it is not sensible [for my real name] to be associated with a conspiracy to commit crime. I don’t want my name associated with the next phase.’

Old Holborn reveals that another surprising player in the Fortnum’s siege is from Bamff House, home to the Ramsays of Bamff (Scotland):

None has done more for the movement than Adam Ramsay , a brave new socialist determined that those who have been successful in business, taking risks with their OWN capital MUST support those who have not by handing over said capital to the feckless. Or else.

One of Ramsay’s cousins writes in to say:

Adam is a cousin and therefore I feel I can say a little in his defense, the 1st being he is not the eldest son so he is NOT in line to inherit Bamff. I cannot comment any further as I have not spoken to him for a while; however everyone else in the family works and pays taxes and actually do not do the dole, as to me, I have a small business …

Adam Ramsay is a Green Party supporter, so, green on the outside and red on the inside.  Here is the beginning of his blog entry detailing his arrest:

Yesterday, I was arrested outside Fortnum & Mason after the UK Uncut protest on suspicion of Aggrevated Trespass and Criminal Damage. Below is a summary of my experiences of the arrest and of being held. But before I write it, I want to be clear – I am not asking for sympathy and I am not the victim here. A day and night in a police cell is nothing to the impact of these cuts …

The Libertarian Party Members’ Blog sums up the protesters neatly:

These are not anarchists, anarchists do not advocate a big state and massive state spending.

They are blackshirts bent on political violence.

Now here’s something my American readers might find interesting — a picture of a union member in a purple t-shirt, just like the kind SEIU members wear.  It seems as if our union of public services workers — Unison — has adopted the same gear.  (Photo borrowed, courtesy of Diary of a Westminster Bag-Carrier.)

Tell me these people and their activities — peaceful (e.g. the Unison member at left) or violent — aren’t co-ordinated internationally.  Didn’t we read yesterday where the SEIU’s Stephen Lerner, who is partnering with unions in Europe and South America, said:

I’m not going to go through all the detail except to say there’s extraordinary things we could do …

but I don’t think this kind of movement can happen unless actually the community groups and other activists take the lead.

However, the day before one demonstration took place which received no coverage on any MSM news channel.  Cranmer tells us of the march in Oxford Street for ‘”Sharia Law for Libya” (and everywhere else)’.

It seems as if we are in for a long year of protests in London.

Just a few brief notes today on the violent rhetoric and activity leftists in America get up to, although New York Times readers wouldn’t realise it.

I know quite a few NYT readers, unfortunately.  Some have shifted from a conservative-centrist position to becoming decidedly left-of-centre.  All quote the NYT.  Most pass along articles to me: ‘Here, this is what I read — I think you’ll find it informative’ or ‘I saw this in the NYT — it’s an important article’. These are generally about Sarah Palin (still!), Michele Bachmann or the Tea Party. They’re just so … ‘violent’! Uh-huh. The NYT readers I know all think of themselves as highly-informed people at the apogee of independent thinking.

But enough about me.  The same type of lefty ‘logic’ and ‘objective reporting’ (I use the words advisedly) occurs throughout American mainstream media (MSM, for those readers outside of English-speaking countries).  The Los Angeles Times is also a bastion of such thinking.  At the end of January 2011, the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto featured an analysis of leftist thinking in ‘The Politics of Bloodlust’.  Here is a short excerpt of what he had to say (emphases mine throughout):

America’s liberal left is preoccupied with salacious fantasies of political violence. These take two forms: dreams of leftist insurrection, and nightmares of reactionary bloodshed. The “mainstream” media ignore or suppress the former type of fantasy and treat the latter as if it reflected reality. This produces a distorted narrative that further feeds the left’s fantasies and disserves those who expect the media to provide truthful information.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich defends socialist sociologist Frances Fox Piven, who has recently been criticized, most prominently by Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck, for advocating violence in the service of left-wing aims.

Ehrenreich claims that Piven was merely urging “economically hard-pressed Americans” to “organize a protest at the local unemployment office.” In fact, as we noted Monday, what Piven urged in the pages of The Nation was–these are her words–“something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece.”

If the name Piven rings a bell, then you are right.  She was a co-author — along with her sociologist husband Richard Cloward — of the Cloward-Piven Theory. Both were professors at Columbia University.  Leftists denounce conservatives who point out that the following strategy increased New York State’s welfare rolls in the early 1970s, causing a public debt crisis.  Yet, similar increases in welfare rolls occurred elsewhere in the United States around the same time with the same public spending crises.  In a nutshell, here’s what the Cloward-Piven Theory entails:

The United States welfare system in 1966 was not at all to the liking of the strategy’s authors, Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, a husband-and-wife team of sociologists-cum-activists. The pair favored a centralized, federally-run system guaranteeing a minimum income for everyone, thereby wiping out poverty.

Cloward and Piven had determined that many people in the U.S. were eligible for welfare, but were not receiving it. They believed that if all these people were to apply for welfare all at once, the local welfare offices would be overwhelmed and the states would be threatened with bankruptcy.

In advocating such disruptions, Cloward and Piven were making a deliberate attempt to incite racial, ethnic, and class tensions, setting whites against racial minorities and middle-class liberals against working-class immigrant groups …

For those too young to remember, despite new ground-breaking civil rights legislation, the mid-1960s began a period of racial polarisation in the US which exists to this day. The Cloward-Piven theory was but a part of it.  The Left is very good at networking and co-ordinating destructive mass action.

Today, we have peaceful Tea Party demonstrations interrupted by the purple-shirted SEIU (Service Employees International Union).  It is shocking to think that people working in ‘caring’ professions can be capable of such violence.  At It Doesn’t Make Sense, ‘Union Thuggery and Skullduggery’ explores the latest SEIU wheeze, which directs us to a story in Business Insider, which I’ll come to in a moment.  First:

There is now evidence that the SEIU planned to destroy the American economy in order to impose a wealth distribution oriented, socialist government

[Stephen] Lerner is a former high ranking member of the SEIU who ran several campaigns targeting Wall St. institutions and other citadels of capitalism. He is completely committed to the forced redistribution of money that doesn’t belong to him …

How is this socialist agitator going to do this? Through the unions, community organization groups and old fashioned civil disobedience. We are seeing this now where squatters simply occupy a dwelling and refuse to leave. SEIU sends their union thugs into banks to disrupt them and assault people who protest their actions. Lerner is calling for people to stop paying their mortgages. He wants activitists to disrupt stockholder meetings. He wants students to renege on their loans. And he wants it all to start this May.

Now to the Business Insider (BI), which also references the origin of this story on The Blaze, which we’ll look at in a moment.  First:

The former SEIU official, Stephen Lerner, spoke in a closed session at a Pace University forum last weekend …

Lerner’s plan is to organize a mass, coordinated “strike” on mortgage, student loan, and local government debt payments–thus bringing the banks to the edge of insolvency and forcing them to renegotiate the terms of the loansThis destabilization and turmoil, Lerner hopes, will also crash the stock market, isolating the banking class and allowing for a transfer of power …

Lerner also says explicitly that, although the attack will benefit labor unions, it cannot be seen as being organized by them. It must therefore be run by community organizations.

Lerner was ousted from SEIU last November, reportedly for spending millions of the union’s dollars trying to pursue a plan like the one he details here.  It is not clear what, if any, power and influence he currently wields. His main message–that Wall Street won the financial crisis, that inequality in this country is hitting record levels, and that there appears to be no other way to stop the trend–will almost certainly resonate.

A couple of comments on the article:
jon law: So let’s get this straight… this guy is publicly calling for illegal financial chaos with no risk to him but a hedge fund manager who legally can risk his money by shorting a stock is vilified in the media?

Josh: I love how the tea party is labeled as teabaggers and radical extremists and yet idiots like this run around on the left and somehow skirt criticism. Glad the public eye gets to see how dirty these extreme leftists really are.

X: … When did lobbying for safe working conditions transition into some hackneyed Evil Overlord plan?? Probably right after everyone agreed that safe working conditions were perfectly reasonable things to demand, now that I think about it. And these are people who have/still do control a lot of government policy… Can we put a shrink on staff before we let people lobby the government, please? Something that will stop these people at the door.

The Blaze carries a transcript and film of Lerner’s appearance at Pace University:

W: We’re going to hear from Steve Lerner next, of SEIU, the Architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign. Currently, he’s working on partnering with unions and groups in Europe and South America, it’s building campaigns to hold financial institutions accountable.

S. Lerner: It seems to me that we’re in a moment where we need to figure out in a much more, th[o]rough direct action, much more concrete way how we really are trying to disrupt and create uncertainty for capital, for how corporations operate …

And so the question would be, what would happen if we organized homeowners in mass to do a mortgage strike. Just say if we get, and, and, if we get half a million people to agree, we’ll all not, we’ll agree we won’t pay our mortgages, it would literally cause a new financial crisis

It’s a strike issue for us. We will strike unless you force the banks to relieve the debt of the city. I’m not going to go through all the detail except to say there’s extraordinary things we could do and if you add on top of that, if we really thought about moving to the kind of disruption in Madison [Wisconsin], but moving that to Wall Street and moving that to other cities around the country where we basically said you stole $17 trillion, you’ve impoverished us and we’re going to make it impossible for, for you to operate …

… but I don’t think this kind of movement can happen unless actually the community groups and other activists take the lead. And that’s a big reversal of how a lot of these coalitions have even thought about it, so unions helping community groups, or communities who cover this narrowly. And if you’re se, if we really believe that we’re in a transformative stage and what’s happening in capitalism, and we need to confront this in a serious way and develop a real ability to put a boot in the wheel, then I think we have to think not about labor community alliances. We have to think about how together we’re building something that really has the capacity to disrupt how the system operates.

Ugh! Back to James Taranto at the WSJ for a moment on leftist violence which the water-carrying MSM conveniently overlooks:

many on the left have advanced a false narrative in which the Tea Party is violent

This is bunk. The “two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred” is a media myth, promulgated in two primary ways:

The first is by seeking out the most extreme expressions by Tea Party activists and sympathetic politicians and portraying them as if they were typical. This is in sharp contrast to the way left-wing political rallies are covered. Extreme and violent rhetoric is at least as easy to find there if you lookMichael Bowers has put together a photo gallery of “Left-Wing Hatred”–but the mainstreamers seldom look. During the Bush years, “antiwar” rallies were routinely depicted as nothing more than forums for wholesome, patriotic dissent.

The second is by presenting innocuous rhetoric from the right as if it were something sinister or dangerous

Similarly, as we noted Jan. 12, Paul Krugman, the New York Times’s most dishonest columnist, characterized as “eliminationist rhetoric” Rep. Michele Bachmann’s comment that she wanted her constituents to be “armed and dangerous.” In context, it turned out that she wanted them to be “armed” with information–a poor choice of words, but no more eliminationist than Barack Obama’s comment in June 2008: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” At the time, the New York Times characterized this as part of “Mr. Obama’s efforts to show he can do more than give a good speech.”

I looked at Bowers’s photo gallery but prefer Michelle Malkin’s ‘The progressive ‘climate of hate’: An illustrated primer, 2000-2010′, which is really shocking.  Make sure your kids see it — they get too much indoctrination at school. I especially recommend it to my British and European readers!

Here’s another video of SEIU and Democratic Party violence against law-abiding Americans assembling peaceably.  This short film pastiche is from 2009:

By the time you read this, a mass rally of protesters will have gathered in London on Saturday, March 26, 2011, to protest government cuts (funny, they never protested against Labour’s 13-year overspending).  Matthew Taylor of the Guardian reports before the event:

This month the TUC [Trades Union Congress] general secretary, Brendan Barber, promised a barrage of protests against the cuts, ranging from industrial strikes and “peaceful civil disobedience” to petitions by Tory voters in the shires.

The plan to occupy Trafalgar Square is the latest in a wave of proposed sit-ins, occupations and “people’s assemblies” that activists have branded a “carnival of civil disobedience”

The call for an occupation of the London landmark is backed by student groups, activists and two Labour MPs – John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. In a joint statement they have called on people to “stay in Trafalgar Square for 24 hours to discuss how we can beat this government and to send a message across the globe that we stand with the people of Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin and with all those fighting for equality, freedom and justice.

“We want to turn Trafalgar Square into a place of people’s power where we assert our alternative to cuts and austerity and make it a day that this government won’t forget.”

Alongside the main march, which will set off from the Embankment before making its way to Hyde Park for a rally, anti-cuts campaigners say they plan to occupy some of the capital’s “great buildings”, close down scores of high street stores and occupy Hyde Park.

UK Uncut, a peaceful direct action group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and protest against corporate tax avoidance, is planning to occupy and force the temporary closure of scores of shops on Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon.

Does the Tea Party ever advocate forcing shops to close or bringing down a government?  No.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with  lawful, peaceful demonstrations and gatherings, when groups want to force shops and businesses to close, that is quite another.  And advocating disruption of a nationwide financial system or the bringing down a legitimately elected government is plain wrong. Where will dole money come from then?

But, don’t expect the MSM to note that either in the US or Britain.

Tomorrow: Update on UK protests at the weekend

Some of my regular readers will know the following already, but others might not.

People in the Western world are so accustomed to reading that the Republican Party — aka ‘Grand Old Party’ (GOP) — is elitist and hateful, that their history will no doubt come as a surprise.  So, why don’t we hear about it?

As Andrew Klavan explains for Pyjamas Media (H/T: Wolf Howling), it’s all about the left wing’s constant call to SHUT UP about the truth:

An American commenter on Counting Cats in Zanzibar (occasional language alerts) was recently given a guest post on the basis of a comment he made on one of their posts, ‘Democratic Party’, the text of which reads in part:

the party of slavery,
the Confederacy,
the Klan,
Segregation,
Jim Crow,
George Wallace

GW, the chap whose guest post follows, is the blogger at Wolf Howling, a US socio-political blog. This is something to pass along to the kids (emphases in bold mine):

Through the mid-60’s, blacks did not vote as a monolithic group. Eisenhower received the majority of black votes during his campaigns in the 50’s. The change came about in the 60’s, as the “left” in America became ever more influenced by radical Marxist left. This from a post I wrote for Martin Luther King day expounds on this and the history of race in America that might throw some light on the issue:

. . .

The Republican Party – the party of Abraham Lincoln – was borne in 1854 out of opposition to slavery.

The party of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan was, as Jeffrey Lord points out in an article at the WSJ, the Democratic Party. And Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) [was the last] member of the Senate who was once a member of the KKK.

The 13th (abolishing slavery), 14th (due process for all citizens) and 15th (voting rights cannot be restriced on the basis of race) Amendments to the Constitution were enacted by Republicans over Democratic opposition.

The NAACP was founded in 1909 by three white Republicans who opposed the racist practices of the Democratic Party and the lynching of blacks by Democrats.

– In fairness, it was the Democrat Harry Truman who, by Executive Order 9981 issued in 1948, desegregated the military. That was a truly major development. My own belief is that the military has been the single greatest driving force of integration in this land for over half a century.

It was Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican Governor of California appointed to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, also a Republican, who managed to convince the other eight justices to agree to a unanimous decision in the seminal case of Brown v. Board of Education. That case was brought by the NAACP. The Court held segregation in schools unconstitutional. The fact that it was a unanimous decision that overturned precedent made it clear that no aspect of segregation would henceforth be considered constitutional.

Republican President Ike Eisenhower played additional important roles in furthering equality in America. He “proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. . . . They constituted the first significant civil rights acts since the 1870s.” Moreover, when the Democratic Governor of Arkansas refused to integrate schools in what became known as the “Little Rock Nine” incident, “Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under Federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into an all-white public school.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was championed by JFK – but it was passed with massive Republican support (over 80%) in Congress and over fierce opposition from Democrats who made repeated attempts at filibuster. Indeed, 80% of the vote opposing the Civil Rights Act came from Democrats. Women were added to the Act as a protected class by a Democrat who thought it would be a poison pill, killing the legislation. To the contrary, the Congress passed the Act without any attempt to remove the provision.

– Martin Luther King Jr. was the most well known and pivotal Civil Rights activist ever produced in America. His most famous speech, “I Had A Dream,” was an eloquent and stirring call for equality. If you have not read the speech or heard it, you can find it here. I would highly recommend listening to it. Rev. King was, by the way, a Republican

Nothing that I say here is to suggest that racism and sexism could not be found in the Republican party or among conservatives at any point in American history. But if you take any period in history and draw a line at the midpoint of racist and sexist attitudes, you would find far more Republicans than Democrats on the lesser side of that line. And you would find a much greater willingness on the part of Republicans, relative to the time, to effectuate equality. That was as true in 1865 as in 1965 – and in 2011.

Sometime about 1968, the far left movement emerged as a major wing of the Democratic Party. This far left wing hijacked the civil rights movement and made it, ostensibly, their raison d’etre. Gradually, the far left has grown until it is now the dominant force in Democratic politics. JFK, Truman and FDR would recognize precious little of today’s Democratic Party.

The far left fundamentally altered the nature of the Civil Rights movement when they claimed it as their own. They imprinted the movement with identity politics, grossly distorting the movement’s goal of a level playing field for all Americans and creating in its stead a Marxist world of permanent victimized classes entitled to special treatment. The far left has been the driver of reverse racism and sexism for the past half century. That is why it is no surprise that, with the emergence of a far left candidate for the highest office in the nation, Rev. Jeremiah Wright should also arise at his side and into the public eye preaching a vile racism and separatism most Americans thought long dead in this country. Nor is it any surprise that the MSM, many of whom are of the far left, should collectively yawn at Obama’s twenty year association with Wright. Wright is anything but an anomaly. To the contrary, he is a progeny of the politics of the far left.

The far left did not merely hijack the civil rights movement, they also wrote over a century of American history, turning it on its head … The far left managed to paint the conservative movement and the Republican Party as the prime repositories of racism and sexism. The far left has long held themselves out as the true party of equality. They have done so falsely as, by its very nature, identity politics cements inequality. Beyond that truism, the far left has for decades played the race and gender cards to counter any criticism of their policies, to forestall any reasoned debate and to demonize those who stand opposed to them. They continue to do so through this very day. . . .

Just another history lesson to pass on to you and yours.

Today, we continue our examination of 1 Peter.  The verses below are not part of any of the three-year Lectionary readings, which makes them candidates for the ongoing Churchmouse Campanologist series, Forbidden Bible Verses, passages which are also essential to our full understanding of Scripture.

The passage below might be controversial for some readers, particularly those who are chance visitors.  St Peter has many of the same instructions to women as St Paul.  However, the commentary to follow will put all into perspective, particularly when we reflect that Christ was in perfect obedience to God the Father (the Crucifixion) and the Church (Christ’s bride) is in obedience to Christ. Therefore, there is a macro view to obedience in the New Testament.  It’s not about feminism!

Also, men from other (or no) faiths who are married to Christian women will find a pastor’s observations near the end of the post.  The pastor is on your side — don’t miss what he has to say!  Christian wives, that goes doubly for you!

Today’s reading is from the King James Version.  Exegetical commentary is from two Calvinist ministers, Matthew Henry (17th-18th c.) and Vincent Cheung (20-21st c.).  You can find out more about Mr Cheung here.

1 Peter 3:1-7

1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

————————————————————————————–

In the first verse St Peter instructs wives to submit to their husbands, even those who have not converted to Christianity.  He wants to ensure that women maintain their role as wives and not have the idea that, because their husbands remain Jewish or pagan, their requests and decisions can be ignored.

The Apostle adds that one of the surest ways a wife can convert her husband to Christianity is through a good example: ‘conversation’, which means ‘conduct’.  Some modern translations use the word ‘conduct’ instead.

Matthew Henry notes:

A cheerful subjection, and a loving, reverential respect, are duties which Christian women owe their husbands, whether they be good or bad; these were due from Eve to Adam before the fall, and are still required, though much more difficult now than they were before, Gen. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:11.

The second verse follows on to give the husband’s anticipated reaction to his wife’s virtues.  Husbands will observe this example ‘coupled with fear’ — meaning deep admiration and awe (not terror!).  On this verse, Henry adds observations on those who have no faith; this is important to note, as we see it in many interactions with atheists and agnostics today (emphases mine throughout):

[1.] Evil men are strict observers of the conversation of the professors of religion; their curiosity, envy, and jealousy, make them watch narrowly the ways and lives of good people. [2.] A chaste conversation, attended with due and proper respect to every one, is an excellent means to win them to the faith of the gospel and obedience to the word.

In verse 3, Peter instructs the new female converts not to be ostentatious or vulgar in their hairstyles, jewellry or attire.  So many women in the UK fall into this trap today with their revealing clothes and bling!  Why not wear classic clothes and a normal hairdo?  Because — they wouldn’t stand out in a crowd!

Instead, the Apostle tells the ladies to focus on having pure hearts and good outward behaviour — ‘the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit’ — which is ‘of great price’ in God’s eyes (verse 4).

Matthew Henry provides historical insight into these verses:

Here are three sorts of ornaments forbidden: plaiting of hair, which was commonly used in those times by lewd women; wearing of gold, or ornaments made of gold, was practised by Rebecca, and Esther, and other religious women, but afterwards became the attire chiefly of harlots and wicked people; putting on of apparel, which is not absolutely forbidden, but only too much nicety and costliness in it. Learn, First, Religious people should take care that all their external behaviour be answerable to their profession of Christianity: They must be holy in all manner of conversation. Secondly, The outward adorning of the body is very often sensual and excessive; for instance, when it is immoderate, and above your degree and station in the world, when you are proud of it and puffed up with it, when you dress with design to allure and tempt others, when your apparel is too rich, curious, or superfluous, when your fashions are fantastical, imitating the levity and vanity of the worst people, and when they are immodest and wanton. The attire of a harlot can never become a chaste Christian matron.

He adds this thought, which both sexes can appreciate:

A true Christian’s chief care lies in the right ordering and commanding of his own spirit. Where the hypocrite’s work ends, there the true Christian’s work begins.

In verses 5 and 6, Peter points out that even the great women of the Old Testament practiced virtue and led good lives, respecting their husbands’ authority.  Henry explains:

Of Sara, who obeyed her husband, and followed him when he went from Ur of the Chaldeans, not knowing whither he went, and called him lord, thereby showing him reverence and acknowledging his superiority over her; and all this though she was declared a princess by God from heaven, by the change of her name … Learn, [1.] God takes exact notice, and keeps an exact record, of the actions of all men and women in the world. [2.] The subjection of wives to their husbands is a duty which has been practised universally by holy women in all ages. [3.] The greatest honour of any man or woman lies in a humble and faithful deportment of themselves in the relation or condition in which Providence has placed them. [4.] God takes notice of the good that is in his servants, to their honour and benefit, but covers a multitude of failings; Sara’s infidelity and derision are overlooked, when her virtues are celebrated. [5.] Christians ought to do their duty to one another, not out of fear, nor from force, but from a willing mind, and in obedience to the command of God. Wives should be in subjection to their churlish husbands, not from dread and amazement, but from a desire to do well and to please God.

We’ll explore this in more detail later in the post.  Henry adds a brief note and Cheung explains this passage in a socio-historical context, which is essential to our proper understanding of it.

Husbands receive only one verse of instruction towards their wives (verse 7). They are to approach their wives intelligently and honour them by bearing in mind the differences betweem the sexes (e.g. physical strength, business acumen, lack of income).  Yet, they are told to bear in mind that women, as well as men, are heirs to God’s kingdom and have a mediator in Christ Jesus.  The last phrase ‘that your prayers be not hindered’ is a warning that good and gracious living bring forth prayers worthy of God.  Too much marital strife hinders our focus on Him and His divine grace.

Henry adds his observations about physical separation, sexual appetites, physical treatment and material provisions:

1. The particulars are, (1.) Cohabitation, which forbids unnecessary separation, and implies a mutual communication of goods and persons one to another, with delight and concord. (2.) Dwelling with the wife according to knowledge; not according to lust, as brutes; nor according to passion, as devils; but according to knowledge, as wise and sober men, who know the word of God and their own duty. (3.) Giving honour to the wife-giving due respect to her, and maintaining her authority, protecting her person, supporting her credit, delighting in her conversation, affording her a handsome maintenance, and placing a due trust and confidence in her

Learn, (1.) The weakness of the female sex is no just reason either for separation or contempt, but on the contrary it is a reason for honour and respect: Giving honour to the wife as unto the weaker vessel. (2.) There is an honour due to all who are heirs of the grace of life. (3.) All married people should take care to behave themselves so lovingly and peaceably one to another that they may not by their broils hinder the success of their prayers.

Mr Cheung also adds fascinating historical observations, much as he did on Roman slaves in last week’s commentary.  His writings are gaining greater currency in Reformed (Calvinist) circles and rightly so.  Pages cited are from his book (PDF) on 1 Peter.

First, the context of Peter’s letters:

Submission to human institutions is emphasized. This is perhaps because with all its talk about having one Master and the freedom that he brings, it has been inferred that Christian doctrine incites rebellion against authority and aspires to overturn the existing social structure.  (p. 117)

Next, historically, wives were expected to follow their husbands’ religion, be it Christian, Jewish or pagan.  What he writes explains that Peter’s views are not anti-women but a reassurance that Christianity did not come to topple order in the family home:

Ancient civilization recognizes the husband as the head of the house. His authority is so extensive that his religion is also the household religion, which everyone under him is expected to follow …

On the other hand, trouble arises when the wife converts to Christianity while the husband rejects the gospel and remains in paganism. To leave the husband’s religion for another could be taken as a sign of insubordination. Then, for the wife to abandon the former beliefs and abstain from all pagan rituals could be seen as a direct challenge to the husband’s authority. Naturally, the teaching of this new religion that has so transformed the wife would become suspect as well. Therefore, it is a matter of utmost urgency and importance to convince the husband that the Christian faith does not encouragee rebellion in the wife. In fact, it reinforces her submission, not by the authority of tradition or culture, but by the very command of God. (p. 118)

Now to specific questions, which I have added for easier navigation.

Must a woman obey every man? (1 Peter 3:1)

The verse does not say that every woman must submit to every man, but that every wife must submit to her own husband. Although this is the consistent testimony of Scripture (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5), it is opposed by many professing Christians, who use various tactics to neutralize it …

If the submission of the wives means anything less than obedience, then the submission of the church to Christ would also exclude obedience. That is, at least in principle, the church could exhibit perfect submission but complete disobedience to Christ. If to say that “wives should submit to their husbands in everything” means that they only need to “yield their rights” (whatever this means) to their husbands in everything without having to obey them in anything, then this is the attitude that the church may take toward Christ as well

In fact, in Ephesians 5, the only ones who are told to yield their rights are the husbands. Paul instructs them, “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). The church never gave up anything for the benefit of Christ, but Christ sacrificed himself to save the church

Now if anyone says that the wives do not need to obey in everything, he must also say that the church does not have to obey Christ in everything. No one should call a Christian anyone who asserts something like this (pp. 118-121, which gives a lengthy treatment of the verbs used in these verses)

But why must women be so obedient to their husbands?

For at least three reasons, we understand that the biblical command for wives to obey their husbands is a universal teaching that transcends culture, tradition, and even the fall of man. First, it is rooted in creation. It did not arise from sin, although sin has made it likely for men to abuse their authority and for women to resent this authority. Second, all of the passages related to the topic are immune from being neutralized or condemned to irrelevance by an appeal to the culture in which they were written.

Third, because the marriage relationship is analogous to the enduring and transcultural relationship between Christ and the church, and because this is stated in the context of the submission of wives, the command is therefore likewise enduring and transcultural. (p. 122)

Is there any point when wives will be liberated from obedience?

It will apply until there is no longer such a thing as marriage between men and women. As Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

Even then, it will be different not so much because the divine command will be annulled, since Christ will still rule over his church, which is his bride. But the command will no longer apply between human creatures only because they will become as the angels, who do not marry one another. Therefore, until the resurrection, the command that wives must obey their husbands remain in force.  (p. 122)

The Q&A ended, I shall now give you Mr Cheung’s pointed observations on wives during his time as a pastor.  He has something highly important to convey to Christian women and their non-Christian husbands! Please note the following:

Like Peter, there are not many good things that I can say about non-Christians. Men are foolish and wicked without Christ, and this is why they need salvation. But if I must commend non-Christian men for something, it would be the way that they put up with their Christian wives. What a testimony to the strength of the human spirit, even in its depraved condition!

In fact, without exaggeration, I marvel that there are not many more cases of divorce, suicide, domestic violence, and even murder incited by the nagging, domineering, selfrighteous Christian wives. Speaking superficially, some unbelievers are quite tolerant of their wives’ faith, at least in the beginning, and they are even supportive of their church activities. But many wives appear to have an almost supernatural ability to make the Christian faith repulsive.

There are so many types of examples that we cannot possibly consider them all. Some wives are just self-righteous and hypocritical … Or, because they consider themselves morally superior (even though they are not so in behavior), they feel that they have the right to condemn their husbands for everything and to manipulate family decisions.

Some wives embarrass their husbands by acting like lunatics before friends and relatives, and think that by this they are being brave witnesses for the gospel. They do not seem to understand (or care) that their husbands are unlikely to be converted just because they constantly irritate them, referring to God in a thoroughly unrefined manner before other people, praying and praising in the most unexpected and inopportune moments, as if to test their patience.

I have known women who would scream “Praise the Lord!” after their husbands spent several hours or more trying to fix a problem or to avert a crisis. Christians would understand this behavior, but what would non-Christian husbands think? Will they fall on their faces and repent of their sins because of this? No, they would resent the fact that they have devoted so much into serving their families only to have the credit go to some God that they do not believe in. To them, this is not piety, but a slap in the face. But the wives think that this is what it means to be spiritual. What a difference it would make if they would say, “Thank you for doing this” …

Christian wives present one of the greatest obstacles to the conversion of their husbands. They drive these men away from the faith precisely because of the irritating behaviors that they exhibit when flaunting their piety and the infuriating tactics that they use when drawing attention to their religion. Therefore, if you are one of these women, the best advice that I can give for facilitating your husband’s conversion is to SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Stop making the Christian faith appear as unintelligent and repulsive as you areDo not drop hints
here and there. Do not play sermon tapes and make him overhear them. Although I would not condone it, it is a wonder that he does not slap you across the face.  (p. 123 – 124)

Next week: 1 Peter 4:9-11

Rob Bell’s Love Wins has caused a furore not only among Christians around the world but those at his own church, Mars Hill Bible Church (MHBC) in Grandville, Michigan.  As people in the North of England say, ‘There’s trouble at t’mill’.

Pastor Ken Silva at Apprising Ministries received a grudging but grateful email from one of Bell’s congregants, excerpts of which follow.  First, Pastor Silva gives us a bit of background from March 11, 2011 (emphases mine throughout):

The other day in Latest On Firestorm Around Rob Bell I reminded you that numerous sources have now confirmed that there will be “a church meeting this Sun [night], March 13 in the evening to discuss the book.” It’s only for “covenant members only by invitation” and apparently people “must register and be approved to attend” this question and answer session. I’m being told “many” at Mars Hill Bible Church are seriously wondering if Rob Bell is a universalist. As I’ve said before, I actually don’t think he is; I offer that Bell’s already been leaning toward this Christian Universalism, which is also known as Universal Reconciliation/Redemption. For many of those who do believe this heresy—with its false gospel—there is a literal hell; but they dream, after each is punished temporally eventually hell will be empty.

In building the case that there is real unrest beginning to bubble up at MHBC I want to be crystal clear that there are many sincere believers there; my concern is while they are trying to follow Jesus, there seems to be something seriously going wrong within the leadership of MHBC. So I’m calling to the witness stand one of my unnamed sources from inside who is personally involved with lower level leadership there to offer their eyewitness testimony; unfortunately leadership cannot be reached so Apprising Ministries is still attempting to further corroborate their testimony elsewhere. I’m satisfied after talking with this source that I have gotten enough confirmation of what I’m told to consider them reliable …

my source also pointed out that this “elites only” meeting is “really infuriating.” They assure me that their “(not so) little group of rebels” is planning to “show up despite our lack of invitations” and believes “hopefully will bring this thing to a head.”

Let us be in prayer for my sources, this one has graciously given me permission to share the following from their emails to me; and let’s also be praying for all those at MHBC who may now be seeing things in a new light. I can tell you that there may be some very serious problems which lie dead ahead for Mars Hill Bible Church because Rob Bell and his new book …

Here’s what the email from a MHBC member to Pastor Silva said in part:

Just to let you know, I still think a good 90% of your Theology is wrong and in NO WAY points to a loving, good God who is restoring all things to Shalom. But you might have actually have been on to something with your last few blog entries. IF Rob is a Universalist (which I’m praying he isn’t) then you will have helped expose that. And for that I would thank you (even though I don’t want to and even though you still might be wrong).

Rob had a message entitled “Everything’s Spiritual” which I loved at the time, but now I’ve listened to it in a different light. Then when I look on my bookshelf and see The Gods Aren’t Angry (Rob’s DVD), it just sticks out. I have to admit that I hadn’t even come close to thinking this way for years because Rob hasn’t ever really said anything that would make me believe he’s a Universalist, but his friends kind of have …

there are so many people verifying what you say that I really can’t argue. I can’t help but feel that we need to be a bit more vocal about our displasure with the way MHBC is going

… feel free to publish any of this since I have a sinking feeling that I’ll be looking for another church anyway (any reccomendations?). Hopefully others from MHBC will see it on your blog … I guess I have to thank you for reaching halfway across the country to affect change in MHBC. If it weren’t for [discerning ministries] like yours, I know I wouldn’t have noticed anything.

We shall see what happens in the coming months.  In the meantime, let’s continue with the Rev’d Kevin De Young’s 21-page review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins.  Previous entries on Love Wins can be found in posts dated March 21 (also includes a large selection of Bible quotes), March 22, March 23 and March 24. The following excerpts cover pages 13-21 of the PDF.

5. Christological Problems
Most readers of Love Wins will want to talk about Bell’s universalism. But just as troubling is his Christology … Some call him Jesus; some have too much baggage with Christianity, so they call him by a different name (159).

Bell finds support for this Christological hide-and-seek in 1 Corinthians 10. This is where Paul calls to mind the Exodus narrative and asserts that the rock (the one that gushed water) was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). From this Bell concludes, “There are rocks everywhere” (139). If Paul saw Christ in the rock, then who knows where else we might find him (144)? Jesus cannot be confined to any one religion, Bell argues

This does not mean Christ is whatever you want him to be. Some Jesuses should be rejected, Bell says, like the ones that are “anti-science” and “anti-gay” and use bullhorns on the street (8). But wherever we find “grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness” we’ve found the creative life source that we call Jesus (156, 159) …

These [Eucharist] rituals are true for us, because they’re true for everybody. They unite us, because they unite everybody. These are signs and glimpses and tastes of what is true for all people in all places at all times—we simply name the mystery present in all the world, the gospel already announced to every creature under heaven. (157)

This is all immanence and no transcendence. This is not the objective gospel-message of Christ’s work in history that we must announce. This is an existential message announcing a rival version of the good news, the announcement that you already know Christ and can feel him in your heart if you pay attention.

To suggest the Lord’s Supper unites all people makes a mockery of the sacrament and the Christ uniquely present in the bread and the cup. The Table is a feast for those who trust in Christ, for those who can discern his body, a family meal for those who together will proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again. It brings us together under the sign of the cross. The sheep “not of this pen” are not adherents of other religions who belong to Christ without knowing it (152), but Gentiles who can now fellowship with Jews through the blood (Eph. 2:11–22).

And let’s not forget all of this rests on an illegitimate reading of 1 Corinthians 10. First, the fact that Paul found a type of Christ in the Old Testament does not give us warrant to find whatever types we like in the world. Second, Paul did not mention the rock willy-nilly because it seemed beautiful to him. The gushing rock was a picture of God’s provision and salvation for his people in the Old Testament just like Christ is for the church in the New Testament. Third, the rest of 1 Corinthians 10 militantly opposes everything Bell wants to get out of the chapter. The reason Paul brought up the rock in the first place was as an example, “that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6). Paul wants the Corinthians to avoid being “destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10) and to “take heed lest [they] fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There’s no thought that the Corinthians should find Christ in ten thousand places. The whole chapter is a warning against idolatry, to flee from it (1 Cor. 10:14), not to embrace it in the name of mystery.

6. Gospel Problems
This review is too long already, but I really must say something about the two most grievous errors in the book: Bell’s view of the cross and his view of God.

According to Bell, salvation is realizing you’re already saved. We are all forgiven. We are all loved, equally and fully by God who has made peace with everyone. That work is done. Now we are invited to believe that story and live in it (172–73).

Bell is not saying what you think he might be saying. He’s not suggesting faith is the instrumental cause used by the Spirit to join us to Christ so we can share in all his benefits. That would be evangelical theology. Bell is saying God has already forgiven us whether we ask for it or not, whether we repent and believe or not, whether we are born again or not. “Forgiveness is unilateral. God isn’t waiting for us to get it together, to clean up, shape up, get up—God has already done it” (189). This means the Father’s love just is. It cannot be earned and it cannot be taken away. God’s love is simply yours (188). Heaven and hell (however Bell conceives them) are both full of forgiven people …

You may wonder where the sacrificial system is in all this. After all … years ago Bell was best known for being the pastor who started his church by preaching from Leviticus. I’m not sure what Bell taught back then, but now it appears his understanding of sacrifice is almost entirely negative …

Bell categorically rejects any notion of penal substitution. It simply does not work in his system or with his view of God. “Let’s be very clear, then,” Bell states, “we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction. God is the rescuer” (182). I see no place in Bell’s theology for Christ the curse-bearer (Gal. 3:13), or Christ wounded for our transgressions and crushed by God for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5, 10), no place for the Son of Man who gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) … no place for the sorrowful suffering Servant who drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath for our sake (Mark 14:36).

“Jesus’ story,” Bell says, “is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us. It is a stunning, beautiful, expansive love and it is for everybody, everywhere” (vii). Therefore, he reasons, “we cannot claim him to be ours any more than he’s anybody else’s” (152). This is tragic. It’s as if Bell wants every earthly father to love every child in the world in the exact same way. If you rob a father of his unique, specific, not-for-everyone love, you rob the children of their greatest treasure. It reminds me of the T-shirt, “Jesus Loves You. Then Again He Loves Everybody.” There’s no good news in announcing that God loves everyone in the same way just because he wants to. The good news is that in love God sent his Son to live for our lives and die for our deaths, suffering the God-forsakenness we deserved so that we might call God our God and we who trust in Christ might be his children. The sad irony is that while Bell would very much like us to know the love of God, he has taken away the very thing in which God’s love is chiefly known: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

7. A Different God
At the very heart of this controversy, and one of the reasons the blogosphere exploded over this book, is that we really do have two different Gods. The stakes are that high. If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming. I do not use the word lightly, just like Bell probably chose “toxic” quite deliberately. Both sides cannot be right. As much as some voices in evangelicalism will suggest that we should all get along and learn from each other and listen for the Spirit speaking in our midst, the fact is we have two irreconcilable views of God.

Here’s how Bell understands the traditional view of God:

… If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted. Let alone be good.

Loving one moment, vicious the next. Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye …

That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it. No one can. . . . That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable. (173–75)

Of course, this is a horrible caricature that makes God seem capricious and vindictive. No one I know thinks God is loving one minute and cruel the next. But God is always holy. And holy love is not the same as unconditional affirmation. Holy love is more terrifying than even Bell thinks and more unbelievably merciful and free than Bell imagines …

But, you may reply, the Bible says God is love (1 John 4:16). True, but if you want to weigh divine attributes by sentence construction, you have to mention God is spirit (John 4:24), God is light (1 John 1:5), and God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). The verb “is” does not establish a priority of attributes. If anything, one might mention that the only thrice-repeated attribute is “holy, holy, holy.” And yet this is the one thing Bell’s god is not. Having preached through Leviticus he should remember that holiness is the overarching theme. The sacrifices are a pleasing aroma in God’s nostrils because they satisfy his justice, making way for a holy God to dwell in the midst of an unholy people … Christ’s sacrifice is the same pleasing aroma to God (Eph. 5:2) …

It would be unfair to say Bell doesn’t believe in sin. He clearly does. But his vice lists are telling: war, rape, greed, injustice, violence, pride, division, exploitation, disgrace (36–37). In another place, he says that in heaven God will say “no” to oil spills, sexual assault on women, political leaders silencing by oppression, and people being stepped on by greedy institutions and corporations (37-38). These are real problems and throughout the book Bell mentions many real, heinous sins. But all of these sins are obvious to almost everyone in our culture, especially progressives. What’s missing is not only a full-orbed view of sins, but a deeper understanding of sin itself. In Bell’s telling of the story, there is no sense of the vertical dimension of our evil. Yes, Bell admits several times that we can resist or reject God’s love. But there’s never any discussion of the way we’ve offended God, no suggestion that ultimately all our failings are a failure to worship God as we should. God is not simply disappointed with our choices or angry for the way we judge others. He is angry at the way we judge him. He cannot stand to look upon our uncleanness. His nostrils flare at iniquity. He hates our ingratitude, our impurity, our God complexes, our self-centeredness, our disobedience, our despising of his holy law. Only when we see God’s eye-covering holiness will we grasp the magnitude of our traitorous rebellion, and only then will we marvel at the incomprehensible love that purchased our deliverance on the cross ...

Hell is not what we make for ourselves or gladly choose. It’s what a holy God justly gives to those who exchange the truth of God for a lie. The bowls of wrath in Revelation are poured out by God; they are not swum in by sinners. The ten plagues were sent by God, they were not the product of some Egyptian spell gone wrong. God’s wrath burns against the impenitent and unbelieving; they do not walk into the fire by themselves ...

God is God and there is no hope for non-gods who want to be gods, except through the God-man who became a curse for us.

That’s bad news for some, and unfathomably good news for all those born again by the sovereign Spirit of God unto faith in Christ and life eternal.

A Concluding Pastoral Postscript
The tendency in theological controversy is to boil everything down to a conflict of personalities.  This is the way the world understands disagreement. This is how the world sells controversy. It’s always politician versus politician or pastor versus pastor. But sometimes the disagreement is less about the men (or women) involved and more about the truth.

this is not about a single author or a single church. This is about the truth, about how the rightness or wrongness of our theology can do tremendous help or tremendous harm to the people of God. This is about real people in East Lansing where I serve and real people an hour down the road in Grand Rapids where I grew up. This is about real people who have learned from Bell in the past and will be intrigued by his latest book, wondering if they should be confused, angered, or surprised to hear that hell is not what they’ve been told.

Just as damaging is the impact of Love Wins on the nonbeliever or the wayward former churchgoer. Instead of summoning sinners to the cross that they might flee the wrath to come and know the satisfaction of so great a salvation, Love Wins assures people that everyone’s eternity ends up as heaven eventually. The second chances are good not just for this life, but for the next. And what if they aren’t? What if Jesus says on the day of judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23)? What if at the end of the age the wicked and unbelieving cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16)? What if outside the walls of the New Jerusalem “are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15)? What if there really is only one name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)? And what if the wrath of God really remains on those who do not believe in the Son (John 3:18, 36)? …

Is Love Wins true to the word of God? That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.

Delight or deception, suffering or salvation—yes, even heaven or hell—may hang in the balance.

End of series

Today’s graphic comes courtesy of Pastor Ken Silva from Apprising Ministries, based on an idea from Sola Sisters.

Dr R Albert Mohler Jr, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says, ‘We Have Seen All This Before’ (emphases mine throughout):

Protestant Liberalism emerged in the 19th century as influential theologians argued for a doctrinal revolution. Their challenge to the church was simple and straightforward: The intellectual challenges of the modern age made belief in traditional Christian doctrines impossible.

The liberals did not set out to destroy Christianity. To the contrary, they were certain that they were rescuing Christianity from itself

This brings us to the controversy over Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins ... Reading the book is a heart-breaking experience. We have read this book before. Not the exact words, and never so artfully presented, but the same book, the same argument, the same attempt to rescue Christianity from the Bible.

The first problem with this is obvious. We have no right to determine which “story” of the Gospel we prefer or think is most compelling. We must deal with the Gospel that we received from Christ and the Apostles, the faith once for all delivered to the church

But there is a second problem, and it is one we might think would have been learned by now. Liberalism just does not work. Bell wants to argue that the love of God is so powerful that “God gets what God wants” … But he cannot maintain that account for long because of his absolute affirmation of human autonomy. Even God cannot or will not prevent someone from going to hell who is determined to go there. So, if Bell is taken on his own terms, even he does not believe that “God gets what God wants” …

In the opening pages of Love Wins, Rob Bell assures his readers that “nothing in this book hasn’t been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me.” That is true enough. But the tragedy is that those who did teach, suggest, or celebrate such things were those with whom no friend of the Gospel should want company. In this new book, Rob Bell takes his stand with those who have tried to rescue Christianity from itself. This is a massive tragedy by any measure …

The past few posts (including one with many New Testament verses refuting what Bell says) have explored the Revd Kevin De Young’s 21-page review of Love Wins.  Let’s have a look at what Mr De Young says about Mr Bell’s exegesis (Scriptural analysis) and eschatology (theology of salvation), pages 8 – 13 of the PDF.  As Mr De Young has taken the time to read and digest this book so that we do not have to, I shall offer the main highlights and suggest that you read his review in full.

Time after time, key points in Bell’s argument rest on huge exegetical mistakes.

A partial list—an even ten—in no particular order:

One, Bell cites Psalm 65, Ezekiel 36, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Philippians 2, and Psalm 22 to show that all peoples will eventually be reconciled to God. He does not mention that some of these are promises to God’s people, some are general promises about the nations coming to God, and others are about the universal acknowledgement (not to be equated with saving faith) on the last day that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not one of his texts supports his conclusion.

Two, similarly, Bell lists a number of passages that point to final restoration–Jeremiah 5, Lamentations 3, Hosea 14, Zephaniah 3, Isaiah 57, Hosea 6, Joel 3, Amos 9, Nahum 2, Zephaniah 2, Zephaniah 3, Zechariah 9, Zechariah 10, and Micah 7 (86–87). Anyone familiar with the prophets knows that they often finish with a promise of future blessing. But anyone familiar with the prophets should also know that these promises are for God’s covenant people, predicated on faith and repentance, and fulfilled ultimately in Christ.

Three, Bell seems to recognize the covenantal nature of the promised restoration, so he goes out of his way to point out that the restoration is not just for God’s people. To prove this point he cites a passage from Isaiah 19 where it is predicted that an altar to the Lord will be in the midst of the land of Egypt. Bell concludes that no failure is final and that consequences can always be corrected (88–89). But Isaiah 19 is not remotely about postmortem opportunities to repent … God makes no promise that every soul in Egypt will be saved. Rather he promises, like the prophets do time and time again, that if they call on the Lord he will have mercy on them. There is no thought that they will do this calling in the afterlife …

Five, Bell thinks the rich man’s question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” has nothing to do with the afterlife. He isn’t asking about how to go to heaven when he dies (30). He’s simply wondering how to get in on the good things God is doing in the age to come (31, 40). Again, Bell ignores all contextual clues to the contrary. Given the resurrection discussion alive in Jesus’ day (see Mark 12:18–27), the rich man is likely asking, “How can I be sure I’ll be saved in the final resurrection?” He is thinking of life after death. That’s why he says “inherit” and why the previous section in Mark discusses Bell’s dreaded “entrance” theology (Mark 10:13–16). What’s more, verse 30 makes clear that some of the blessings in following Jesus come in the next life, what Jesus calls “in the age to come, eternal life.” If eternal life is equivalent to saying the age to come (31), then Jesus is the master of redundancy. But the two terms are not identical. Eternal life here means life that lasts forever ...

Eight, Bell’s overview of Revelation skims along the surface of the book in a way that misses all the hard parts he doesn’t want to see

First, he explains the judgments by reminding us that people often reject the love and joy in front of them and “choose to live in their own hells all the time” (114). But even a cursory read through Revelation shows that violent judgments issue from God’s throne

Second, Bell suggests that maybe the gates in heaven are “never shut” because new citizens will continue to enter the city as everyone is eventually reconciled to God (115). This interpretation is clearly at odds with the rest of Revelation 21-22 which emphasizes several times that there are some accursed ones left outside the city (21:8, 27; 22:3, 14–15, 18–19). The theme of judgment carries through right to the end of the book. What’s more, those facing this judgment will be thrown into the lake of fire where torment never ends, which is the second death (20:10; 21:8). There is never a hint of postmortem second chances and every indication of an irreversible judgment decreed of every soul at the end of the age. The gates are open as a sign of the city’s complete safety and security, not as an indication that more will be saved after death.

Third, according to Bell, the announcement “I am making all things new” suggests new possibilities. This, in turn, means we should leave the door open that the final eternal state of every person has not been fixed (116). Again, this is a supposition without any warrant in the text, where the newness of heaven speaks of a new holiness, a new world, a new pain-free existence, and a new closeness with God. Heaven is not new because people in hell get new chances to repent.

Nine, what Bell does with Sodom and Gomorrah should make even his most ardent supporters wince. Really, you have to wonder if Bell has any interest in being constrained by serious study of the biblical text. In one place, Bell argues from Ezekiel 16 that because the fortunes of Sodom will be restored (Ezek. 16:53), this suggests that the forever destiny of others might end in restoration (84). But it should be obvious that the restoration of Sodom in Ezekiel is about the city, not about the individual inhabitants of the town who were already judged in Genesis 19. The people condemned by sulfur and fire 1,500 years earlier were not getting a second lease on postmortem life. The current city would be restored

If that weren’t bad enough, the other discussion on Sodom is even worse. Because Jesus says it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for Capernaum (Matt. 11:23–24), Bell concludes that there is hope for all the other Sodoms and Gomorrahs (85). Bell takes a passage about judgment—judgment that will be so bad for Capernaum it’s even worse than God’s judgment on Sodom—and turns it into tacit support for ultimate universalism. Jesus’ warning says nothing about new hope for Sodom. It says everything about the hopelessness of unbelieving Capernaum.

Ten, not surprisingly, Bell frequently harkens back to the Pauline promise in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 that God is reconciling or uniting all things together in Christ (149). These are favorite passages of universalists, but they cannot carry the freight universalists want them to … The uniting of all things does not entail the salvation of all people. It means that everything in the universe, heaven and earth, the spiritual world and the physical world, will finally submit to the lordship of Christ, some in joyful worship of their beloved Savior and others in just punishment for their wretched treason. In the end, God wins.

One last general point about Bell’s exegesis: Bell has a reputation for being brilliant and creative, and he probably is in certain spheres. But his use of Scripture exhibits neither characteristic. In fact, it is naïve, literalistic biblicism. He flattens everything, either to make traditional theology sound ridiculously inconsistent or to make a massive point from one out-of-context verse … His style may be engaging to some, but look up the passages for yourself and then pick up a reputable study Bible or a basic commentary series. You’ll seriously question Bell’s use of Scripture.

4. Eschatological Problems
Bell’s eschatology is muddled. On the one hand, he goes to great length to argue that eternal life is not really forever life, just abundant life or life belonging to the next age (57, 92–93) … But on the other hand, he seems to leave all these arguments behind later when he talks about an eternal postmortem existence. He does believe in heaven after you die, and he believes in hell.

But in a strange bit of logic arising out of the parable of the prodigal son, Bell maintains that heaven and hell exist side by side. It’s not always clear what Bell thinks, but it seems he believes everyone goes to the same realm when they die; but for some people it is heaven, and for others it is hell (170). If you don’t accept God’s story about the world and resist his love, heaven will be hell for you, a hell you create for yourself …

In a similar vein, Bell seems unaware that theologians of various traditions have talked about the two sides of God’s will (or two lenses through which God views the world). To be sure, there is mystery here, but it’s common to distinguish between God’s will of decree, whereby everything that he wills comes to pass (Eph. 1:11), and his will of desire which can be rejected (Matt. 7:21). And yet one of Bell’s main planks in support of universal reconciliation is that if God wants all people to be saved, then all people must eventually be saved. “How great is God?” Bell asks. “Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do, or kind of great, great most of the time, but in this, the fate of billions of people, not totally great. Sort of great. A little great” (97– 99). The strong insinuation is that a God who does not save everyone is not totally great.

All this is built on the statement that God wants everyone to be saved. There’s no exegetical work on the meaning of “all people” and no discussion on the dual-nature of God’s will. In Bell’s mind, if all people do not end up reconciled to God its tantamount to God saying, “Well, I tried, I gave it my best shot, and sometimes you just have to be okay with failure” (103) … The result is a simplistic formula: “God wants all people to be saved. God gets what he wants. Therefore, all people will eventually be saved.” This is a case of poor theologizing beholden to mistaken logic

In the blog buzz leading up the release of Love Wins, there was a lot of discussion about whether Bell is or is not a Christian universalist. After reading the book, I see no reason why the label does not fit. Now it’s true, Bell believes in hell. But he does not believe that God pours out his wrath on anyone forever (I’m not sure he thinks God actively pours out wrath on anyone at all). Hell is the sad suffering of this life (71). Hell is God giving us what we want (72). Postmortem hell is what we create for ourselves when we refuse to believe God’s story, when we resist his love (170-71, 172, 177). There is hell now and hell later. “There are all kinds of hell because there are all kinds of ways to reject the good and the true and the beautiful and the human now, in this life, and so we can only assume we can do the same in the next” (79).

So why do I say Bell is a universalist if he believes in hell? Because he does not believe hell lasts forever. It is a temporary “period of pruning” and “an intense experience of correction” (91). Bell’s hell is like purgatory except his “period of pruning” is for anyone, not just for Christians who die in a state of grace as Catholicism teaches. For Bell, this life is about getting ourselves fitted for the good life to come. Some of us die ready to experience God’s love. Others need more time to sort things out. Luckily, in Bell’s scheme, there is always more time. “No one can resist God’s pursuit forever because God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (108). Bell does not believe every road leads to God. He is not a moral relativist. You can get your life and theology wrong. Heaven is a kind of starting over, a time to relearn what it means to be human. For some this process may take a while, and during the process their heaven may feel more like hell. But even those who get everything wrong in this life, will eventually get it right over time in the next life. In Bell’s theology, ultimately, everyone will be saved. If he’s right, most of church history has been wrong. If he’s wrong, a staggering number of people are hearing “peace, peace” where there is no peace.

What’s wrong with this theology is, of course, what’s wrong with the whole book. Bell assumes all sorts of things that can’t be shown from Scripture. For example, Bell figures God won’t say “sorry, too late” to those in hell who are humble and broken for their sins. But where does the Bible teach the damned are truly humble or penitent? For that matter, where does the Bible talk about growing and maturing in the afterlife or getting a second chance after death? Why does the Bible make such a big deal about repenting “today” (Heb. 3:13), about being found blameless on the day of Christ (2 Pet. 3:14), about not neglecting such a great salvation (Heb. 2:3) if we have all sorts of time to figure things out in the next life? Why warn about not inheriting the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9–10), about what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31), or about the vengeance of our coming King (2 Thess. 1:5–12) if hell is just what we make of heaven? Bell does nothing to answer these questions, or even ask them in the first place.

Mr De Young’s last paragraph illustrates the questions I had when I was coming out of my own Christian Universalist wilderness.  And, yes, I would have denied being a universalist of sorts.  Fortunately, I was able to crack open a Bible and read to see how wrong I was.

Tomorrow: Christological problems with Bell’s theology

As I’ve explained in the previous two posts (here and here), Christian Universalism is deeply seductive to the enquiring mind.

I’m not sure what advice to give to parents out there except to get your children started early on the Bible so that they are well grounded in it by the time they reach secondary school.  After that, it may be too late … for a number of years, anyway.  What I noted from my own experience growing up was that the kids who knew the Bible could refute Christian Universalism — or Universal Reconciliation — straightaway, explaining why.

Just in case you are unsure of its popularity, Sola Sisters has featured a number of posts on Rob Bell’s new Love Wins and the theology behind it.  Both sisters also went through a journey with New Age beliefs and practices before delving into the Bible.

Their ‘”Christian Universalism” The Hot Trend Among Christian Youth?’ is a clear warning (emphases in the original):

And why is this movement sweeping through our youth and children? I think in large part it is because Rob Bell, pastor, writer and creator of the mega-popular NOOMA videos, sowed the seeds for this thinking in his book Velvet Elvis (2005), a blockbuster favorite among Christian youth, when he wrote this:

“Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.” (“Velvet Elvis,” p 146)

Parents, we are now reaping the bitter fruit of this heretical, but seductive, false teaching that has captured our beloved children and turned their hearts and minds away from biblical truth.

“I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29)

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4)

We need to make sure that we are taking seriously our responsibilities as Christian parents.  It is not the responsibility of youth pastors to biblically disciple our children. It is not the responsibility of Christian teachers at private schools. It is our responsibility.

But, this isn’t exactly Unitarian Universalism, although it is quite similar.  The Sola Sisters make this point in another post, ‘Are You in RobBellion?’ (emphases mine throughout):

… what you will find if you read Bell’s new book is that Bell DOES affirm that salvation comes only through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only, in Rob Bell Land, it comes to everyone.

People accuse Bell of being a straight up Universalist. But he’s not. This is Universalism:

Universalism = All paths lead to God, no Jesus necessary.

But this is not what Rob Bell believes. Bell believes in something called Universal Reconciliation. It is also sometimes called Christian Universalism.

Universal Reconciliation = All paths lead to God, BUT Jesus is the “mechanism” (for lack of a better word) that gets everyone in. His death made atonement for ALL people. No repentance necessary. No being born again necessary.

A fine distinction, but an important one for knowing how to contend with his followers. For example, citing Scripture which points to the Cross, Jesus, etc. is not enough. Bell’s followers would agree with you on these points.

That’s a very fine distinction, indeed, and there’s not a lot in it as far as I can see.  However, we are dealing with the postmodern mind which could probably argue the point until the wee small hours.

In debating with Mr Bell’s supporters — they don’t like the word ‘fans’ — you have to deal with comments like this one, no matter how balanced and gentle your correction of error:

tweedpipe: And so the witch-hunt begins, and you will make Christianity seem even more odious and unbelievable. Fortunately your extraordinary pastiche of Jesus’ teaching has nothing to do with Christianity. Unfortunately those outside the church won’t know that.

To which a Sola Sister replies:

Dear tweedpipe, hmmm your comment reminds me of a verse:

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” 1 Samuel 15:23a

So according to this verse, the sinful rebellion Rob Bell has repeatedly displayed is the same as the sin of witchcraft. All right then, here’s my case for Rob Bell’s heresy/rebellion against God’s revealed truth:

– He denies the authority of Scripture

– He questions the Virgin Birth

– He teaches a panentheistic view of “God”

– He is now teaching Christian Universalism, a heretical view of universalism (that has a tasty sprinkling of Christian terminology on top of course)

This is what the Rob Bell media craze is all about.  Mind you, he doubtless has a publicist, possibly courtesy of his publisher, HarperOne, part of the Murdoch empire, if I am not mistaken.  In any event, this is what the Sola Sisters have to say in another post:

Time magazine has designated Rob Bell a “rock star in the church world.” The Church Report Magazine (TheChurchReport.com), ranked Bell #10 on their list of “The 50 Most Influential Christians in America.” Bell’s books and NOOMA videos sell by the thousands. The Chicago Sun Times wrote an article comparing Bell’s influence to that of Billy Graham (“The Next Billy Graham?“).

Heads up, Christian parents: even if you have never heard of Rob Bell before, just ask your kids. Because I can almost guarantee you that even if they haven’t read his books or watched his NOOMA videos, their friends have. And why is this frightening? Because Rob Bell is a big, big, BIG leader in a new movement sweeping through our young people today called Christian Universalism.with leaders like Rob Bell leading the way, many of today’s church-going youth have slowly been seduced into believing this false teaching, usually using Colossians 1:19-20 (out of context, of course) as their “proof-text.” To complicate matters further, the particular “flavor” of Universalism that Rob Bell is dishing up is called “Universal Reconciliation.” Universal Reconciliation is an odd twist on straight up Universalism (“All paths lead to God”), in that it is a belief which is “opposed to ideas such as everlasting torment in Hell, but may also include a period of finite punishment similar to a state of purgatory.”

That said, I shall continue with excerpts from the Revd Kevin De Young’s 21-page review of Bell’s latest book, Love Wins. You can find the following in the second section, ‘Where to Begin?’ (pages 5 – 8 of the PDF):

Love Wins is such a departure from historic Christianity, that there’s no easy way to tackle it. You can’t point to two or three main problems or three or four exegetical missteps. This is a markedly different telling of the gospel from start to finish. To fully engage the material would require not only deconstruction, but a full reconstruction of orthodoxy theology. A book review, however, is not the place to build a systematic theology ...

1. Not Your Grandmother’s Christianity
Perhaps the best place to start is to show that Bell routinely disparages the faith of traditional evangelicalism.

A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (viii) …

Later, Bell allows that traditionalists can believe their story of heaven and hell, but “it isn’t a very good story” (110). Traditional Christians have inferior news to share because in their story so many people end up in hell. “That’s why the Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties” (179). Not only are they bad at parties, traditionalists are bad at art: “An entrance understanding of the gospel rarely creates good art. Or innovation. Or a number of other things. It’s a cheap view of the world because it’s a cheap view of God. It’s a shriveled imagination” (180). So much for finding beauty or delight in Western civilization. I’ll leave it to the art critics and the partygoers to determine if it’s true that, second to blondes, universalists have more fun.

And yet, he believes it’s important to embrace past understanding of the faith, even if people like him were shaped by a certain environment and reared in certain experiences that can be easily deconstructed (e.g., praying the sinner’s prayer) (193–95) … Much of Bell’s polemic fails if there is a core of apostolic teaching that we are called, not just to embrace as part of our journey, but to protect from deviation and defend against false teaching (Acts 20:29–31).

2. Historical Problems
Bell maintains he is not saying anything new. And that’s right. The problem is he makes it sound like his everyone-ends-up-restored-and-reconciled-to-God theology is smack dab in the center of the Christian tradition.

And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19 that there will be a “renewal of all things,” Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will “restore everything,” and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ “God was pleased to. . . .reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (107, ellipsis in original)

It’s important to Bell that he falls within the “deep, wide, diverse stream” of “historic, orthodox Christian faith” (ix-x). Therefore, he argues that “at the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins” (109) …

Universalism (though in a different form than Bell’s and for different reasons) has been present in the church since Origen, but it was never in the center of the tradition … Whatever Origen’s influence on the Cappadocian fathers (and it was considerable), Origen’s views were later refuted by Augustine and … condemned in 543 in a council at Constantinople.

Bell also mentions Jerome, Basil, and Augustine because they claimed many people in their day believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God (107). But listing all the heavyweights who took time to refute the position you are now espousing is not a point in your favor. Most egregiously, Bell calls on Martin Luther in support of post-mortem salvation (106). But as Carl Trueman has pointed out, anyone familiar with Luther’s creedal statements and overall writing, not to mention the actual quotation in question, will quickly see that Luther is not on Bell’s side. Universalism has been around a long time. But so has every other heresy. Arius rejected the full deity of Christ and many people followed him. This hardly makes Arianism part of the wide, diverse stream of Christian orthodoxy. Every point of Christian doctrine has been contested, but some have been deemed heterodox. Universalism, traditionally, was considered one of those points. True, many recent liberal theologians have argued for versions of universalism—and this is where Bell stands, not in the center of the historic Christian tradition.

More from Mr De Young tomorrow

What Rob Bell thinks about God, Jesus and the Bible reminds me of the conversations my friends and I used to have in high school.  Here we were, in a Catholic institution of learning, discussing religion during open study period in the canteen.

Although those of my friends who were dating Protestants generally brought specific Bible verses into the discussion — with some very good lessons, too, I might add — we more ‘enlightened’ types said that the Bible was outmoded and a mere reference book.  What’s more, we were all saved — end of.  These days, it’s called Universal Reconciliation or Christian Universalism.  Combined with a New Age mysticism, it forms the core thinking of the emergent church pastorate.  Yet, like them, most of us would deny that we were universalists.  Rob Bell does the same.

I’m not going to blame my teachers for my erstwhile wishy-washy theology, although we did have one priest for religion class junior (third) year who assigned us Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus. No Bible (outside of a quick run-through of Sunday readings), little doctrine, but some great intellectual discussions. My mother was, rightly, disgusted.  But at the time, I didn’t think she was too ‘enlightened’, either.

And this is part of the problem with Rob Bell’s theology.  He’s regressed from his orthodoxy as a young Calvary Chapel pastor to the scepticism an adolescent has.  At his age — and in his role as the pastor of his own church — one would think he would have more answers than questions.

Watching Martin Bashir interview Rob Bell on MSNBC reminded me of my high school experience which led me to a quasi-Universalist belief that I only managed to start getting out of when I started blogging. This was thanks to the Calvinist blogs out there. I held onto warped theology most of my life, through my own fault.  Again, to less orthodox readers: please do not make that same mistake.  You will end up regretting the years you wasted asking questions that Scripture answers, I guarantee it.

My British readers will remember Mr Bashir from his BBC and ITV days.  Although born to Muslim parents, he now considers himself a ‘committed Christian’.  He worked for the American ABC network and moved to NBC last year, where he is an afternoon news anchor and Dateline contributor.

Mr Bashir knows what to ask of Mr Bell.  Sadly, Bell gives him few answers:

Now, onto the Revd Kevin De Young’s review of Mr Bell’s latest tome, Love Wins.  Two things, though, before we start.  One is that Mr De Young is Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan (the mitten-shaped state) and blogs for The Gospel Coalition. I would also guess that the two men are quite close in age. Both live in the nucleus of Calvinism in North America, possibly the world.  The area around Lansing and Grand Rapids has many Reformed churches and adherents.  As Mr De Young explains in ‘A Few Thoughts As We Move On’ (emphases mine throughout):

This issue is especially pertinent to me because I grew up where Rob Bell lives (Grand Rapids) and live where Rob Bell grew up (Lansing). I know the church he grew up at (it’s a normal evangelical church with some fine people there). And I remember buying baseball cards at the mall where Mars Hill now meets. I have people at my church that used to go to his church, and people from my home church that now go to his. Small world. Over the years, I’ve known many people that have attended Mars Hill at one time or another. Rob Bell’s influence stretches across Michigan. It seems that most people I talk to have some family member or friend or second cousin that’s gone to Mars Hill or loves Rob Bell’s books. Although few, if any, in my congregation would say they are Rob Bell fans, many interact frequently with those who are. Clarity on the important issues he raises (and misunderstands) is absolutely necessary. Especially in the Mitten.

As I mentioned yesterday, Mr De Young has read Love Wins and has written a helpful 21-page review of it entitled ‘God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True’.  Because he has put a lot of time and effort into this paper, including citations from the book, I’m not going to share too much of it with you here but would ask that you please read what he has to say in full.  My concern is that Rob Bell’s theology will find its way to British shores, where I believe he would have a most receptive audience.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a number of Church of England clergy lapping it up.

In his blog post which introduces his review, Mr De Young writes:

Bad theology hurts real people. So of all the questions raised in the book, the most important question every reader must answer is this: is it true? Whatever you think of all the personalities involved on whatever side of the debate, that’s the one question that cannot be ignored. Is Love Wins true to the word of God? That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.

Delight or deception, suffering or salvation—yes, even heaven or hell—may hang in the balance.

Today, I shall focus on Mr De Young’s introductory section, ‘A Few Preliminaries’, found on pages 2 – 5 of the PDF.

One, although Bell asks a lot of questions (350 by one count), we should not write off the provocative theology as mere question-raising … Bell is a popular teacher of a huge church with a huge following. This book is not an invitation to talk … As Bell himself writes, “But this isn’t a book of questions. It’s a book of responses to these questions” (19).

Two … It is a book with lots of Scripture references. It is a book that draws from history and personal experience … It is not a piece of art. This is a theological book by a pastor trying to impart a different way of looking at heaven and hell. Whether Bell is creative or a provocateur is beside the point. If Bell is inconsistent, unclear, or inaccurate, claiming the “artist” mantle is no help.

Three, I’m sure that many people looking to defend Bell will be drawn to a couple escape hatches he launches along the way. As you’ll see, the book is a sustained attack on the idea that those who fail to believe in Jesus Christ in this life will suffer eternally for their sins. This is the traditional Christianity he finds “misguided and toxic” (viii). But in one or two places Bell seems more agnostic.

Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires. (115)

These are strange sentences because they fall in the chapter where Bell argues that God wants everyone to be saved and God gets what God wants …

There’s a reason he’s written 200 pages on why you must be deluded to think people end up in eternal conscious punishment under the just wrath of God. Words mean something, even when some of them seem forced or out of place. Take the book as a whole to get Bell’s whole message.

Four, it is possible that I (like other critics) am mean-spirited, nasty, and cruel. But voicing strong disagreement does not automatically make me any of these. Judgmentalism is not the same as making judgments. The same Jesus who said “do not judge” in Matthew 7:1 calls his opponents dogs and pigs in Matthew 7:6. Paul pronounces an anathema on those who preach a false gospel (Gal. 1:8). Disagreement among professing Christians is not a plague on the church. In fact, it is sometimes necessary. The whole Bible is full of evaluation and encourages the faithful to be discerning and make their own evaluations. What’s tricky is that some fights are stupid, and some judgments are unfair and judgmental. But this must be proven, not assumed. Bell feels strongly about this matter of heaven and hell. So do a lot of other people. Strong language and forceful arguments are appropriate.

Five, I am not against conversation. What I am against is false teaching … The question is never whether God can handle our honest reappraisals of traditional Christianity, but whether he likes them.

On the subject of conversation, it’s worth pointing out that this book actually mitigates against further conversation. For starters, there’s the … complaint about the close-minded traditionalists who don’t allow for questions, change, and maturity (ix) … In essence, “Let’s talk, but I know already that the benighted and violent will hate my theology.” That hardly invites further dialogue. More practically, Bell includes no footnotes for his historical claims and rarely gives chapter and verse when citing the Bible. It is difficult to examine Bell’s claims when he is less than careful in backing them up.

Six, this is not an evangelistic work, not in the traditional sense anyway. The primary intended audience appears to be … disaffected evangelicals who can’t accept the doctrine they grew up with. Bell writes for the “growing number” who have become aware that the Christian story has been “hijacked” (vii) … This is a book for people like Bell, people who grew up in an evangelical environment and don’t want to leave it completely, but want to change it, grow up out of it, and transcend it. The emerging church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief

Love Wins has ignited such a firestorm of controversy because it’s the current fissure point for a larger fault-line. As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism. The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t new thinking at all.  It’s just that Bell and his fellow emergents have cashed in on it.  Mr De Young is correct in saying that it is the ‘current fissure point for a larger fault-line’.  And that’s the concern.

More tomorrow

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