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Huntley Paton
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Congrats Angie!!!
Toggle Commented Dec 3, 2012 on Flying Home: My Wife's Book at Open Mike
One of things that sold me on Lake Forest when we were visiting almost five years ago was the Sunday Kyle and his band played "What I've Done" by Linkin Park, cranked up to 11. Kyle is the real deal. I'll miss him.
Great post, helpful synopsis of history.
Sincere good luck to all Christian parents grappling with this. Dawn and I played the Santa card with our oldest child but decided we would not do so with our youngest two. Our oldest was truly heart-broken when she learned the truth, while our two youngest were upset that we denied the Santa myth and even told us frequently we were wrong. My son is now 13 and just yesterday said to me, "Why couldn't you just let us believe for a while?" The answer, of course, is that we didn't want them harboring a small fear that Jesus might be make-believe too. I think we made the right call but it's tough either way.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2011 on Is the Bible finished? at Open Mike
Mike, hope Dylan heals quickly, sorry he had to go through that. Good post here.
Toggle Commented Oct 16, 2011 on Little Big Things Yesterday at Open Mike
Sounds good Mike and Mike. Look forward to these sermons.
Toggle Commented Oct 6, 2011 on Copper, Flake, and Preaching Plans at Open Mike
That is a nice passage Mike, but I’m confused to see Brennan Manning quoted/endorsed here. You just finished offering orthodox positions on Rob Bell, universalism and hell, only to turn now approvingly to Manning, who has universalist core teachings, is doggedly pushing eastern mysticism on the church and who believes people need psychological healing, not forgiveness of sins. On the surface, the statement from Manning here would seem to dovetail nicely with Romans 8, which contains some of the most beautiful verses on assurance (especially verses 35-38.) But taken in the broader context of Manning’s writings and teachings, he’s really saying the opposite of Paul. Paul wrote of assurance for believers: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” -- Romans 8:1. There is a qualifier. Nowhere does he suggest that everyone is in Christ Jesus no matter what. Yet that is the essence of Manning’s teachings. Manning regards humanity as “fallen but redeemed, flawed but in essence good.” He refutes the doctrine of the atonement, stating: “ ... the god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger ... the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist” And he writes, “ …if I find Christ, I will find my true self and if I find my true self, I will find Christ.” Do these teachings square with Lake Forest? Manning’s prayer techniques, which he is famous for, are decidedly Eastern and not Christian. He teaches people to use mantras, repeating holy words or phrases over and over again, to empty themselves, to embrace the “darkness” and even to “stop thinking about God” in prayer. That’s off the rails -- nothing at all like how Jesus taught us to pray. Manning definitely esteems Christ and believes in the resurrection, and that’s good, but his teachings are out of line with Christ, the Bible and Christian doctrine. His writings are full of endorsements of New Age thinkers, universalists, Buddhists and more. It confuses me to see him invoked so unquestioningly here.
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2011 on Freedom from Self-Consciousness at Open Mike
Mike, this is fabulous in every way. Thank you.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2011 on Where Do Babies Go When They Die? at Open Mike
Mike, Mitch, belated thanks for your thoughts on this. I feel really good knowing where you stand and seeing that you are willing to publicly cite the problems with this book and the teachings of Rob Bell, such as they are. I bought and read the book the week it came out and have been really troubled by it in so many ways. It is a disastrous display of writing and thinking – Mitch nailed this when he called it sloppy. It reads at best like the first draft of book that the author abandoned after realizing, “I don’t know what I really want to say here.” Except that Bell and HarperOne published it anyway. Mike, when you state that the position presented by Bell at the end of the book is comparable to the writings of C.S. Lewis, I think you are being too charitable, because I don’t see a final position from Bell. The book is simply incoherent. Most theologians trying to build a case would examine several possibilities in the early chapters and then skillfully guide the reader toward a theory or preferred doctrine. Bell does the opposite in “Love Wins.” He comes out breathing fire – traditional Christian views on hell are “toxic;” God says he wants to save everyone so He is not great if he doesn’t, etc . Then, at the end of the book, perhaps realizing that he has completely left the reservation, he backtracks in bewildering fashion. He pirates N.T. Wright’s specious pseudo-annihilation theory (that people will “cease to be human” if they continue to resist God’s love even in the after life), calling it “interesting” (if this theory is true, how exactly does “Love Win” as Bell defines it earlier in the book and in the title of the book?). And he concludes by sharing his personal story of accepting Christ as savior and concluding that doing so is “more important than we will ever know” – after writing an entire book that argues the opposite. Incoherent is the only word I have for it. Bell argues forcefully that God’s Love will win over everyone, then argues that maybe it won’t. The title says “Love Wins,” but maybe it’s “Human Stubbornness Wins.” Bell seems utterly unable to decide which. If his book were a car, it would be in pieces on the ground before getting out of the driveway. It’s that bad. It’s also ugly. I found the book smug and elitist. Bell says Christians with traditional views on hell “don’t make good art and don’t throw good parties.” (I won’t touch the party thing, but as for art, well, traditionalists have Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” on their side; Bell has “The Shack” on his … you decide.) He makes fun of a man wearing a shirt that says, “Turn or Burn” – so I guess Bell would have been one of those guys who mocked the Old Testament prophets and even Jesus whose first word of recorded ministry was “Repent.” Bell waffles on his theology but is absolutely resolved in one respect: his disdain for traditional Christianity. He calls it toxic, unbearable. He says the God I worship in fear and reverence is a torturer and an abuser on whom we would call the authorities if he were he a person among us (apparently missing the irony that Jesus was among us and his enemies did “call the authorities” on him.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but Bell would, if intellectually consistent, be forced to label Mike’s earlier post on hell on this blog to be toxic and unbearable. Lake Forest is toxic and unbearable by Bell’s definition. I can only imagine Mike’s surprise. Bell likes to play the victim when people criticize his views and he is on record as saying it is not a redemptive use of a Christian’s time to blog negative things about other Christians. Apparently it is only redemptive if you have a book deal. In conclusion, I would say Bell’s theology is legalism. Now this may seem a ridiculous charge to level at an author who is being widely accused of universalism, but to me “Love Wins” clearly espouses a legalistic worldview. He argues against traditional teaching that people must accept Christ in this lifetime, insinuating that they will more chances in the afterlife to get it right. Ergo, if you get it right now, in this life, you go to heaven first. And how do you get to heaven first? Attitude. Just look at his interpretation of Jesus’ story about the rich man who goes to hell. Bell writes that the only reason the rich man is still in hell is that he still has a bad attitude toward the poor, that he is still trying to boss his servant Lazarus around (“get me some water”). For me, that is the most laughable, ridiculous interpretation of scripture I’ve ever read, but if you think through the implications of it, there’s nothing to laugh about. Bell is teaching legalism – a particular liberal, do-gooderism brand of legalism, but legalism nonetheless. If you are smart and good and have the right attitudes about justice and the poor, you will go to heaven. Others might have to suffer correction in “hell” or purgatory, until such a time that they come to their senses – unless they don’t. What "ism" is that? I don't know, but it is not salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It simply isn’t.
Toggle Commented Jun 15, 2011 on Love Wins and Spiritual Leadership at Open Mike
One aside, though, Mike -- I think our commitment to our denomination deserves a capital letter. I always feel bad for our poor EPC banner whenever it gets downgraded to the apologetic little p. Isn't our particular slant of theology/understanding of the Gospel worth at least as much respect as we give our favorite sports teams? Are you a "panthers" fan, or a Panthers fan? ;-) Rah Rah Sis-boom-bah for the Presbyterians! We've got some good stuff in that Westminster Confession, do we not? Can I get a witness? :-)
Mike, thanks for this post. Affirming, edifying, challenging -- and appreciated.
Geoff, buddy, you got me. I've always wanted a cool smoking jacket like his. ;-)
Toggle Commented Apr 6, 2011 on What I Believe About Hell at Open Mike
Mike, thank you for affirming Biblical truth, including the most difficult one. For whatever it is worth, from where I sit, you have always been clear on this. Doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it often, especially in wake of the Rob Bell tsunami. Your post got me thinking about a lot of things and I’d like to offer a few comments: • I personally don’t know too many Christians, if any, who are triumphal about believing in hell, though I get your point. I was watching a video clip of Mark Driscoll preaching on hell last week -- it was a real-old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone style sermon, as blunt as any I have seen and almost reminiscent of Jonathan Edwards, but he was in tears at a couple points. It wasn’t triumphal – it was a warning in love. The more intense our certainty about the reality of hell, the more intense our warnings and the more intense our tears, I think. • I agree with you that tone matters. I think, however, that when it comes to hell, the most common problem is not that the modern church’s tone is triumphal, but that it is dismissive of the reality of hell. Typically, the tone softens what is at stake, often to the point that the stakes are not mentioned at all. • Hell is just and we all deserve to go there. So much of the discourse I hear on this topic comes from a perspective that people are basically good and deserve salvation. There is a lack of respect for God’s holiness and a lack of admission of our wickedness, and people try to turn it around on God and say, “If you reject (fill in the blank), you are not good.” This is explicitly what Rob Bell does in his book. By contrast, your teaching about our incompatibility with God’s holiness being like paper being incompatible with fire is really good. If I could make one wish for modern Christians, it probably would be that we had a more serious, Biblical view of the Fall. The astounding beauty of the Gospel is that God would save any, but the Pelegian mindset of modern American Christians twists it around and puts God on trial if he does not save all or most (“well, maybe Hitler shouldn’t go to heaven”). Boiled down to its essence, what many believers are saying is that our sin really isn’t that bad. But it is. Psalm 53 and Romans 3:10 give the straight dope: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So let us praise God for not only his astounding mercy, but all his judgments and actions, even the ones that rightly terrify us. • I, Huntley, richly deserve hell, but through no merit or action of my own, God has removed the scales from my eyes, made me see the truth about my own wickedness, and the beauty of his only Son, who was punished and died in my place, and he has caused my heart to love the Son and I have been lashed to him. Praise God! I am, as the Old Testament puts it, “a burning stick snatched from fire.” I have been given grace. THAT brings me to tears. Why does not our salvation move us to tears regularly? Is it possibly because we have forgotten what we deserve and what we have been saved FROM? • I have some trouble with the idea that separation from God in eternity is just an eternal extension of the separation from God people experience in this life. Rob Bell says basically that hell is real here on earth and also real (for a while, perhaps) in the beyond. This seems to make sense if you consider people who screw up their lives through ungodliness – drugs, sexual immorality, corruption, violence, etc. But the logic falls apart fast. The world is filled with gleefully unrepentant people who experience nothing like hell at all in this life, for their entire lives. Would Rob Bell please explain to me how Hugh Hefner has experienced hell on earth? Even the psalmists marveled at how the wicked prosper. They are NOT suffering hell on earth. But the scripture also tells us clearly that “their foot will slip” and they are NOT to be envied. I think God is being especially gracious to them so that they and all the world will know that they have no excuse for their rebellion. Conversely, consider how many Christians have been persecuted and killed in the past and in modern times. Their eternity will be nothing at all like their lives here on earth, praise God. Being separated from God in this life is nothing compared to what it will be like to be separated from him in the next life and I think we water down what is truly at stake if we suggest otherwise. • I agree with you that both heaven and hell is described in the Bible in metaphorical language. Most Christians sense that we cannot begin to imagine what awaits us in heaven, and we know it is somehow far greater than what is described or comprehensible. By the same logic, however, isn’t it fair to say that hell as described metaphorically is completely inadequate to describe what it is actually like, and that is far worse than anything we could imagine? Sometimes Christian discourse seems to affirm this in regard to heaven but actually argue that hell, if there is one, will be not as bad as described. • I’m not sure I agree that God will be granting people dignity as he sends them away. I think he grants us dignity by giving us life (see the previous point). I have a hard time believing that the lost will be anything but terribly sorry at judgment. The scriptures seem to describe them being sent away with wrath, not dignity of any sort. I do agree that anyone who goes to hell is basically getting what they said they wanted during life on this earth. But if they are outside the gates gnashing their teeth, aren’t they well beyond “wanting” to go their own way? Maybe I just don’t understand your comment. • We do need to have broken hearts for the lost. Our living, teaching, preaching, etc., should reflect that broken-heartedness, because all of the lost are what we deserve to be. I confess that I fall short in that regard. Shame on me! • OK, this one will sound weird. I’m not sure we should hope that God will save all. Should we hope for something that God has said he will not do? Maybe, but do we then posture ourselves to be more merciful than God? I think we need to have a realistic acceptance that all will not be saved, that the stakes are higher than our brains can even deal with, and let that ratchet up the intensity of our pleading with others for Christ, and let us humbly rest in the joy of knowing that God decides, God is always just, and that he gives us the privilege of seeing many reborn, saved and transformed, just as he has done for us. Thanks for letting me ramble, and thanks again for the great post.
Toggle Commented Apr 1, 2011 on What I Believe About Hell at Open Mike
That is very cool.
Reeve is amazing!
Toggle Commented Mar 25, 2011 on Wade in the Water: Reeve Coobs' Music at Open Mike
I read the book last night, Mike. Look forward to reading your take or maybe comparing notes.
Toggle Commented Mar 18, 2011 on I Taught Rob Bell How to Preach at Open Mike
I just realized the interview with N.T. Wright I referenced was buried a couple screens deep on that blog. Sorry about that. Here is a link straight to the interview on YouTube:
Toggle Commented Dec 23, 2010 on No Hell in Evangelistic Preaching at Open Mike
Mike, thanks for the great response. Regarding N.T. Wright, to my ears he rather clearly denies the existence of hell as a literal place in this interview: His theory on what might happen instead is, again, to my ears, a) confusing and b) totally speculative/suprabiblical.
Toggle Commented Dec 22, 2010 on No Hell in Evangelistic Preaching at Open Mike
Mike, this is a really interesting discussion. I have to confess I'm scratching my head over your original post a little. The fact that N.T. Wright is the one trying to make this particular point about Acts isn't surprising because N.T. Wright does not believe in hell. (His position, which he admits is speculative, is really not a position at all, imo, but a cloud of confusion -- no eternal hell, but no universalism, and no annihilation ... but maybe we just stop "being human" .... huh? Scripture please!) The credibility and prominence Wright enjoys even in Reformed circles truly mystifies me, but that's another topic, I guess. Both you are some of the responders have made points or clarified some of what I want to say here, but here goes anyway. My personal answer to the observation that hell is not preached in Acts is fivefold: 1. so what? seriously. I don't mean that sarcastically or as a rip. Just literally, so what? If the idea is that our preaching to unbelievers should be more like Acts and less like the guys who set up Hellhouse, I'd say OK, but the preaching in Acts is way, way, way tougher than you will hear in a decade of Sundays at 99% of churches in the world today. The urgency alone of the preaching in Acts is something that I have never witnessed in any sermon in my lifetime. So what is our takeaway to be? 2. it doesn't even begin to refute the idea of hell being a real place. (I know this is not your point in the least, though I would argue it IS N.T. Wright's point and others commenting here have seized on that as well.) 3. Jesus preached it and he preached to unbelievers, so should we NOT preach like Jesus? This sincerely sets up a point of confusion for me. 4. The preaching in Acts is gloves off -- Peter's sermon on Pentacost, oh my goodness, John the Baptist had nothing on Peter. 5. The concept of a wrathful God to be feared is nowhere more clear in the entire Bible than in Acts 5 with the deaths of Ananias and his wife. It just strikes me as misdirected to say "Acts doesn't preach hell" when it does literally preach God striking you dead on the spot for being deceptive. "Great fear seized the whole church." Is this strictly speaking about hell? I guess not. But the righteous judgment of God and the terrible price of our sin and our utterly URGENT need for grace all in my mind argue forcefully that much is at stake, literally heaven and hell, in our response to Christ. The problem is, people read the line "hell is not preached in Acts" and they say, "yes, we must only preach love!" This is not your intent but do you not see that people take that ball and run with it? Tim Keller wrote a pretty good piece on why it's important not to reject or neglect the doctrine of hell. Finally, I would personally testify that God has caused me to know him and love him. I was blind, but now I see. I'm perfectly happy to call that coercion, though I like the word "grace" better. :-)
Toggle Commented Dec 21, 2010 on No Hell in Evangelistic Preaching at Open Mike
Mike, I like Donald Miller in many respects. He does a nice job pointing people to Jesus who have been screwed up by bad childhoods or bad encounters with, well, people who claim to know Jesus. I keep waiting for him to get over his hang-ups with traditional church, though, and after reading this post I realize I guess I'll just need to keep waiting. I think bd and Mark raised excellent points and to those I will say Amen and add a couple things. Most importantly, Miler talks about the need to have a relationship with Jesus, and I completely agree, but that is an insufficient statement and I wish Christians would stop using that phrase as if it is the acid test. For one thing, I'm not even sure what "relationship" means. That can mean a lot of things. Judas had a "personal relationship" with Christ. It was not redemptive. A better description would be to say that "Jesus is Lord," but even that is not redemptive, per se, because Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge it or not. I think Christians and pastors Christian writers need to get back to describing redemption the way Jesus described it: You must be born again. There is no way around that. You must be born again. And that is the work of the Spirit. That's theology, of course, and when Jesus had that discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus was being very dogmatic and very theological. Miller is certainly right, I think, that people with "bad theology" or even no idea what theology is, can be saved. It's God doing the saving, after all, and we bring nothing to the table. But, to underscore one of bd's points, a regenerated, saved, repentant believer will hunger for more knowledge about God and will pursue it. If we've been given the mind of Christ as part of our lives as Christians, theology is truly the "sweet science." Does that give us the right to be snobs or burn at the stake anyone who disagrees? Of course not. Michelle is right that it is all meaningless without love. No argument. But that is hardly all there is to it, either. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:16, "Watch your life and doctrine closely." It seems to me that Donald Miller does not want us to abide by that verse. The primary vibe I get from his post, and that of some of his other writings, is that we should feel bad, or perhaps even LOST, if we have an intense interest in theology and want to discuss it with other Christians. He seems to advocate a view that literally any theology is fine as long as it involves saying "I have a relationship with Jesus." But that is not right. A theology, for example, that says that Jesus is not God (Jehovah's Witnesses) must be opposed (lovingly!). A theology that says you are saved by works must be opposed (lovingly!). These theologies are everywhere, and even everywhere in the church, and it is nothing to be unconcerned about. But when I read Miller, I feel guilty that such things interst or concern me. Maybe that's just me. I'm glad bd pointed out something I was thinking, which is that, for a guy who attacks dogma, Donald Miller is awfully dogmatic. When he mentions his friend's theology regarding the depravity of man, he doesn't say it is illogical or maybe off-base or anything like that, and he cites no scripture to make his own case, but he nonetheless describes his friend's view as "clearly insane." And he implies that lots of other Christians are equally insane. Hey, I thought we weren't supposed to say things like that! Back when LFC was offering to hold discussion groups based on some Donald Miller concepts, I watched the video of Miller describing how the groups should work. He said they should be very open so that everyone should feel free to say what they thought, and no one should try to tell anyone else they were wrong. If they do, he said, "Then they're not doing it right." I laughed when he said that, because he was evidently completely unaware that he had just completely contradicted himself. Like I said, I do like Donald Miller. I just find it strange that he is evidently unaware that he is every bit the dogmatic drill sergeant as any theologian or sectarian leader he professes to be put off by. But, to Mark's point, he did succeed in baiting me! ;-)
Awesome, Mike!
Toggle Commented May 6, 2010 on Barstool Pastor at Open Mike
Great stuff from Keller -- thrilled you like him too.
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2010 on Missional Church at Open Mike
Kyle Dillard rocks.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2010 on Given Up on Church Artists at Open Mike
Mike: This was a good post. More importantly I wanted to tell you that Sunday's sermon on the incarnation was my "new favorite" from you. It was just beautifully done. Your apologetics were spot on and you really nailed WHY it is so important that we have a deep, abiding understanding of the doctrine of the incarnation, and how getting even little things wrong about it can really lead to problems or even cause you to miss Christ entirely. I am one of those people for whom theology and doctrine are never boring -- to the contrary, they are inspring, and every "aha!" I get about the character of God MOTIVATES me in my walk. So bravo, A+, home run, bulls eye, etc. Like I said -- my new favorite. Praise Jesus Christ!
Toggle Commented Dec 8, 2009 on Down to Earth Doctrine at Open Mike