Very Happy for Rob Bell

So my postmodern, emergent, half-hippie son was home for the holidays with his fiancée and since he keeps up with such things, he knew that pastor/writer sensation Rob Bell was airing the first episode of his new TV show on the Oprah Network. (The fact that I just actually typed the words ‘Oprah Network’ is strange in the extreme to me.) So, he says to us, back over Christmas break, “The new Rob Bell show is on tonight!” So there we were taking it all in.

And I am very happy for Rob Bell. How good it was to see him doing something he is so good at, and obviously enjoys. The show is like a long, extended Nooma video: Rob doing what he does best, talking to people creatively and in ways that resonate, about the deepest longings and pain in their lives, and how God comes into all that. I am delighted to see him doing something like this with his time.

Those who hate him, vilify him and thrill to the word “heretic” will, I am sure, expend lots of valuable Kingdom time talking about how horrible he is. Despite the fact that the only identifiable moment in the hour in which a self-appointed heretic hunter could possibly cry about was when Rob spoke about ‘the Universe wanting you to be whole’, instead of saying “God” or “Jesus,” I am confident people will delight in finding tons of things to count as awful heresy or motive throughout his show. It’s so overboard and boring to hear people go on about how awful he is, it’s ridiculous.

But in terms of “the universe,” the Wisdom literature explores personified wisdom at God’s side during creation delighting in His work and in mankind. Wisdom is the power through which God makes the Universe, according to extended passages in the Proverbs; what the Greek philosophers called the underlying rational principle of the cosmos, the divine logos. Both John and Paul described Jesus as precisely this – the logos, through which the universe was created and in whom all things cohere, hold together, sustaining the universe’s existence, the very wisdom of God. If John had any idea what the meaning of the word logos meant, the underlying principle in the universe, which can be connected to and conformed to, then it is indeed accurate, in a way, to say ‘the Universe’ wants you to be whole. Or, at least to say ‘the underlying principle the universe is held together with… wants you to be whole.’

Cheers, Rob.

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A Now-Oriented Salvation, Part Two

I’ve noticed among emergent/postmodern Christian authors a consensus for a now-oriented salvation. Part One of this subject is here:  https://toddrisser.com/2013/11/06/a-now-oriented-salvation-part-one/

Last time I ended with these two questions that Nazarene pastor Dana Hicks finds more useful today than asking if someone died tonight would they go to heaven?

1”If you knew you were going to live another forty years, what kind of person would you want to become?”

2. “If you could know what God is doing in the world, would you want to be part of it?”

Regarding this second question, Dana says “I like this question, because it focuses evangelism on God’s agenda instead of our tendency to get God to focus on our agenda. I also like this question because it opens the door to talk about what Jesus talked about the most –the Kingdom of God breaking in to our world right now” (Dana Hicks, Postmodern and Wesleyan, 77).  Rob Bell’s ‘Nooma’ video called Trees highlights this postmodern search for a faith for today, not just my eventual salvation after death. My perception is that it would be accurate to say that, theologically, most emerging/Emergent/postmodern pastors have bought into the idea that the Kingdom of God was the thrust of Jesus’ message… rather than a judicial, legal approach to forgiveness.

When the 2004 Tsunami hit, I heard a Christian speaker on national television say “It doesn’t matter that they died, what matters is: did they know Christ?” The sheer lack of human compassion it portrayed, (ignoring, among other things, the thousands of children left utterly orphaned), the hyper-focus -as if the entire message of the Christian faith was just get to heaven when you die- horrified me, and most postmodern Christians share that sentiment.

I think this turn in the orientation of salvation to the here and now is a good thing.  It’s high time we made sure we aren’t making Christianity out to be just another gnosticism designed to help us escape the physical world of woe. Seeing salvation as akin to God’s shalom restoration is a return to biblical orthodoxy. While the emerging church needs to make sure they don’t under-emphasize what the Scriptures say about salvation after this life, they are, I believe, reacting to what they’ve experienced in many modern churches as an under-emphasis on salvation in this life. While you may feel that your particular church has achieved a good, solid, biblical balance of this dynamic, it is the obvious impression of the postmoderns that there’s been (in far too many churches) an overemphasis on heaven and a neglect of the call of Jesus to work for Kingdom realities here and now, as in the parable of the sheep and the goats.