For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

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Cult # 3: New Age – Nothing New Under the Sun

Plumbing was on the list of top priorities of things to do last night in the Toy home. I’m not handy by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by my sloppy and incomplete tool closet and many half-finished projects around the house. After an hour or two I finally plied the drain covering off the sink only to find out that a piece still needs to be unscrewed from the bottom. No problem. Well, we didn’t have the proper tools, but being a tightwad mixed with a little bit of determination to prove myself, I went about trying to unscrew the darn thing by my own means.

All the while, Sarabeth is telling me that I’m attempting to unscrew the right piece, but I’m seeing the whole apparatus wrong, therefore I can’t possibly get the proper grip in order to unscrew it successfully. I insisted that parts A and B were connected just below the sink. She insisted that part B was just a ring attached to part A. The way these parts were assembled made all the difference between dinner at 9 pm or dinner for breakfast. As I’m staring at the blasted sink between breaths, I finally see that Sarabeth was right the whole time. Part A was not inserted into part B. Part A was just a ring that screwed around Part B. I was seeing the whole thing wrong. But I could have sworn on everything that I was for once, in the right.

New Age is one of the hardest religions to define. It is a worldview whereas once people view the world through it, everything makes sense (or, if it doesn’t, that’s okay!). Very little amount of reasoning and debate will likely sway New Agers and persuade them of the truth. Like me and the sink, it’s very hard reason with New Age thinking. It is a worldview that offers a new way of thinking, yet it is explicitly based off of a lie that was birthed from the beginning of time. “If you eat this fruit, you will be like God…” Yes, the roots of New Age mysticism – as new and exciting as it looks – stretches all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is indeed the Serpent’s old lie in an updated package. Like Pepsi’s slogan: “New look, same great taste.”

In New Age circles there is no formal structure or organization. Millions of New Age activists hope to transform society by bringing about a reawakening that will emphasize self-discovery, spiritualism, growth and enlightment.

New Age concepts find their roots in the Garden of Eden. It borrows from Hinduism, Buddhism, Babylonian mystery rituals (which are supposed to elevate humans to a godlike status) nature worship, occult practices and reincarnation. Like Hinduism, it teaches concepts like monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is god). It borrows form Taoism, a Chinese philosophy that teaches that all things are constantly changing (yin and yang), therefore nothing is absolute, all is relative, including morals and ethics.

New Age adapts esoteric knowledge from Gnoticism. It ignites a divine spark and power within, therefore negates the need for Christ’s atoning death. New Age thinking is a hybrid or blend of all of the above, plus several other ideas and phenomenon of modern origin: UFO’s, extraterrestrial intelligence and psychokinesis.

Some New Agers buy into one portion of New Age thinking while others accept other portions. New Agism has even caught many Christians in its web. I’ll never forget when a Christian I know was really excited to read Oprah’s book recommendation, The Secret, thinking that it contained great spiritual truths. Not everyone may like the story of Avatar, but it’s the concepts and monistic worldviews – not the nonexistent plot – that skyrocketed the expensive and disastrous film into Box Office history. Take a look at other ways New Age has been influenced by or has influenced modern pop culture:

The 60’s became a springboard for the generation gap, anti-establishment thinking and psychedic expression through LSD and other drugs. This is when the Beatles helped introduce transcendental meditation. The musical Hair introduced Eastern ideas – “Age of Aquarius,” the theme song of NAM with direct references to astrology (mentions moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars, Peace guiding the planets and love steering the stars). Many celebrities, including Shirley MacLaine, champion New Age thinking, who ebulliently states, “You are unlimited, you just don’t realize it.”

And a side note for my eschatologist friends and political followers , the Age of Aquarius, according to New Agers, will usher in a new world order with three ideals in one world government, one world leader, and one world religion.

In New Age thinking, God is more of an “it” rather than a “He.” Creation is a myth because there is no Creator. All that is here was always here. How? That is no one’s concern (a good reason to skip out of Science class). Salvation is found within themselves. Instead of saving one’s soul from being fallen and sinful, you should achieve a new “awareness” of your divinity and oneness with all things. (I wish I could have been one with the sink last night so I could undo myself.) Christ is demoted from second Person of the trinity to one of many “cosmic Christs,” including Buddah, Moses, Elijah and Mohammed.

Check out the New Age admonition – “Create your own reality.” All New Agers agree on one central dogma: All truth is relative, there are no absolutes, and you find “God” within yourself.

New Age dabbles quite heavily in Occultism, channeling, paranormal experiences, spiritualism, and a host of other dangerous practices placing individuals in the midst of a very real and dangerous spiritual world unguarded by Christ. The Bible cannot be more clear on this. One verse sums it up: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Leviticus 20:6.

I realize this doesn’t being to cover the tip of the ice burg on the topic of New Age mysticism, but I hope it give you an idea of the powerful influence it’s having on our nation and our world.

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Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity– Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

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A Very Good Date Movie

“Chick flicks” are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not only because of the goofball characters, shallow dialogue and lack of substance, but because everyone assumes that the couple lives happily ever after just because the girl finally agrees to go on a date with the guy who’d been begging for the past 90 minutes. I think it can only be considered a true happy ending if the couple actually seals their vows under the alter at the end of the movie. I used to call that a complete love story.

And then I got married.

Now I know that wooing the beautiful girl was just the easy part – the prologue, if you will. But it’s marriage that really bears the weight of true “happily ever” love. And most of the time, it doesn’t hold it. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are wanting out of their marriage, or are doubting the stability of their love for one another. Our pastor preached a wonderful sermon on marriage last Sunday at Ninth and O Church, and you can listen to it here, called, “When Marital Dreams Turn to Matrimonial Nightmares.”

I consider the movie Sweet Home Alabama one of the best love stories to come out of the recent Hollywood vault. (The biggest reason is because there’s no sexuality. Some dialogue and projected world views might be unsuitable for children.) I’m sure there are others out there that are better, but like I mentioned, I don’t go out hunting for these types of movies. I consider it one of the best because it’s a movie about a fight for a broken marriage hanging on the balance between a second chance and divorce. What’s wonderful about it, is that the featured couple really never work things out between themselves, but they still give their marriage another go – they don’t wait till everything’s “perfect.” There are a couple of silly scenes, but all in all, I recommend it for spouses who need a boost of marital inspiration.

We live in a society that proclaims, if you’re not happy, then you’re free to go. That is the biggest piece of garbage that this country has swallowed. You divorce your spouse to hunt for another escapade, repeat the honeymoon, get married, have a bunch of fights … then what? You will never be fully happy with the person (or people) you married, but you will find the most joy in looking back at a lifelong commitment, unbroken by temptations and strife from within and outside the marriage. (Check out the movie Up for the best picture of marriage I’ve ever seen outside of real life). There’s joy. There’s happiness. Looking at your partner of so many years knowing that nothing has torn you two apart, as wild as a roller coaster you’ve been on, even when all things seemed hopeless.

If you’re stuck in a rut in your marriage, or if you just want out, or if you can’t stand just one more fight, I challenge you to get on your knees this very moment and beg the Creator of marriage to give you just a little bit more strength, a little bit more wisdom. Women and sisters in Christ, ask for a gentle and quite spirit which can prove to be more seductive than lipstick and perfume. Men and brothers, ask for the desire for integrity and dignity to stick with your marriage, through thick and thin, spurring every outside lust and temptation, and focus your attention back on your wife.

Couples, listen to the sermon, send the kids to bed early and have a date night and watch Sweet Home Alabama, and enjoy this excerpt from my upcoming novel The Man in the BoxRobbie Lake has been wanting out of his marriage due to the mundane nature of family life. So he finds a secret world hidden in a cardboard box which he returns to over and over again, fighting monsters and being hailed as a god – the complete opposite of home life. And one day his dad, noticing his family suffering the consequences of his absence, confronts him:

“I know I didn’t teach you much even when your mom was alive. But I had always hoped that you’d learned at least a little something from us while you could. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my marriage and I’m sure you have too, but the important thing is that you still get through them all. I don’t care if your kids rebel and run out on you, I don’t care if you lose all your money and you end up on the street, just as long as you end up on the street together. I pulled a lot of crap with your mother, but I never walked out on her.”

“You were let off easy because she died.”

“No. I still think about her. I still miss her. I wish we had more time together. Her dying only proved that had I left her when I wanted, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. But you and your issues that you’ve got with someone else or your work or whatever… you’ve got to deal with it if you’re at all serious about staying with Rosalynn to the end. The world’s out to tear you apart. Are you going to let it?”

Follow The Man in the Box on facebook.

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Cult #1: Jehovah’s Witness

The official name for Jehovah’s Witness is, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They produce two magazines within their circuit: “Awake” and “The Watchtower.” Their Bible version: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).

Everyone who disagrees with Jehovah Witness’s – especially Christians – are not only wrong but are moral enemies and will be destroyed by Jehovah at Armageddon. Jehova’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Here is a brief history:

Charles Taze Russell: How it all began

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) rejected many views in his church as a teen. Particularly Hell and the Trinity. Adventist teaching told him there was no eternal punishment, so his faith in Scripture was restored but he remained distrustful of churches. By age 18 he formed his own Bible study empathizing Christ’s coming (predicted in 1874). He and Adventists believed it happened in a “spiritual and invisible way.”

In 1879 he parted was with the Adventist and launched the magazine, The Watchtower. He predicted Armageddon in 1914, but WWI started. He died 2 years later.

Joseph F. Rutheford predicted the end would be in 1925. He adopted the name Jehovah’s Witness (from Isaiah 43:10), and invented door-to-door witnessing. He originally said 144,000 people would go to Heaven. But because of overpopulation Rutheford said that everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness before 1935 would go to Heaven. If you became one after 1935 you can be among the “great crowd” living on earth in a new Paradise after Armageddon and the Millennium.

“New light” – A favorite Jehovah’s Witness term to explain its many changes in doctrine and teaching. Despite wrong predictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist they have never made any false prophesies.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society still operates on the same foundation laid by Russell and say he was the founder but they distance themselves from his theology and writings (except denying the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and Hell as punishment).

Jehovah’s Witness…

1)    Deny the Trinity – “Who ran the universe when Jesus was dead in the grave?”

2)    Deny Christ’s deity – Jehovah is the Almighty God who created Jesus. Then Jesus, the mighty god, created everything else. Jesus was archangel Michael before coming to Earth. He is still archangel Michael.

3)    Deny Jesus’ bodily resurrection – Christ rose as a s spirit that looked like a body. Jehovah does not resurrect bodies, he “re-creates” them. Because body and soul (which are one) have been annihilated at death, God must re-create the “life pattern” of a person and he can easily do this be retrieving that life pattern from his memory.

4)    Deny the Holy Spirit is God – It is an “invisible act or force” that God uses to inspire His servants to do His will. It’s like electricity.

5)    Deny Christ’s full Atonement – They give Christ credit for giving them the opportunity to work for and obey Jehovah – by doing what the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society teaches.

To be a Jehovah’s Witness means constantly trying to affirm your salvation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly working for a place in an earthly paradise where they will have everlasting life, but not in the presence of a loving Jehovah God. Instead, they will be ruled by Christ and the 144,000 anointed ones who remain in Heaven throughout eternity to enjoy immortality, as they serve as joint heirs and co-rulers of Jehovah’s glorious theocracy.

The Last Days:

Armageddon will bring about the destruction of 99.9% of mankind. After Armageddon, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there will be a time when earth will be repopulated by faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (who survive Armageddon) and billions of people who are resurrected (re-created from Jehovah’s memory bank). They will be taught truth. In the end, Satan and his demons will tempt people. If people fail they will be cast into the lake of fire and wiped forever from existence.

Jehovah’s Witnesses meet five times a week at Kingdom Hall, a term for church. They do not believe in immortal souls. At death their “life force” goes out of them and they no longer exist.

When confronting a Jehovah’s Witness, do so out of love and kindness, bearing in mind that all of their false information has been mercilessly shoved down their throats, but it sounds good to them because they are already “in.” Approach them with the bold truth and let the Spirit of God do the work that is saved for Him to do in that person’s life.

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This is a repost from earlier in the week. I’ll be giving out electronic advanced readers to a select few who join the facebook page.

The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis has long been revered as one of the leading Christian thinkers of the 20th century. His simple ideas have caused us to ponder deeper truths, his bluntness over matters of the human heart have caused us to blush and sheepishly admit wrongs we wouldn’t have otherwise, and his analogies have given us just a clearer glimpse into the thoughts of God.

The power of the written word. One needs only to pick up a Lewis book to witness its strength. And The Weight of Glory is no exception. Allow me to run through the catalogue of chapters, in case you haven’t read this classic, and hopefully it will convince you to pick it up for your next read. Disclaimer: It is not a pleasure read – it’s a thinker and it will cause you to dig deep to discover some of its meaning.

Chapter 1 – The Weight of Glory

This sermon was preached when England was at war with Germany, on June 8, 1941. People were probably at that time struggling with issues like truth, and justice and relevance in a world that was falling apart. Lewis puts forward the idea that a desire for reward is a basically biblical idea. He goes on to state that the appeals in scripture are actually given with desire in mind, and that desire is built into the design of man. He also states that the reward fits the behavior and is not an inappropriate or mercenary reward but the culmination of the activity. “The proper rewards are not tacked onto the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.”

Chapter 2 – Learning in War Time

I really appreciate Lewis’ argument here. He states that we are never really secure in life. Human life is lived on a precipice of constant danger. He also states that if we waited until we were safe to pursue beauty we would never begin that pursuit. Lewis preached this sermon in 1939 while tensions over the war in Europe were raging. Lewis, as an former soldier and Christian was called in to set things in perspective. I am certain he was addressing the question, “Why should we continue with our studies when the world is hanging on the edge of disaster?” He divides the question into two categories, one is the need for the saving of souls, and secondly the need for exclusive nationalism.

Chapter 3 – Why I am Not a Pacifist

I appreciate how Lewis starts out this talk by defining his terms carefully. He is using logic to appeal to the audience and this is very effective as it considers all options. He is going to systematically take apart these options one by one and be left with his own position as the best option.

Chapter 4 – Transposition

Lewis tackles a tough issue here, the issue of tongues. He starts by explaining the difference between sensations and emotions. Emotions are a higher order than sensations and sometimes the same sensation can be used for different and even opposing emotions.

Chapter 5 – Is Theology Poetry? 

“Does Christian theology owe its attraction to its power of arousing and satisfying our imaginations?” That is the question Lewis attempts to answer in this essay. He made this speech at Oxford University at the Socratic Club on Nov. 6, 1944. He talks about his own experience to show the inadequacy of the Christian faith to be merely poetic in its appeal. He states that he prefers other mythologies to Christianity if it were merely mythical.

Chapter 6 – The Inner Ring

This talk was given at Kings College, University of London during a commemoration Oration on Dec. 14, 1944. He talks about the idea of inner rings, or in other words, being a part of a specific group. This group can be for any purpose, the main point is the desire to belong.

Chapter 7 – Membership

Faith has been relegated to a position of solitude, this is both paradoxical, dangerous, and natural. He states it is paradoxical considering that every other activity in recent history has robbed us of solitude. Secondly he states that this is dangerous because solitude has been pushed out of our lives, this effectively can keep religion out of our lives if we accept that concept. He also states this idea is natural, by that I mean we fall into the mentality of collectivism and fail to understand the meaning of being a part of the “Body of Christ”. Collectivism reduces the value of the individual and only speaks of the value of the group to which the individual belongs, while the concept we should embrace states both the value of the group as a whole entity and yet keeps the importance of each individual member within that specific group. That is the essence of what Lewis is arguing for.

Chapter 8 – On Forgiveness

The question he is answering here is why do we recite in the creeds the phrase, “We believe in the forgiveness of sins”? He assumes this is just something we all understand, but after giving it some thought he sees the wisdom of the writers of the creeds. We by nature need to be reminded of our own sinfulness and our need for forgiveness.

Chapter 9 – A Slip of the Tongue

This was the last sermon Lewis ever preached. He gave this talk at Oxford in a small chapel in Evensong on Jan. 29, 1956. The question he seems to be addressing is the reluctance of the believer to fully commit himself to God. He became aware of this in his prayer life. The difficulty seems to be the real fear that God will require something more than we wish to give at that time. The illustration he uses of paying taxes, we all agree in the necessity of paying taxes, but at the same time we all want to know how little we can get away with paying. So is our thinking with our relationship with God, we desire a relationship with Him but we don’t want Him to demand too much of us. We desire to “keep things temporal” as Lewis puts it.

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