“Will [insert sin here] prevent you from going to Heaven?”

It’s very popular within evangelical Christianity to ask, “Do you think such and such will go to Heaven?” In other words, we ask if alcoholics can still go to Heaven, homosexuals, drug addicts, tax evaders, and the list goes on. This type of reasoning isn’t limited to conservatives either. Just as conservatives will quickly point out that those engaged in sexual sins run the risk of the fires of Hell, many liberal Christians equally say that those who neglect the poor will never enter Heaven (assuming that they haven’t become universalists, or still believe in Heaven).

However, I think this line of reasoning is faulty. It’s impossible to say exactly who does and doesn’t go to Heaven as salvation is a matter of God’s mercy and grace, not our own reasoning. The Bible simply doesn’t provide a check list for what it is to quality for Heaven; it gives us the overall criteria, but even this is open to the subjective experience of the individual. After all, a person who accepts Christ and dies five minutes later hasn’t had a chance to serve the poor, be baptized, or have a full faith, yet universally people say, “oh, he went to Heaven.” All salvation is based upon God’s mercy, not upon our reasoning.

A better way to approach the issue is to ask, “Will this sin negatively impact your relationship with God?” So does an alcoholic go to Heaven? I don’t know, that’s between him and God, but I can say that being addicted to alcohol will negatively impact one’s relationship with God. We can’t say whether or not an addiction to a certain sin will prevent that exact individual from going to Heaven, but we can say that it will impact their relationship with God.

When we ask whether or not something will keep us from Heaven, we’re acting as though Heaven is the end goal of Christianity. But Heaven isn’t the goal, God is the goal. The purpose of the Christian life isn’t to achieve Heaven, but instead to deepen a relationship with God. Heaven is merely an continuation of that relationship. If Christianity were about being selfish, then perhaps asking about Heaven would be pertinent, but Christianity is about a relationship, thus the concern is over that relationship.

As Christians we shouldn’t worry over whether or not a specific sin will keep us out of Heaven, or an addiction to a sin will keep us out of Heaven, or even who will and won’t go to Heaven. All of this rests upon the mercy of God. Instead, what we should be concerned with is our relationship with God and what can affect that relationship.

“I’m a Progressive/Emergent Christian, so I can’t be a hypocritical, unloving, insulting, jerk you simple-minded fool!”

"Yo, back off!" - Francis Chan (not an actual quote)

When the video of Rob Bell came out in early March promoting his book Love Wins (see my review here), controversy ensued when Rob Bell and other Reformed leaders began to critique the video. Many progressive/emergent Christians were up in arms, decrying such actions saying, “You haven’t even read the book yet!” So of course when Francis Chan wrote a book and then posted a video for it, one that is supposed to function as a response to Love Wins, you’d expect that people would follow their own advice and wait to read the book.

But no. That didn’t happen.

Instead, what many of the neo-Calvinist were accused of doing (e.g. hating Rob Bell, insulting him, going after him as a person, jumping the gun, assuming things about his theology, etc) they have actually been up to themselves. When Bell was criticized before his book was even out, many decided to say that the criticism revealed more about the critics than about Bell’s book. They were upset that people would slam Rob Bell as a person. They accused the Calvinists of hating Rob Bell in fact. Even I implicitly pointed out that we should read Bell’s book before criticizing it or uplifting it.

But with Francis Chan’s announcement of his new book, the Progressive and Emergent ground has apparently forgotten all their righteous indignation when it was Bell being attacked. For one, back during the Bell controversy, one progressive Christian went so far as to insinuate that any Christian who believed in Hell should be treated like a moron. In response to the Chan video, one emergent blogger essentially did a hit piece on the video, criticizing how Chan came across and making light of Chan’s theology (essentially treating Chan like an idiot). The same writer who compared people who believe in Hell to children also attacked Chan as a person rather than dealing with the message. He goes after the style of the video and then attacks Chan’s beliefs on Hell…even though Chan never states his beliefs and his book isn’t out yet. In essence, the same criticisms people had against the Reformed crowd concerning Bell’s book could easily be levied against the progressive and emergent crowd concerning Chan’s book.

Now make no mistake, I’m not a fan of Chan (rhyming not intended). It’s not that I’m against Chan, I just don’t know who he is. I haven’t listened to any sermons by him or read anything written by him. Perhaps it’s because I’m a closet hipster and haven’t read him because he’s too mainstream for my taste, or I just haven’t had time to read him because I’ve been busy reading other things. But this post isn’t meant to be a defense of Chan or his beliefs. I don’t know what his beliefs are. I haven’t read his book.

The bigger point I want to make is one that I’ve made numerous times before; the emergent movement is highly hypocritical and woefully lacking in its own self-criticism. How many posts can you find from an emergent author criticizing anything about progressive Christianity or emergent thinking? It seems that for all their finger-pointing and ridicule of all things conservative, the emergent crowd has forgotten to look into the mirror.

Now I don’t say this in a triumphal way or as a way to negate anything they’re saying, but instead I point it out as an honest plea to those who consider themselves emergent (or those who just want to be “beyond labels,” which is a label…). For all the criticisms the emergents have towards the Reformed authors (some criticisms I agree with) they forget or ignore how self-critical these authors are when it comes to conservative Christians or their own churches (some criticisms I agree with). For instance, the best books I’ve read about how dumbed-down many conservative evangelicals seem to be have come from conservative evangelical authorsContinue reading

Christianity, Hell, and Islam

For those who don’t follow, I recently had someone leave a comment on my post “Brian McLaren, really?“. I attempted one response that was a bit long and he responded back with a long response as well. Rather than engage in a “comment debate,” I’d rather just post my full reply as a post, since it will be a bit lengthy. I’d encourage you to read the comments before reading this post.

Well after reading that and reading your link, it looks like you are not interested in thinking any differently then you do now.

Well, to be honest, unless given a good reason to change my beliefs on something so central to the worldview I follow, I don’t see why I should be open to changing my views. Though we should always be open to examine our views, this is generally done by looking at rational arguments and evidence against our position. If our position holds strong against such critiques, there shouldn’t be a willingness to abandon it.

Our Christian Bible, many would say, is just as sexist as the Qur’an or Hadith, (maybe not in as blunt of ways). There are scripture in the Bible that talks about Woman not even being able to talk in Church. We can’t say that the Church treats woman fairly even now, I mean there is a reason why 90% of Church leaders are MEN.

If you define “fairness” by responsibilities, then yes, men and women are not treated equally. However, I think your attempt to equivocate the two is quite unfair. For one, both the Qur’an and Hadith teach that women are ontologically lower, that is, they have less rights, less value, etc by nature of being a woman. This is why rape, beatings, and the like are allowed by many Muslims. One simply look to Surra 2:282 to see that men are a “degree above women.” Prior to this, 2:223 says that men are to treat their wife (or wives) as property and do whatever they will with them. The justification is that women are lesser than men by nature. The Hadith is actually worse considering that the writings of Bukhari, chapter two, verse twenty-eight, states that the majority of Hell is composed of ungrateful women. If you look to Ishaq 593, we’re told that women are plentiful and it’s okay to leave the one you have to find another one. All of this shows that women are, by nature, lower than men and to be treated as property, a bit above animals (though Muhammad’s youngest wife A’isha complained that Muhammad was created women to be on the level of dogs and donkeys [Muslim 4:1039]).

The Bible, alternatively, teaches that men and women are ontologically equal. One merely look to the narrative in Genesis to see that men and women are both made in the image of God (“…male and female He created them…”). One can turn to the works of Paul, specifically in Corinthians, and see that he says the wife’s body belongs to the man and the husband’s body belongs to the wife, thus showing it’s equal. If we turn to Galatians, we find Paul telling the husband and wife to submit to one another. Elsewhere he tells husbands to lead with authority as Christ leads the Church, which is completely self-sacrificial. Paul also says that a man who doesn’t provide for his family, but can (and “provide” in the Greek implies both material and immaterial [i.e. emotions, psychological well-being, etc]), is worse than a heathen. Though women were devalued in Jewish culture, in the New Testament we see that Christ has no problem interacting with a sick woman who needs healing, a woman who is on her 7th marriage and considered a whore by the community, a prostitute who washes His feet with perfume, and the first witnesses of the Resurrection in all the Gospels are females.

All of the above indicates that the Bible sees women as ontological equals. Now, for whatever reason, God has declared that on some issues, men and women have different responsibilities, but this does not make them unequal or elevate men above women. Only those who are power-thirsty would see authority as a standard for equality. Authority has nothing to do with equality – some people, male or female, aren’t called to be in a position of authority. Does this mean they are unequal with those who are called to such a position?

So as you can see, I don’t see your argument as compelling.

Continue reading

The Necessity of Hell

One of the most elusive and difficult beliefs that orthodox Christians must deal with is the belief in Hell. Hell is not a popular belief and for good reason; who wants to believe that God would send someone to an eternal, never-ended separation from Himself? What kind of loving God would do such a thing?

Christians have attempted to offer up arguments for why Hell is there (e.g. “God doesn’t send people to Hell, they choose to go”), but all of these arguments seem to be a bit weak. After all, even if people choose to go to Hell, why would God even create it in the first place, subsequently allowing such a choice? Likewise, it is just playing with words – God still condemns the people to Hell, He sends them there.

What, then, should Christians think about Hell? How should Christians approach this issue? Should we abandon this belief as a misreading of the New Testament, as something that was added on after the fact? Should we deemphasize Hell and act as though it’s not as important as we make it out to be? Or should we follow the orthodox belief that Hell is a real place and, regardless of how our culture views the belief, stick with it as an absolute? Continue reading