Posts Tagged 'Rob Bell'

Rob Bell & Mike Morrell Interviewed on Day1!

…but not on the same episode, alas.

A few weeks ago, Rob was in Atlanta as part of a short tour for his uber-controversial book Love Wins. He stopped by the nationally-syndicated Day1 studio to do this in-depth interview with show host Peter Wallace:

(Note: This interview is WAY better than Martin Bashir’s!)

Then last week, I was in Atlanta:  Seeing family and friends for Easter, and sharing about the Wild Goose Festival with a wide variety of people in the area – Punk TorahMetro Atlanta Emergence (with whom I had entirely too much fun at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium and La Fonda), and KSU professor Derek Spalla.

While in the ATL, it worked out for me to sit in the studio with the good Mr. Wallace and share why the Goose is so important to me, and why it just might be important to – dahn dahn dahn! – the future shape of North American spirituality. No really. Why? You’ll just have to watch & see! But seriously – I’d love your feedback on what we’re discussing here.

Finally, you see that t-shirt I’m wearing? It’s from the local Raleigh-based Guru Guitar, a kickin’ guitar shop that serves the Triangle area and beyond. I do mean ‘beyond.’ My buddy, Guru co-owner Eugene Reinert, crafts his custom-made Rhino Guitars for musicians the world over. So if you’re in the market for peerless sound, come on by. Then you & I could have coffee next-door at Cup-A-Joe afterward.

David Crowder & Rob Bell: Fantastical Worship and Atonement Lenses

Update: The conversation continues, both below & in the comments at Bob Kauflin’s blog. Please be courteous if you decide to comment over there. 🙂

So I wasn’t at the David Crowder Band-hosted Fantastical Church Music Conference held at Baylor earlier this month, but apparently it created quite a stir. For one thing, it brought together a diverse group of people: Gugnor and Paper Route and Bifrost Arts and Mike Crawford and Welcome Wagon and David Dark and Derek Webb and the Civil Wars (!), alongside CCM worship music stalwarts like Matt Redman, Israel Houghton and Hillsongs London (along with preacher/producer scribe Louie Giglio). But amidst this celebration of aural diversity, there was apparently one voice who was the wrong kind of diversity for some folks: Rob Bell. Quoth Christianity Today:

On Friday morning Rob Bell challenged his audience to drop “blood guilt” and “three-tiered universe” metaphors in their songwriting. He said we needed metaphors that connected to people today. Plenty of people in North America, he said, feel an aching sense of loss of home and we need songs that offer Christ as their true home.

(In the comments section, someone who also attended the conference clarified that Bell didn’t suggest that anyone ‘drop’ blood metaphors, but rather to not solely rely on them.) Are there better ways to think and sing about our universe? Better ways to celebrate the meaning of Jesus? Can I get an “amen”?

Apparently not, from some quarters.

People of Destiny Sovereign Grace worship leader Bob Kauflin expresses concern on his blog:

While I appreciate relevance and clear communication, developing our own metaphors for the atonement potentially undermines and distorts the gospel. Yes, it’s important to recognize and communicate the vast and multiple effects of Christ’s death and the resurrection, and yes, Christians can overemphasize theological precision and definition at the expense of actually communicating the good news. But every description of Christ’s work on the cross is connected to our need to be forgiven by and reconciled to a holy God. If we fail to communicate this, we have failed to proclaim the biblical gospel…all metaphors for the atonement are ultimately grounded in penal substitution…[emphasis mine]

One of his comment-ers, Clarice, asked:

On Bell and “metaphors”: I’m not totally clear on what Bell is talking about with metaphors of the atonement…that sounds really abstract and confusing to me. 🙂 Does he mean stuff like Galatians 4, Hagar and Sarah, or…?

To which I replied: “Hi Clarice [which can’t help but make me think of Hannibal] – in my opinion, language about atonement (and really, language about ‘God’ in general) is metahphorical in the sense that it is not a 1:1 depiction of the grandeur, majesty, and mystery of God. So: We speak of Jesus’ death as a ‘sacrifice’ for our sins; our Reformed brethren (like Bob here) will likely refer to it as a sacrifice of the Son *unto the Father* for our sins – but these are metaphorical in the sense that Jesus wasn’t literally led to a consecrated altar, and sacrificed before His Father. (We might, indeed, condemn such gross literalism as child sacrifice, which YHWH condemns!) And so historic Christianity has seen this as a way of speaking about the meaning of atonement – one that approximates, but can never fully compass, its meaning.

This doesn’t mean that other atonement metaphors carry more privilege. Pentecostals and charismatics like me in my growing-up years always historically emphasized a ‘ransom’ metaphor of atonement – Jesus rescuing us from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil. More recently, many of us in what some call the emerging church conversation appreciate NT Wright’s retrieval of the ‘Christus Victor’ model (or metaphor) of atonement, wherein the Father vindicates the goodness and perfect obedience of the Son vis-a-vis bodily resurrection, proclaiming victory over death, and the principalities and powers. Still others, in Quaker and Anabaptist and Girardian schools, rightly empathize the ironic nature of Jesus ‘sacrifice’ as a repudiation of all violence.

While I wasn’t at the Fantastical conference, my guess is that Bell wasn’t suggesting that songwriters make up new metaphors ‘cold turkey,’ but create them in continuity with the great tradition of historic Christianity, giving ourselves the same permission the biblical writers had to seek the Spirit afresh and interpret Gospel goodness to those in our time and place. Because let’s face it, the author of Hebrews is right – Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice! Because of this, sacrifice and blood guilt terminology is a Jesus-authored anachronism, something that no longer makes sense 2,000 years later. Jesus has triumphed over sacrifice once and for all – and our worship should move on accordingly.
To explore more of the sacrifice metaphors of Scripture, I’d recommend Scot McKnight’s ‘A Community Called Atonement,’ as well as atonement links I’ve catologued on Delicious. Grace & peace to you!”

It wasn’t all controversy, though. In addition to great music, some good theologizing about music happened, including this snipped that Bob also blogs about:

At one point I quoted Harold Best: “All our musical offerings are at once humbled and exalted by the strong saving work of Christ.” We touched on how our singing is not something we originate, but flows from the relationships of the triune God who sings (Zeph. 3:17Heb. 2:12Eph. 5:18-19). We sing because God sings and we’ve been made in his image. I never got to mention it on the panel, but a very helpful book on the Trinity is The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders.

As someone who’s part of a new church plant in Raleigh called Trinity’s Place, that sounds good to me!

As part of my ongoing interest in the songs we sing and the God this reflects, I’ll hopefully be reviewing some contemporary worship offerings this Fall – ranging from the New Hymns movement to shoegazing emergence music and slam poetry. If you’re an independent worship artist or church who’d like their music to be considered for review, contact me via the comments section of this post.

Soli sapienti Deo!

A Perfect World? What If?

My friend Kevin Beck, co-creative at eschatological thinktank/activist cell Presence International, has written a thought-provoking piece for the new year. I encourage you to read it in its entirety and comment below. With any luck, Mr. Beck himself will join us.

Happy New Year, and welcome to a perfect 2008! Perfect? How can anything be perfect? There is disease, sadness, and poverty. Political upheaval in Pakistan and Kenya threaten what little global stability there is. Maybe only a fool would try to suggest things are perfect. Just look out the window. At best we can only hope things might become perfect sometime down the line – and only if God miraculously intervenes and destroys a lot of people and establishes a top-down enlightened dictatorship forcing everyone into compliance with his wishes.That’s the story seeping out of popular religious and political circles. Just this past week, one well-known televangelist released the contents of his annual “message from God.” According to him, God has several disasters in store for us. How shocking! Not all religious voices make such exact predictions, and certainly not all agree on the specific solutions. One anticipates all “true believers” to be levitated off the planet, leaving all others behind to suffer intolerable disasters due to their hardened unbelief. A more “scholarly” approach dismisses rapturism, opting instead for God remake the space-time universe, thereby undoing all manner of distress.While these schools of thought are separated in the way they see the “solution,” they understand the “problem” exactly the same. According to that version of the story, humanity is corrupt to the core. We supposedly fell from a state of perfection, and we now wander in the wasteland of flaws, defects, and deficiencies. As wretchedly sinful creatures filled with rebellion against God and disdain for all things holy, we can only hope to escape this miserable existence.In this way of thinking, we end up living on a treadmill of what we sadly call hope. We hope for the God to make renovations to or destruction of the planet – as if that will “fix all of our problems.” I’ve always wondered: if humanity could mess up an ideal world in the first place, what would keep us from doing the same after God remade things? Meanwhile as the song says, we keep on waitin’, waitin’ on the world to change. Paradoxically, our “theology of hope” leaves the majority of humanity desperate, left on the outside, without God, and without hope in the world.

Perhaps, we’ve misplaced our hope and abdicated our role as divine partners in creating our world. The wisdom writer noted that hope deferred makes the heart grow sick. After millennia of practicing deferred hope, religion has done a marvelous job of fostering sick hearts.

But what if there is a different way of telling the Biblical story? A fresh way of reading the Bible? A new way of understanding the work of God in the world? What if this way remained true to the scriptural witness? It didn’t gloss over, ignore, or dismiss the more disturbing sections, yet it didn’t descend into crass fundamentalism? What if this way accepted the integrity of Jesus and his initial followers who announced their expectation of the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God in their day? What if this way of reading the Biblical story casts out all fear – not just some fear, but all of it? What if this way allowed you to see the end as just the beginning?

This is what we at Presence International are dedicated to helping people see and experience in their own lives. We call this approach Transmillennial because it cuts across the millennia, reaching back from Jesus’ day to translate his first-century message of world-transformation into meaningful life practice for our twenty-first century world.

We explore these dynamics in the 6-week Transformations course. [Note from Mike: this is an excellent course! I encourage anyone to take it] In this online class, we discuss the four quadrants of transformation: Covenantal, Personal, Organizational, and Societal. Each week takes a particular aspect of these quadrants and offers real-life instruction on understanding the process of creative transformation. The way in which Jesus envisioned and enacted covenantal transformation can change the way you live. It can revolutionize the way your family, faith community, and workplace functions. It can transfigure our society and your world.

One of the fist steps is simply becoming aware of what exactly Jesus was working toward. Jesus rejected the mainstream conformist way of his day. At the same time, he refused to get caught up in the blame game of political revolution. He found a third way, a creative path that transformed everything once for all.

Of course, it’s easy to become enamored with studying the past. We can talk forever about what Jesus did without ever comprehending its value and meaning for our lives and world. This is why we at Presence International are actively engaging people from all walks of life with this transformative message. If God transformed all things from death into life through self-emptying love, then we can begin to see that God truly has reconciled the world to himself. We can do more than criticize popular theologies that predict a catastrophic end. We can go beyond seeking political solutions for the world’s issues. Instead, we can love our neighbors as ourselves. We can love our enemies and in so doing be perfect as God is perfect.

See, while awareness is a necessary first step in transformation, it is not the last one. Awareness is followed by acceptance. Acceptance of what is. Acceptance of ourselves. Acceptance of others. Acceptance of God. Acceptance of the forgiveness that you have already been granted. Acceptance of God’s acceptance of you.

For generations, humanity has told itself that we are nothing but filthy, rotten sinners. We’ve believed that we are full of failure, weakness, and fault. We’ve been telling ourselves that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, and that we are locked in spiritual battles with demonic forces, which – naturally – means that anyone who disagrees with “us” is in league with malevolent supernatural forces and must be dealt with decisively one way or another.

This takes us back to where we began. We’ve told ourselves that the only way out of this mess is for God to take all of the good people into heaven, destroy the earth, or magically start all over.

The Transmillennial approach offers an alternative to these doom and gloom outlooks. We at Presence believe that God has made all things new, and that we all have been given the divine gift of being able to shape our world. Again, the wisdom writer affirms that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Instead of speaking words of death as we have for so long, it is time to speak words of life. Words such as, “You are forgiven. You are loved. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. I and my Father are one. God’s mercies are new every morning. I am free. God is love. With God all things are possible.”

When we change our way of speaking and thinking, we will begin to see things anew. More than an optical illusion, all things will become new. We will forge new deep structures in our individual and collective psyches that will manifest themselves outwardly. At Presence, we call this Agapeology – loving God by loving others.

As you know, the Biblical story begins with two trees in a garden. One is the Tree of Life. The other is the Tree of the knowledge of God and Evil. As Doug King eloquently illustrates in his talks at Transmillennial 2007, the tree of the Knowledge of God and Evil is so deceptive because it promises what it can’t deliver. In the hope of knowing God by knowing what is good, that tree sows the seeds of judgment. In an amazing realization, Paul announces that he actually experienced “death through that which is good” (Romans 7:13). How astounding! Through the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Paul could not achieve what he sought.

However, Paul sees Christ delivering him and all humanity from the fruitless cycle of attempting to live according to the Knowledge of God and Evil. When we read John’s vision of the New Creation – the New Order – we find only one tree. There is simply the Tree of Life. It blossoms year round, providing healing fruit for all.

Today, we have the God-given gift of taking that fruit and eating it. But more than that, we have the blessing of planting the seeds of the fruit from the Tree of Life in our own gardens. We can tend and keep the garden that brings forth a harvest of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Kindness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance.

As you plant and cultivate the seeds of the Tree of Life, you will find the fruit to heal. The more of us that plant, the more healing we will experience in our shared experience. Of course, this is a lifelong process, a spiritual practice that comes not through engaging in some esoteric rituals. Instead, it happens in the everyday relationships with ourselves and one another. Conscious, intentional, and deliberate thinking and living will bring about vibrant results – individually, locally, and globally.

This is why 2008 is perfect. It is already saturated with God’s presence, in fulfillment of his promises to create humanity in the divine likeness. Jesus does not have to physically return to earth on a cloud of water vapor to achieve that. Instead, Jesus was convinced that in recognizing God’s fellowship with us we would share his joy completely, perfectly (John 17:13).
The point of perfection, then, is not the cessation of what we normally call disasters. Even Jesus experienced loneliness, misunderstanding, hunger, sorrow, and death. Yet, through it all he remained confident that “as the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father.” More than that, he believed that we “may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.” Today, we participate in the joy of his fulfilled confidence knowing that because he has appeared we are like him; for we see him as he is. Face to face. Right where you are, now and forever more.

Enjoy a perfect 2008!

And so…I might as well come out and say, kicking off this new year, that I’m with Presence, and other voices of change like Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell and Brian McLaren–there are different, more hope-filled, and just as ‘biblical’ ways of mixing and framing the Christian story–ways that empower rather than sour, that give credible spiritual energies rather than fatalistic schemes. I have questions about semantics and application, but I am excited that the Spirit seems to be speaking in our midst, and leading the way forward.

What thinkest thou?


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