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May 13, 2014

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Sounds like the author has rediscovered 40 year old Neil Postman essays. Yes, we Americans are Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Very reminiscient of Postman, but the way he relates it to modern Christianity is excellent. Wonderful article. The Mad Men clips illustrate the point perfectly.

I am reading Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian and I am way ahead of him. I believe modern American Evangelical Protestant Fundamentalists would do well to re-examine their traditionally-held views, if they dare. There is no need to fear, or be defensive of, new thoughts.

Perry, your comment is a great illustration of my post. People disagree with McLaren's conclusions because they "fear"; disagreement is "defensiveness"; they walk away because they're not "daring" enough. It neatly takes the question of which is the true position off the table by labeling the two sides in ways that make McLaren's people cool and everybody else really not cool. It frames the decision in terms of emotions in an attempt to win people over to the side with the cool emotions. In other words, it's advertising.

There's no reason to avoid new thoughts, but there are many reasons to reject false ones.

I would say that putting the rejection of McLaren's views in terms of fear and defensiveness is just silly, but as it's manipulative without actually making any argument, I hate the use of it. McLaren uses that tactic a lot; I hope that's one idea of his that you'll reject. If you dare.

I haven't found anything objectionable in his book, in terms of theology. What resonates with me is the call to re-look at the way Christ is marketed in this culture, and the Amway-style model that is often used. He makes a good point about the Gospel being reduced to a product; viz-a-viz, do this, then this will happen, and you're saved. His call is to look at the bigger picture, and to be comfortable with "I don't know" as a final answer.

Greg challenged me years ago to rethink the Rapture. I did, though I was fearful at first that I was somehow being blasphemous in even considering that the Rapture might not be true. I have since become a preterist, and you don't have to be told that that view is not one that is welcomed in modern American Evangelical churches. I believe the whole modern American Evangelical Protestant eschatological model is a false one, and most Christians I know cannot even consider another model. Such are many of our traditions; when not re-examined, we tend to fear a new look at them. We should not.

Perry,

His call is to look at the bigger picture, and to be comfortable with "I don't know" as a final answer.

But of course, “I don’t know” can be a wrong answer. I’ve heard the “I don’t know” answer from Christians on issues that the Bible is absolutely 100% crystal clear about.

In other words:

I don’t know = I don’t like the answer as drafted
I don’t know = rejection

"I don’t know" gains momentum and turns into a way to present open-mindedness about Biblical truths that are absolute.

The Bible starts to read like we want it to read.

And that’s a great advertisement

I will borrow from Curt Siodmak's gypsy poem in THE WOLF MAN (1941):

"Even a man who's pure in heart,
And studies his Scriptures by night,
May disagree with his fellows' conclusions,
Yet they all with think they're right.
"

The fact that there are many schools within Christianity that hold different views on a myriad of subjects is evidence that the Bible is not crystal-clear on everything.

"Ahhh," some will say, "they are reading what they want to read. They don't believe the truth like I do." Every single sincere Christian who reads the Bible can say the same thing, regardless of which view they hold.

Some say the Bible is crystal-clear about a literal, six-day creation. Science and evidence say otherwise. Is it still crystal-clear?

Some say the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah, and others, are literally true and thus crystal-clear. Others find that the stories can function as myth and not lose any value.

Some say we are "clearly" in the Last Days. Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Jack Van Impe and others made a lot of money on Last Days predictions that went nowhere, because they thought the Bible was "clear" on the subject. I want to see Lindsey's next book, which should be entitled, "Well, I THOUGHT it was God."

Some purport to have what happens to us when we die all road-mapped. The Bible actually gives us very little to go on. Most of what we think about heaven and hell comes from philosophy and poets. It is all quite ambiguous.

And on and on.

I believe the biggest mistake made by modern Bible readers is the removal of the original audience. When that happens, chaos follows because we truly can make the Bible say whatever we fancy. The more slavish we are to original context, the better our understanding is, yet "100% crystal-clear" is likely not possible.

THAT'S where "I don't know" comes in.

We moderns are too concerned with literal truth when it concerns the Bible, and bypass allegorical or mythical truth when the text can function just as well on that level.

Sorry, typo:

"Even a man who's pure in heart
And studies his Scriptures by night
May disagree with his fellows' conclusions
Yet they all will think they're right."

Perry,

You know I didn’t say everything is crystal clear to us. In fact, If I do a little research, I see I said, “on some issues”. Some pretty big ones too.

I’ve heard from Christians that they don’t know if there is a Hell or not.

Does that count?

By the way, the Bible is crystal-clear on everything. It’s us that have the problem. We all have some mud in our eyes.

Yes, I assumed you didn't mean everything.

I am sure, in the Biblical writers' minds, they were being crystal-clear on everything, yes. In their original language, even more so. In translations to other languages, not so much, sometimes.

As to whether or not there is a Hell? Well, if it exists, it is likely far from what our cultural images say it is. Putting flesh-and-blood on spiritual imagery is problematic at best, and no text can sufficiently describe it.

So...I don't know.

Well, if it exists, it is likely far from what our cultural images say it is.

You see why I wrote what I wrote?

The Bible says Hell exists.

You say if it exists.

But you further say, you know what Hell is not like if it does in fact, exist.(On a scale of likeliness)

Again, we all have mud in our eyes.

Again, to put this into context...

Even in Jesus' day, the Sadducees did not believe in Hell, yet they would acknowledge the Old Testament scriptures as God's Word. When the New Testament books speak of Gehenna (or when you say "The Bible says Hell exists"), "Hell" or "Gehenna" is not particularly defined. So, if it is possible to offload the cultural signifiers of Hell, we would have to understand what the writers were thinking when they wrote about it. That, I do not know, since there was obviously disagreement even in that day as to Hell's existence.

So, my "if" is really more directed to the common, popular images of a burning lake of fire (and I am not a Bible literalist, so I do not believe that to be a literal image). I doubt it is what we imagine, just like I doubt (I hope correctly) that Heaven is what we imagine, lest it is just a Jehovah's Witness glorified Earth, which is not particularly exciting.

Streets of gold connote the need for physical travel. All that imagery is great as imagery, but fails literally.

And I agree 100% that we all have mud in our eyes.

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