…For Whom The Bell Tolls? (a retraction of sorts)

Last Friday i threw my proverbial pennies out there on the whole Harold Camping “End of the World: don’t bother packing ‘cuz Jesus is coming” parade. In so doing i took a not-so-subtle parenthetical jab at Rob Bell (at the end of the second paragraph, if you really must know). It’s typically not like me to stomp on someone who’s already had enough gut kicking. Especially an issue that’s had more than its fair share of media attention and has put Christians in flood light of irrational thinking.

Rob Bell has done a great deal of good for many years. He has tens of thousands of people who attend his church and follow him online, and hundreds of thousands that read his books and use his video material. i’ve been aware of Bell for many years. Enjoyed his book “Velvet Elvis” (i much preferred Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” which came out years earlier and made the same general point). Nothing revelatory between its covers, yet Bell has a great way of communicating to people. His unique Nooma video study series is very good at opening up discussion about faith and spirituality as it relates to our daily struggle.

Several weeks before his newest book, Love Wins, was released, many Christian leaders made flippant derogatory remarks toward Bell. i actually became angry at many of these responses, because of arrogant remarks from men whom i respected. Especially in light that the book had not yet been released and i was sure that most of these commentaries were done without examining the evidence. i tend to take a “wait and see” approach. Yet such a stir was occurring that the book’s release date was pushed up several weeks. Then a web-streamed live forum with R.B. in New York City was scheduled the night before the release, potentially to quell the onslaught of criticism.

Wanting to give the man the benefit of the doubt, i tuned in to the live stream seeking resolution to the controversy. Nothing of such occurred. Mr. Bell actually side-stepped questions in which he could have directly given an answer to. Was he apprehensive to reveal his real and controversial thoughts or a marketing genius intriguing viewers to snatch up the first copies of Love Wins? As the book released it was evident that his thoughts on H-E-double-hockey-sticks and afterlife were indeed contrary to orthodox Christian teaching and Theology, with a pluralistic universal approach.

In the ensuing flurry of talk show appearances Bell typically skirted answering questions directly. In so doing, on more than one occurrence, i witnessed Bell respond that he was a Pastor not a Theologian. More than his vague stand on Hell and the afterlife, it was these comments of Bell’s that made my brow furrow and my fists clench. It is this type of defensive justification which is deplorable and inexcusable.

A Theologian may not be a Pastor, however, it is imperative that every Pastor is a Theologian. By a definition a Pastor is a Shepherd: to guide, lead, protect, nurture, feed, and instruct his flock. To fulfill each aspect of shepherding people a pastor must have an understanding of Theology and what he or she believes. How else can one be fed correct information, guided to understanding, instructed in correct Doctrine, protected from deceptive aberrance and heresy, and nurtured to spiritual maturity if not for the theologically minded Pastor? Each person who calls themselves Christian should likewise be a student of Theology.

It’s a great tragedy that many pastors do not heed the great responsibility they have. i know i’ve made my share of dumb remarks as a pastor (therefore, the bell does indeed toll for me). i’m not one to throw the baby out with the bath, however Mr. Bell’s slip in the tub may have kicked the infant out the window altogether as far as his potential influence to continue to serve a generation. No matter. i know God has been dealing with these things for millenniums… and He’s not done yet. Redemption is around the corner. i know He’s covered my faulty backside more than once. i am such a fan of grace.

~End clanging ~

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Higher Math… sometimes things just don’t add up.

i’m actually pretty good at math, working out percentages and factors in my head. However, i never really had a mind for higher math: Geometry, Trigonometry and the like. You’d think i’d be great at Algebra, considering i took it four times. But, no. However, when it comes to true “Higher” math Harold Camping seriously needs to get schooled.

Twice now Camping has gotten the equation wrong. If Mr. Camping espoused his false predictions a few millennium back we would each be slinging rocks his way. Instead, Camping and his followers become media pariahs and laughing stock of Christianity.

Time for a new abacus, protractor or whatever it is Camping is using. Pythagoreans aside, let it suffice that any Bible reading and studying person would know that such predication is always counterfeit. No breathe holding here, until October 21. At this point the issue is not worth wasting anymore cyber ink. Maybe Jesus really does need new PR.

You’re welcome to “add” your thoughts.

~End calculation~

Fly Away… just another bad hair day.

According to 89 year old retired engineer, self proclaimed evangelist and Family Radio Worldwide host, Harold Camping, tomorrow, Saturday, May 21, 2011 an earth-wide earthquake will signal the end of the world and all those who call Jesus “Savior” will be snatched up into heaven.

As i write this, i’ve just been in communication with a friend living in Japan. It’s already May 21st there and he’s a bit bewildered why, as a committed Christian, he’s not currently hangin’ in heaven. Another friend is sarcastically working through a 24 Hour Bucket List.

Camping’s so called “Judgment Day” is his second attempt at picking the plucking date. Back in the early 1990’s Camping calculated the date of the Rapture as September 6, 1994. i’m not sure what happened there. However, the spiritual leader is sure he’s got the date right “this time,” having worked out the calculations.

If you are a Bible believing Christian, this should bother you on several levels. Let’s look at a couple. First, Jesus was clear that though there would be signs of this taking away and the Parousia (Jesus’ Second Coming), “no one would know the time or day.” (Mt 24.36; Mk 13.33) No need to elaborate. Read the New Testament Scriptures again Mr. Camping. Another bothersome issue is the media in general taking this and parading extremist Christian leaders as though all Christians hold this dogmatic position and are not critical Biblical thinkers.

The issue that stands out the most is that Harold Camping has quite a large number of followers. And in that, many have dedicated “the rest of their earthly lives” (assuming that’s until tomorrow) to spreading the word about Judgment Day. On a base level, this is highly admirable that these people would literally spend their own time and money to spread the news that “The End” is nigh.

What if they’re right? I’m not indicating that Camping is correct. However, what if you had some kind of inside track that the world as we know it was going to end on a certain day? What would you do? If it were really true that God was going to remove Christians from their earthly existence into His eternal presence, wouldn’t you tell everyone you knew about it. i suspect a few of us would selfishly guard this information. i would definitely be telling anyone I came across about this, and about God’s abundant love and desire to spend eternity with Him.

This is a point that Jesus made: Christians are to be salt and light to the world (Mt 5.12-14), continuously sharing God’s love and purposeful desire to everyone. Christians should always be in “rapture mode.” However, the vast majority of those who call themselves “Christian” (self included) fail miserably at this. Typically we’re more consumed by doing our hair and makeup than we are that people we know and love, more importantly, people God knows and loves are going to inverse heaven (insert Rob Bell joke here).

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, if we hail Camping as a prophet or hurl stones at him, or wait to see how the Mayan’s take pans out next year. Meanwhile, take May 21st as it comes: Rain or shine; earth shake or tremor free; departed or present. Go forth and live with purpose each day what you believe. One thing for sure, it will be a good hair day for me (Every day’s a good hair day when you’re bald).

~End flight~