Love Wins

Northern Ireland

The son of a prominent American judge, Rob Bell is a young (born in 1970, now 40 years old), media-savvy and very “cool” dressing graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary. He is a rock musician, and now an evangelical pastor who founded and leads a large, new church (Mars Hill Bible Church) in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan—the American Midwest home of numerous evangelical publishing houses.

 

Rob Bell is a captivating speaker who has attracted consistently large crowds to a number of well-organized national and international speaking tours. His innovative short video clips on spiritual themes circulate widely, and since 2005 he has written an impressive list of books that until just recently were almost all published by Zondervan, one of the larger evangelical presses right in Grand Rapids. He has a gift for arresting titles, which include Velvet Elvis and Sex God. But his most recent book, Love Wins (2011), published for a more mainstream market by HarperCollins, Zondervan’s big market parent company, is by far his most important and already his most controversial.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Judgment Day May 21?

Judgment

I was down at San Diego’s Earth Day a few weeks ago, helping to staff a booth run by Christians for Earth Care, and took a break to browse the area. The atheists were there in full force, exposing what they believe to be the idiocy of religion and people of faith. I stopped to chat with them for a bit; it became immediately apparent that they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but on some points they were relatively coherent . . . and they were enjoying lots of traffic.Then I spied the Day of Judgment guy.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Financial Debt and Religious Freedom

mao-money.jpg

A profound social transformation has been taking place right in front of us, and we have barely noticed. Very quietly a revolution in attitude has occurred. It is simply this: debt has been normalized. As a professor I see it every day where students preparing for the (generally underpaid) Christian ministry blithely assume enormous debt to finance their seminary education. They are in effect committing themselves to long-term financial hardship. In some cases their only hope will be to declare chapter 7 bankruptcies. But this is simply a reflection at the personal level of a much larger national disposition. America is staggering toward its own bankruptcy, and we cannot seem to get a handle on the problem. This week I discovered another reasons why our growing debt should be a particular concern for Christians. It came out of a news report from China.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Resisting the Poison Green Dragon?

 dragon.jpg

Some Christians in San Diego recently hosted a conference to protest what they see as pernicious environmentalist trends (conspiracies, even) to undermine the Christian faith and the general welfare of American society. The language and images employed throughout were strident, confrontational, and designed to alarm. The conference featured a keynote public lecture entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon: One-ist Environmentalism and its Noxious Influence on the Church.” We are dismayed that any Christians would take such a message seriously, and we’ll tell you why.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Walking Away from Church

church-pews-001.jpg

 

Americans don’t attend church like they used to. But that doesn’t exactly make the United States another mission field of unreached people. A striking recent discovery is that most unbelieving outsiders are actually old friends, yesterday’s worshipers, children who once prayed to Jesus. They walked away for a number of reasons, including this: the church from which they have walked away appears to be broken.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Pipe Bombs and Confessionals

San Diegans have become callous to the daily reports of crimes in “America’s finest city.” Nevertheless some stories stand out because of their particularly disturbing or shocking nature. The story this past week of a middle-aged man suspected of planting a pipe bomb underneath his wife’s vehicle fits this category. His homemade bomb exploded as he planned when she started for home after a day’s work at a daycare. Though the bomb did not kill her, it destroyed her car and left her in critical condition. The 52-year old wife, by all accounts, is a lovely and gracious woman. The husband is being held without bail on suspicion of attempted murder. It turns out he is an evangelical Christian. Ouch.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

As Theology Totters in the West

Renmin Business Faculty


The People’s Republic of China has enthusiastically embraced Western science and technology, and modernity’s materialistic worldview. Pictured above is the imposing business faculty of China’s Renmin (the People’s) University. Here this leading Communist university trains a new generation of Chinese business leaders, offering MBA degrees in global economics along capitalist lines. What you won’t find at the university, however, is a faculty of Christian theology. China is still disdainful of religion, and a robust program in theology would only encourage it. But how different it is in the West, right? Well actually, not so much. Christian theology is in serious decline in the West, even in evangelical seminaries and other institutions of higher learning. Pretty soon it may be on life support here as well.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

The Future of Smoke Stacks

 

Beijing Smoke Stack

 

Beijing is a polluted city. Not even the spin-doctors deny that the air here is bad. On a windy day you can taste it. But upon my arrival it still came as a surprise to see a huge ten-storey industrial smoke stack right across the street from my apartment on the campus of Renmin (the People’s) University. Encased in scaffolding, workers have been banging and jack hammering on it every day. The project’s location struck me as particularly offensive—way too close to this residential university, an inappropriate site in an already-dense urban environment. And then eight weeks on I made a surprising discovery. The smoke stack is not going up; it’s actually coming down! It’s another sign that China is making a serious effort to go “green.”

Continue Reading →

Comments { 2 }

Quanxi and the Image of God

China

 

Yesterday I had the unusual privilege of attending a business management conference in Shanghai. It was sponsored by the Euro-China Centre for Leadership and Responsibility (ECCLAR), and its purpose was to explore the “Practical Wisdom for Management” present in the Chinese classical traditions—especially Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. A speaker said something that got me thinking about a conversation I had years ago with one of my young (at the time) daughters about the pros and cons of killing a dog. I should probably explain.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

The Canary in the Gulf of Mexico

China Recycling

 

At the moment the world is fixated on the video-cam of oil spewing up out of the earth to defile the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone is hoping and praying that a technical solution will be found to stabilize this environmental holocaust. Should this occur in the near future, we will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Inevitably there will be resolutions to tighten up oil drilling safety standards and improve emergency response strategies, but perhaps the greater tragedy will be if in a few weeks or months we resume our same dangerous and unsustainable way of life. If this disaster proves to be of sufficient magnitude that it will not be possible thereafter to revert to business as usual, the tragedy itself may end up a “severe mercy.” We may look back on it as the moment when “the canary died in the coal mine.” It may be our chance to break out of something that is otherwise going to kill us all.

Continue Reading →

Comments are closed