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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” – Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass.

Many of the Arm-chair Discernment Ministries have expanded the words of Mr. Dumpty to: “When [insert name of some post-modern, pseudo-ancient, cult-of-the emerging-heretic, not-really-a-brother-in-Christ, leaven-spreading, Obama-voting, cult-of-the-liberal-evangelical, spiritual-mystic, Roman, bad guy preacher/author]… “when THEY use a word it means what WE choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

In other words, what the heretic of the day actual meant is irrelevant and to be ignored. Previous comments are to be ignored. Context is to be ignored. What THEY really meant is simply what the ADM’s say they meant – after all, is that not the goal of discernment… to take plain speak and decipher it?

Case in point: On a recent post at CR?N Ken Silva lifts a couple quotes from a Bell interview from one and one-half years ago. These quotes are supposed to show that Bell either believes in, or hopes there will be – Universal Reconciliation. Of course, to do so Silva must become Dumpty… as so much more.

Let’s take a look at that interview. Bell is responding to a question about the existence of a literal hell. The question was: “Let me ask you, do you believe in a literal hell that is defined simply as eternal separation from God?” Bell’s first response was: “Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say ‘no I don’t want any part of this.’” When asked if he believed people would be separated from God for eternity Bell’s response was to assume this to be true. Silva didn’t include this part of the answer.

Bell then continues his answer providing the first comment which Silva lifts and twists. Bell’s point: why focus so passionately on the existence of a literal hell? At this point Bell went beyond the question of hell’s existence to the question of why be so passionate about the literalness of people burning for eternity. This shift in subject Silva misses or ignores.

Responding to a follow-up, Bell then gives his hope that all would be reconciled to God. This will not happen, of course, Bell has already admitted that… but he asks, if we are serious about evangelism, if we want people to be saved from hell, should we not hope that everyone we share with will be reconciled to God?

Bell is not denying hell. Bell is not affirming universal salvation. Bell is questioning obsessions and hope as we tell others about Jesus.

Here in a nutshell is what you must do to “silvanize” these comments into an affirmation for Universal Reconciliation and/or a denial of hell:

1. You must ignore (or also silvanize) other clear statements wherein Bell has affirmed that reconciliation comes only through Jesus.
2. You must ignore (or also silvanize) other clear statements wherein Bell has affirmed that only those who trust Jesus will be reconciled to God.
3. You must omit the portion wherein Bell affirms that some are and some will reject the grace of God and be separated from him.
4. You must ignore (or just miss) the switch in subject from hell itself to an obsession with a particular kind of hell.
5. You must ignore (or forget) that Bell affirms that there will be some separated from God and take comments of hope for all as belief that it can or will happen.

Only if you engage in manipulation of meaning that would make an anthropomorphic egg blush can you come to the conclusion that Bell, in this interview, is advocating Universal Reconciliation, aka Christian Universalism.

[HT to Amy for pointing out these quotes]

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…smoke gets in your eyes” – so the song goes.  In a recent set of posts the editor of CRN? attacks a youth pastor for asking a tactical ministry question: “Have you ever taught a dedicated lesson to your whole group on stealing or have you limited it to when it comes up in other contexts” – [my paraphrase].

The point of the fire and smoke metaphor is emotion can cloud your judgment.  I hope this has happened to the Editor at CRN?, either that or this post is premeditated deception.  Those are the two options I came up with; either the editor is purposefully (pun intended) twisting and misrepresenting what was written in the pastor’s blog, or his/her disdain for anything Saddleback has so clouded the mind that clarity of thought and true discernment is no longer possible.  When your heat is on fire smoke gets in your eyes.

The title of the post shows the deception or confusion: Saddleback Youth Pastor Uncertain If He Should Teach Against Stealing.  A casual reading of the title might make you think that Joshua Griffin, youth pastor at Saddleback, is uncertain whether or not stealing is a sin, or if this sin should be taught against.  In the article itself the editor asks “Has Youth Pastor Josh ever heard of the Ten Commandments?!?”  And goes on to scold him since “Apparently the Biblical mandate against stealing was not enough to convince Youth Pastor Josh from Saddleback Church that stealing should be addressed to the whole ministry.”

Of course, a simple reading of the original blog, which is only one paragraph long immediattly dispels any issue.  It is simply a question of tactics in teaching… nothing more.

This is either a case of gross misunderstanding (smoke in eye) or a gross case of pure deception… for the sake of the editor and the cause of Christ, I hope it’s the former.

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OK, I have a confession to make.  This confession will probably make some of you question my judgement, or possibly even my salvation.  But here goes.  I absolutely love the NPR program This American Life.  I have over 80 episodes on my Ipod, and I’m addicted to it.  I know that the all of the producers, interviewers, and reporters are bleeding-hearts liberals, but I still find the show funny, witty, and overall well-produced.

One episode that keeps on popping into my head as of late is one entitled, A Little Bit of Knowledge.  In the beginning of that episode, the host, Ira Glass has a conversation with Nancy Updike, a producer, about a time when she was in Europe with some of her friends.  She explains it like this:

A couple of years ago some friends were travelling through Europe, walking through these old buildings. And these people do not know anything special about architecture, but, you know how it is when you’re a tourist. So they’re walking through these buildings and they’re looking at these doorways and pillars and they decide that this one building has a very Moorish influence. They’re pointing out details, saying ‘the Moors this’ and ‘the Moors that’. And finally one of them turns to the other and says, “You know, we sound like we’re in a magazine. A magazine called ‘Modern Jackass’.”

So the basic concept behind being a “Modern Jackass” is that you know enough about a subject to talk somewhat intelligently about it, but there are parts that are just beyond your grasp of understanding, so you kind of just make up the rest.  Thus entering “Modern Jackass” territory.

I’ve noticed this quite a bit this past political season.  I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent.  I think the fact that so much information is available at our fingertips through the wonder of Google and Wikipedia just makes it so very easy to make it look like you know more than you do.  So perhaps, we all need to take a step back now that election is over, take a deep breath, and start peeling away the layers of informational defenses we have put up.  In the end, no one really believes us most of time anyway.

I admit that I have done this.  I have been guilty of braying the loudest sometimes.  I have been guilty of caring more about being right than actually showing love to me ideological opponents.  I, sadly, have been a Modern Jackass.

So as we move forward, let’s remember that not everything on the internet is true, and that there’s nothing wrong with saying those three little words – “I don’t know”.

Grace and peace.

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Friends,

I feel like it has been forever since I had a meaningful post here. I need to write this morning, but in a non-connected sort of way. I have some rumblings I’d like to share with you from the past week or so.

First, I learned something interesting about ‘church’ this week. Tuesday night I went to visit a young couple who have been worshiping with our congregation. I was feeling rather pleased with myself when the husband said, “I really enjoy your preaching. It really gets deep and feeds me spiritually.” He’s a Catholic and he and his wife have been worshiping at what might be called a ‘PD’ Church and they are in their 20’s. Wow. Then Wednesday morning I went to FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) at the local Middle School where I work. We were doing sort of a survey of the kids and one of the questions was, “So when you think of church, what word comes to mind?” My 7th grade PK spoke up, “Boring.”

I guess that just goes to show that no matter what sort of congregation one has or worships with not everyone will be pleased.

Second, I watched the latest installment of Rambo this week, Rambo. It was an interesting movie. It featured some Christian missionaries who hearts were bigger than their brains and, of course, a lot–I mean a lot–of bullets. Stallone raised some important questions about war, violence, justice, peace, and, I think, Christianity. The film was unbelievably violent. I didn’t know that the human body could be shredded in so many ways (I thought once I had seen “Saw” I had seen it all.) Stallone took it to a ‘whole nover level.’ The film wasn’t the best Rambo I have ever seen: the dialogue was full of cliche, too fast, too predictable. Furthermore, I tend to disagree with the idea that nothing changes–even though I have argued otherwise here and elsewhere in the past. But the violence and horror and blood: Oh, it was glorious!

I guess it just goes to show that no matter what the plot or how bad the dialogue I will tune in to a film where the bad guys get eaten up by .50 caliber machine gun bullets, in a variety of ways, and the hero lives (Oh, and where a once pacifist Christian grows a set and bashes in the head of a child of Babylon).

Third, it has been a long week. Last night, I had a huge ‘family discussion’ with my youngest son, who is in 5th grade, because he just refuses to do his homework. Then his teacher, a 20 something just out of college who knows all about raising recalcitrant and stubborn children and what is the best way to educate them, sends me email informing me of how my son is ’still not turning in his homework’ as if to say, “You freaking moron, why won’t you make your son do his homework. I have been over this with you a hundred times now. Are you dense.” I want to respond to her e-mail, but I let my wife instead. My son simply does not see the point of doing ridiculous math problems where he has to, and I quote, ‘interpret the remainder.’ What does that mean? I can’t blame him; I hate math too. He says, in an all too eerie imitation of his father, “I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Why do I need to do story problems?” Oooooohhh. I get it. I really do.

I guess it just goes to show that no matter ‘important’ the work to be done, there will always be someone who refuses to see its value or significance.

Fourth, I can’t pray this week. I don’t know why. I have prayed a little. I have been reading my bible.  But I just cannot seem to find the energy to pray. My dad lost his job again. My brother had to be evacuated from his house in CA due to fires. My mother, I am convinced, hates me. I fought with my sons yesterday and hurt my oldest son’s feelings. I go to bed early and can’t get up. My wife and I were getting along and then I snapped at her again this morning. One of the ladies wants me to, get this, hang curtains at the church building this afternoon. What? Is that why I’m around here? Is that what my degree prepared me for? To hang curtains? You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t pray this week. I’m stuck in a funk. Plus, on top of that, I just finished reading Joshua. And for the first time in my life, the book of Joshua frightened and confused me.

I guess it just goes to show that no matter how much is going right in a person’s life there will always be enough wrong to sap the strength, the joy, and the communion. Rich Mullins said it best, “It’s hard, yes it’s hard. You know it’s hard to be like Jesus.”

Fifth, I’ve been lurking this week; reading; watching; listening. The world of the blog is a complex place. One day I think, “I’m done with blogging.” The next day, I get 200 hits on my blog and change my mind. What amazes me is the depths that people are willing to go to in order to be right. (It was my oldest son who confronted me with this hard truth last night. I won’t tell him, but he was right.) I have trouble living with myself just because I am, so I don’t know how some bloggers live with themselves when their sole purpose in life and writing is to destroy everything that is not of themselves. I have to admit that sometimes I wish I had never started blogging. It’s a terribly depressing place at times. I think I’ll start praying for a worldwide crash of the blogosphere. Nah. I’m too vain for that. Someone said to me the other day, “The problem is that some bloggers are more in love with theology than they are with Jesus.” Gawd, I hope that is never me. I love theology, but not at the expense of The person.

I guess it just goes to show that everything that is a blessing is also a curse. If we find some joy while we are here, perhaps there will be distress from some place else. Thankfully, Jesus can be found.

Sixth, and finally, the world is uh, messed up. I am frustrated because there is so much hate, so much greed, so much violence, so much fear, so much disaster, so much death. Really, this place is too much. I hate it here most of the time and yet I lack the necessary courage to constantly pray ‘maranatha!’ Really, this place needs some serious help because I’m just pessimistic enough to believe that it is not going to get better before it gets worse and with presidential elections looming, taxes likely to go up, the ever-present concern of when the next terrorist strike will come, the growing concern about how all the financial stuff will affect my salary (since it depends upon donations to the church)–well, that and more, my concern about the Steelers winning every Sunday and my disappointment with Jeff Gordon’s terrible, terrible year in NASCAR. Well, the world is messed up and I have just been thinking about whether or not I am doing enough one one hand, and on the other lamenting that I can only do so much, that I feel so helpless.

I guess it just goes to show that the world is in much bigger need of someone much bigger than I to solve the problems that this world is faced with just now. (I also seriously doubt that either presidential candidate is going lessen my anxiety.)

It’s only Thursday. I have band practice and a board meeting tonight. I have a wedding rehearsal tomorrow. I have prayer meeting and a wedding on Saturday. Somewhere in the midst of all this I have to write two sermons. I don’t know if I can write sermons this week. Maybe I’ll just watch some more baseball and hope that the Red Sox get clobbered again. One can dream, can’t he? Happily, on Sunday, I can worship with my friends. In the meantime, I’m glad to know you and happy you stopped by for a visit today. Perhaps some of my angst can touch you and point you to Jesus. I’m sticking with Jesus today. I hope you are too.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

I think I’m getting back into prayer shape. I hope you will join with me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Chris Rosebrough agrees that the best defense is a good offense.

Well, it does not get much more offensive than THIS.

HERE is the original.

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First Off, An Apology from the Blog Manager:

Last night, I was a bit grumpy, and wrote an article for my personal blog, accidentally posting it to .Info. In the course of messing around with it, I accidentally deleted Jerry’s post just before it. I’ve recovered this particular post (”Yes, yes, yes…Oh, no”), but not the comments attached to it.

Below is Jerry’s original post, along with an update from Jerry (to save having to recreate where he and a few commenters had arrived).

Again, my apologies for the error…

The Original Post:

Friends,

I haven’t posted on anything from SOL for a while–fact is, I haven’t even visited it SOL much recently. I stopped in for a moment this evening to see what was happening and I was thrilled to see this post: The Centrality of the Cross.

My goodness, the author of Slice was rolling along beautifully. I mean it. It was a wonderful post with wonderful words and a wonderful reminder of the atoning work of Christ. Then, in the midst of the great piece about the Cross, and while I was reflecting on the work of Christ, I came across this:

At a time when emerging authors and leaders like Brian McLaren attack the all atoning work of Jesus Christ on that cross, how important that we remember that without it, we could not be saved.

I found myself saying: Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh…no! Ruined. Ruined because she just could not stop herself from from sneaking in an attack. I just wanted to say that I appreciated the post, the hymn, the brief history lesson, and the author’s reflections on her worship experience today. But in my opinion, the entire post was ruined because she just had to throw someone else’s name into the post.

If only she had left well enough alone. Yes, the cross is a beautiful thing. Yes, the cross should be preached. Yes, we should sing hymns, and Psalms and spiritual songs to our God. Yes, (sometimes) we should observe the so-called church calendar. But if that cross was for the author of Slice, it was also for others–even, and perhaps especially, those with whom she disagrees.

I’m sorry and sad that the post ended the way it did. I’m sad that an otherwise wonder word of encouragement ended so abysmally because she just couldn’t resist playing the role of the accuser. Sad. Really. Really. Sad.

jerry

Jerry’s Update:

Friends,

How shall i say this? Well, one of the difficult lessons one must learn in life is that it is unwise to become too comfortable in any environment. i learned that lesson again last night after i made this post and was called out by Joe Martino and a commenter named Nick. After several back and forths between the three of us, i updated this post and asked for the forgiveness of those with whom i had sparred (Joe & Nick), the other writers of CRN.info, and Mrs Schlueter.

Somehow, purely by accident (as Chris L will explain), the post was deleted from CRN.info. It was, to be sure, a pure accident and i assure you that it was not i who deleted it, that there was no subterfuge involved; i regret that it was lost. i’m just arrogant enough that i wanted people to read my update and apologies. All of those have been lost, but we have managed to recover the original post and it is reposted here with this update.

The point of contention is that i gave the appearance of being contradictory and inconsistent due to my posts and comments concerning Julie N’s posts at Loneprairie. i was judged as being unfairly critical of the author of Slice while being overly warm towards Julie’s posts without the same critical eye. In short, i was judged as hypocritical. i don’t deny that judgment and i apologize again to the readers and writers of CRN.info for that serious error and lack of judgment on my part. i offer no excuses. it was plainly and simply a poor choice on my part–especially after so much contention on other threads here last week.

i would be happy if you would disregard this post entirely (except for this update) and not even bother to read or comment (even if i know that is not going to happen). i retract my judgment of SOL’s post and the author’s intentions and stand humbly corrected by my peers. i ask for forgiveness of anyone that i have offended. i am thankful for the encouragement of the other writers here, but i have also decided to take a little time off from CRN.info to re-evaluate my reason for writing here and to think and pray about what the Lord wishes me to do with my time. i love writing and blogging has proved a helpful medium to that end, but i need to be certain that i am in the Lord’s will too.

thank You for your time and patience. i am still learning and growing and seeking. i offer again my apologies to the editors of CRN.info and the readers for my poor behavior in the thread of the OP (before it was deleted). i apologize to Joe M for accusing him of ‘bashing’ me. i apologize to Chris L for creating so much work for him. i apologize to Ingrid Schueter for my unfair reading and commenting on her post. i apologize to you, the readers, for letting you down and if i come back and write again, i promise i’ll do better.

may all of you be blessed in the Lord.

jerry

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I cannot tell you how grumpy I am right now, other than to point out that it’s after 2 a.m. and I’m not in bed asleep.

I’m grumpy because I have allergies which show up every year at this time, stuffing up my head like a wet rag in a blender.

I’m grumpy because it’s been a rainy, icky day.

I’m grumpy because I spent 4 hours at a double-overtime game blown by my team yesterday.

I’m grumpy because I can never keep up with email.

I’m rather grumpy because apparently it’s not OK to be grumpy when you write and to express raw human emotion, otherwise you will offend someone else’s sensibilities.

I’m grumpy because I see family members struggling with studies of one type or another and I can’t just jump in and fix it for them. In fact, it would only screw things up if I tried.

I’m grumpy because it’s an election year and trying to not write about politics is a royal pain, and the thought of an idiot like Obambi screwing up the judiciary and putting his blame-America-first policies into place is depressing.

I’m grumpy that because I mentioned something political, Evan will now monopolize the comment thread with DailyKos moonbat gasbaggery, Rick will re-declare political agnosticism, and PB will come give all of the wrong reasons (or the wrong arguments about the right reasons) in agreement with my position.

I’m grumpy because some folks I know (including myself) just can’t seem to get along, instead baiting and acting like defensive, childish brats out of some warped sense of ‘honor’…

And I’m grumpy because It’s impossible for me to just pour out feelings on a page without feeling the gnawing need to bring it around to something positive or good, when that is not how I’m feeling.

Like this.

After all, I should really be thankful.

If the only health I’m struggling with is my weight and a yearly allergy, I should be thankful I can walk around and enjoy most things in life and that my health is much better than what a lot of people are experiencing.

Why should I complain about the rain when so many people had their homes washed away yesterday in Texas and Louisinana?

Instead of complaining about the game yesterday, I should be thankful I have been blessed with the income to allow me to purchase season tickets in the first place, and that I got to spend the day explaining the rules of football to my girls (who may not have cared all that much, except that they were with their dad having fun.)

I should be thankful I have email, though I should learn to pick up the phone or be physically present even if an email would be easier.

I should just be encouraging and supportive of people with burdens, walking alongside them – even if I cannot ease the burdens myself.

I should be thankful to live in a country which peacefully turns over its leadership every 4-8 years, and guarantees my right to religious freedom, and the other freedoms I have been blessed with.

I should be thankful for people who disagree with me on political issues, because they were made in God’s image just as much as I have been.

I should be thankful for people who agree with me, even if they do so in embarrassing ways, because they, too, are in God’s image.

I should be thankful for being able to converse with friends and acquaintances about matters of much (and little) import.

I should desire a role of peacekeeper then there is disagreement, rather than just wishing the disagreement would go away.

I should always desire to do good and to teach well in any situation.

But I don’t.

I’m pretty sure I’m whining right now, but for the life of me I don’t know how to stop. I seriously wonder if I should just delete this and let the facade of perfection slip – the same facade that probably fools nobody but myself.

But I won’t.

Why?

Because the most frustrating thing about this particular medium is that it is so sterile, and it allows us to put forth only the better parts of ourselves, if we so choose, making us appear either self-righteous or utterly boorish or so much more than what we are really like inside. Instead, it is probably better that we are able to see each other more authentically, for how else can we love, care about and life up each other if we never know what we struggle with?

Not only do I suffer from seasonal allergies, but I also deal with seasonal depression, as well. I suspect I’ve built up a pretty good front for folks that know me in real life, because I frequently hear comments about how positive and upbeat I am, and how I am an encouraging person – and that’s not what I feel I am like, even though I wish it was true.

You have my apologies for dragging you, my friends, with me through this mental muck.

I really have no defense other than to say that it’s 2:30 a.m., I’m unable to get to sleep, and…

I’m really grumpy right now…

UPDATE: And I’m a little more grumpy now that I realize I published this in the wrong blog…

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There are a great number of blog posts on the internet that have caused problems. Many writers for blogs, including us, have times where we don’t proofread, revise, or mull over what we have written. This is akin to (and some of it may actually be) stream of consciousness writing, where everything we think is written down. This is fine as a literary device for fictional and artistic work, but it can be a detriment to non-fiction writing that seeks to inform, encourage, reprove, challenge, and/or bring about change in others (among other things).

Because this blog and many of the ones we interact with have a purpose and because the posts contained therein often have an even more specific or refined goal, it is good for all of us who write to consider these questions (not original to me) before you hit the post/publish/submit button:

  1. Is what I wrote clear?
  2. Is it concise?
  3. Is it coherent?
  4. Is it considerate?
  5. Is it correct?

May God bless your writing as you seek to communicate well.

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