Does God Love Satan?

My buddy Tom Belt has brought up this question once again that we discussed on the old Open Theism Discussion Boards. Really, I wince every time I see pictures or quotes or hear songs of this dual between Lucifer and Jesus where Lucifer is depicted as being “defeated” in some sense that leaves us saying, “Yeah! Go Jesus! Screw you Satan!” (remember Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil?” Or Carmen’s “The Champion?”). Well, these are the sorts of questions that my Bible school did not ask nor equip me to answer. I am so thankful for guys like Tom Belt and my friend Dwayne Polk and my acquaintance Greg Boyd. They’ve asked these questions taking us to the logical end of such questions I think. And of course, that is what good theology does. There is certainly nothing wrong with coming up with different models and “concluding” which one you think fits the criteria better and makes the most “sense” (of course there are different ways to understand this ie., something may make logical sense but may be morally askew.

So does God love Satan? Well, yes, I believe God does love Satan and the reasons why, as we discussed are:

A. The theological injunction to love our enemies.
B. God is still sustaining Satan and God loves what he/she sustains. Which is also to say that there is something left TO love. It isn’t as if Satan is totally hopeless in an ontological sense where there is not a shed of anything good in him ie., not pure evil through and through.
C. Satan, as a creature of God, comes from God in a metaphysical sense, thus, as with all creation, will return back to God and that metaphysical aspect, I think, in large part, is what is meant by there being good in Satan.


Popular Religion, Victoria Osteen And Why It’s Not All That Bad

There has been a video of Victoria Osteen floating around on the internet this past week or so which has received quite a bit of flack from many evangelical Christians for it’s shoddy theology. You can see that video and a more favorable response here .

Years ago, I read Richard Mouw’s book, Consulting the Faithful: What Intellectuals Can Learn From Popular Religion .

It had a great impact on me, challenging me to be more charitable and less suspicious of popular religion by trying to see below the surface to understand “the hopes and fears” of the average lay person. I’ve been surprised via searching out and reading alternative views such as Brent White’s above at how much I/we as a community of Christians don’t see or deliberately ignore opposing views just so we can sulk and criticize and be bitter about the “state of the Church” in general.

But let’s face it folks. Folk religion, popular religion or whatever you want to call it is here to stay. Let’s face the fact this thing called “popular religion” could possibly be one way that God is using to bring folks into a deeper relationship with himself. Let’s face the fact that popular religion, because not everyone is an intellectual, is the way many folk relate to God (thinking of the mentality challenged here). Let’s face the fact that there may be some GOLD nugget(s) that we can glean from. It could be said that when Franky Schaeffer wrote, “Addicted to Mediocrity,” though this brought to the fore the critical “state of evangelicalism,” it did not help in terms of understanding the laity and many of the sentiments which drive their form of worship and by which they “live and move and have their being.”

Mind you, while I will probably not attend an Osteen service myself, as I’m past much of that sort of theology, (though I would never count out attending for other purposes ie., praise and worship where that, it seems, is most untouched by popular theology, at least one can praise God where the praise, though probably simple, can still be heart felt and not wrapped up in struggles of Billy Cosby sentiments), I really don’t blame others for doing so as this is where they meet God at. I’ll say it like this. Mouw uses the analogy of “puppy love.” That’s a good place to start for relationships but it can’t carry those relationships through the long haul and the topsy-turvy storms that relationships eventually bring. Our relationship with God begins some where on some level.

Now one might say, “Ahh…but those people have been going to that church for years and they are none the farther theologically.” The problem with such criticism is the way one is viewing personal piety and church attendance. How do you KNOW many of these folks are not theological giants? How do you know WHY they are attending such services? As I said, I could attend because I like the music aspect of the service though I’m barely able to sit through the preaching. I may attend because I have good friends whom I’ve developed deep relationships with. I may attend because I am accepted and that is all I needed at the time.

At the end of the day:

A. I don’t think any of us has “correct” theology (though this is not to say that we should neglect studying theology, after all, professors and teachers, are gifts to the body as well).
B. There are many different reasons for why people attend church and God meets us where we’re at. My church attendance isn’t all about having correct theology but an encounter with the Divine.

So. While **I** probably wouldn’t attend certain churches for shallow theology, (I definitely see that not all is negative–there is SOMETHING that can be redeemed), people attend for various reasons and I trust God, through the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth.


All Fall Short

So. Then there’s this: WATCH: Family Has Horrifying, Violent Reaction To Son’s Coming Out As Gay (GRAPHIC CONTENT)

My buddy went so far as to say the parents were not Christian in large part because they were violent and verbally abusive to the young man. Now, there ARE these folks on the Right who declare the spiritual status of people over others when it comes to their hot button issues ie., that doctor performing abortions CERTAINLY CAN’T be a Christian. But Christians on the Left do the same ie., Fred Phelps CERTAINLY CAN’T be a Christian. Pick ANY left/right issue. One side will declare that the other side is on the outs. And really, it looks like some family feud. The stinging vitriolic towards each other at times makes you feel as if you are standing in the middle of a battle field sometimes.

Now here’s the thing. Both sides have a hold on the truth on their respective issues while the other side may not be in complete error on the issue itself. Let me give an example of what I mean. Using one of the examples above, lets look at the gay debate to see more clearly what I’m saying.

As it stands, there are a WHOLE swath of Christians whom feel/think that:

A. Homosexuality is not God’s ideal for human sexuality. That THAT along with other inclinations are not ideal for human sexuality ie., premarital inclinations and behavior, lustful obsessions, etc. They may fall more along the lines of what Stanley Grenz pointed out some years ago in which they are “welcoming but not affirming” (to speak in rather general terms). They believe there should be some things that are inappropriate in terms of our sexuality and so they don’t affirm those particular thoughts and behaviors. Though they may not except those whom do them.

B. On the other side is the more welcoming AND affirming crowd. As a matter of fact some would in all probability say that the other side is not welcoming if they are not affirming. Thus, they see gay orientation as immutable as the skin pigmentation or the shape of an say an Asian person for an example. For them, the gay person, in this sense, is the “Samaritan” or the “marginalized.”

For myself, I don’t think those in category “A” are mistaken (at least theologically). After all, they have a LONG history of Christian sexual ethics that they are standing on. But the Fred Phelps types and the folk in the video link above would fall into THAT category. Where they ARE mistaken is in their dysfunction in HOW they relate with those who are gay in their midst ie., they could learn from their gay brothers and sisters and see their own struggles, even seeing them AS fellow strugglers on a journey to a final destination where they struggle no more.

The other side, where I think they are mistaken, is not even seeing sexual orientation, identity, etc, as something to be struggled with. However, where they are NOT mistaken is seeing those as different as marginalized and to some extent relating properly to gay folk, ie., meeting them where they are at.

Now, if such is the case, how can anyone on either side declare those on the opposite side AS NOT Christian? Aren’t both sides lacking in love to some extent or another? Lacking in love in different capacities? Let’s face it. If love is supposed to be what we are shooting for ie., being “perfected in love” (towards God and our fellow humans) then to the extent that we lack loving in the way we should we are also not perfected. What I’m saying is this. When it comes to love? ALL of us SUCK at it. Let me give an example from Alexander Pruss’ book, “One Body.”

“One way love is humble is that the actions of love are not focused on agapé itself (we shall discuss a different aspect of love‘s humility in section 5 below). There would be something odd about a parent explaining why he stayed up the night with a sick child by saying: “I love my son.“ Surely the better justification would be the simpler: “He is my son.“ The latter justification puts the parent in a less grammatically prominent spot (“my” instead of “l”), and shows that the focus is on the son. Most importantly, however, the use of “I love my son“ as a justification would suggest that if one did not love him, the main reason to stay up the night would be missing. But the main reason to stay up the night is that he is one‘s son. That he is one’s son is also a reason to love him as one’s son, and that one loves him may provide one with a further reason to stay up with him. However, the main reason for staying up is not that one loves him; rather, the love, expressed in the staying up, is a response to a reason that one would have independently of the love. Thus, in an important sense, the parent acts lovingly—acts in a way that is at least partly constitutive of love—without acting on account of love. Love’s actions are not focused on love but on the beloved as seen in the context of a particular relationship. However, to explain why we made some sacrifice for someone to whom we had no blood ties, we might well say, “I love him.” Nonetheless, I suggest, this may be an imperfection—it may be a case of seeking one’s own. Why not instead act on account of the value of the other person in the context of the relationship? It is true that love maybe a central part of that relationship, but I want to suggest that love is not the part of the relationship that actually does the work of justifying the sacrifice. For suppose that I stopped loving my friend. Would that in itself take away my obligation to stand by him in his time of need? Certainly not. The commitment I had implicitly or explicitly undertaken while loving him, a commitment that made it appropriate for him to expect help from me, is sufficient for the justification. If I need to advert to my own love, then something has gone wrong.”

If Pruss is right here, then the case may be made that there are a lot of Christians, both of whom fall in categories “A” & “B” that are loving for “one’s own” (benefit). They are loving out of dysfunction. And if such is the case that all of us suck at love (loving) because we love out of dysfunction then how can we REALLY declare who’s on the inside and who’s on the outside? And that’s my point. Even when we THINK we are loving as we ought (“I’m loving but you guys over there aren’t”). We very well may not be as Pruss shows.

So for me, those in both categories “A” and “B” are loving in their respective ways. They ALSO LACK in love in their respective ways. Thus, no one should declare the other side on the outs.


Fundamentalism: Thinking Historically

I want to take a little passage from a book I read a good portion through (but haven’t finished yet) and put it down here. The book is, “The Sword of the Lord” written by Andrew Himes. As one reviewer stated:

“Andrew Himes is the grandson of famed evangelist John R. Rice. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, five nephews and many cousins are or were Baptist preachers. His mother was one of Rice’s six daughters. He had an insider’s view of the early days of independent Baptist fundamentalism and it wasn’t all pretty.”

So if anyone, I’d think, is capable of speaking on the subject (which goes further back than his own personal family history) it would be Himes. Hime’s voice on the topic is rather refreshing. It seems, most people can only offer a “negative apologetic” or negative criticism of a particular issue. Specifically, in this case, fundametalism. They work with what Mouw spoke of as a “hermeneutic of suspicion” rather than a “hermeneutic of charity.” It’s nice to see something that isn’t the same fan fare of brutal criticism but also offers something positive as well (Bruce Barron’s work on the faith movement and on Kingdom Now or The Reconstructionist Movement is notable in this regard).

In the beginning of, “The Sword of The Lord” Himes says this:

“In general, a fundamentalist outlook made a lot of sense in a world in which you needed to be certain where to stand in order to survive the next day and to defend the lives and welfare of your family. Fundamentalism was a rational, and emotional, response to a dangerous world where you needed to know who was a sheep and who was a goat, who was for you and who was against you, who might slip a blade between your ribs and who would love you back.”

Hopefully, the next time you hear some criticism or another of fundamentalism you keep this statement in mind. You keep in mind not to take any criticism of a movement that doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of the historical situation.


Mark Driscoll and Church Restoration

Read this in CT Mag

“From the Pastors

1. We, the elders of Mars Hill Church, love Pastor Mark and truly desire his full restoration to preaching Pastor of this church.

4. He will continue to receive his salary so long as he continues to cooperate with the restoration plan set before him by the elders of Mars Hill Church.

5. Dr. Tripp has agreed to serve us in a consulting role to oversee the restoration plan for Pastor Mark. We direct the BOAA to retain Dr. Tripp in this capacity, and in doing so also to agree that Pastor Mark only be restored when Dr. Tripp and all members of the BOAA and the Board of Elders believe that process to be complete.

From Mark Driscoll
2. I have requested a break for processing, healing, and growth for a minimum of six weeks while the leadership assigned by our bylaws conduct a thorough examination of accusations against me. I believe their review can best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office, and they have agreed to this arrangement.

4. I will use this time to continue to seek the Lord about His plans for me and for this and the next season of life for Mars Hill. I will also use it to spend more time with God, my wife, and our children.

7. I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice. I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.

8. I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I remember years ago Stanley Grenz talk about pastors who were involved in sexual misconduct in this book.

Some of the criticisms level were how the women involved in such affairs basically disappeared, “shunned” from the church while the pastor was “restored to ministry.” As matter of fact, that was the first and foremost goal–restore to ministry NOT restore to fellowship or relationship which is where the focus should be. OK. I haven’t really been following the whole Mark Driscoll fiasco, because frankly, I’m tired of these church games and the bullshit (yes, I know enough from the little I’ve read from CT Mag and on the internet). Let me say this, I don’t know what should be done with MD. I’m not close enough to the situation to really have an opinion or to really even care. However, just reading the points above from the two parties involved, it doesn’t even appear that there is ANY intention for MD of ever STAYING OUT of ministry. Maybe his sins don’t rise to the occasion of sexual sin but does it have to? And if Stanley Grenz is correct, then why the underlying belief in restoration-specifically to ministry? Wouldn’t it be OK if he NEVER returned to ministry? If he worked at McDonalds? Or is that beneath him. And this, it seems to me, is something American evangelicalism keeps shoving down our throats. We can’t seem to get enough of these personalities. Oh, he’s “stepping down” but let’s make a show of that too. Saw that with Jimmy Swaggart, “Ohhhhhh…forgive me for I have sinned.” Boo hoo hoo…save me the crocodile tears. Still kept on doing the same thing. Stepping down really wasn’t stepping down for him. It was all a mirage. I see the same with Driscoll. Stepping down but FOR SURE we’re going to “restore” him to ministry. What??? Why does he even need to? What a circus. Why can’t it be, “You know Mark? This has been too devastating to the church. Sorry, but we have decided that your leadership is detrimental to the health of individuals and the church as a whole. We’ll give you time and resources to transition into the next chapter of your journey.” But is that even a part of the equation? Nope. All I hear about is his taking a break and how he is postponing the publication of his next book. And it WILL be published. Why? Because by that time he will be “restored” and it wouldn’t make much sense to hear from a defunct pastor now would it? To me, if we were faced with a proposition to somehow have millions of dollars or have none, how many of us would even hint in the direction of going with the second. Somehow we will rationalize the decision and say that God somehow blessed us with it. How could it not be from God. The same with Driscoll. Somehow or another God not only wants him restored to fellowship and relationship but to minisrty. GOT to have that. Got to.


Why Libertarianism is Mistaken

I don’t remember how I came across this article, though it may have been while I was surfing for information on libertarianism. Anyhoo, I contacted the author and found him to be so polite to send me links to it as well as other articles he has written. This article is, in my opinion one of the best written online articles that analyzes the “first principles” of libertarianism and attempts to show why they are mistaken. Enjoy.

Why Libertarianism Is Mistaken


Israel and Hamas: Military Ethics with Regard to the Killing of Innocents

So I’m convinced that the reason that there is media bias against Israel and in favour of Palestinians is because it’s easier to eschew rockets “killing innocent people” as opposed to actually attempting to understand “just war theory” and the argument of proportionality in war–that under some circumstances there is nothing morally unjustifiable about killing innocent people. You can read my facebook friend Keith Pavelischek’s article on the topic here.


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