Liberal Christians Are Not Going To Hell

Liberal Christianity has a problem. I am not a liberal myself, but I do get to hang out with many liberal Christians and I can say with some confidence that I see where the problem is seated. [1]

Liberal Christians ‘get it’. They are more mature or wise than their fundamentalist cousins from the back-country. They see the harm of backward tribalism and hear the hurtful rhetoric of the mean-spirited and judgmental brand of Christianity and don’t want to participate in it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, they can be very condescending and pretentious … but they are not going to get caught up in the name-calling and mud-slinging … it just goes against their green-meme nature.

The most aggressive thing they are comfortable participating in is a pronounce rolling of the eyes. This gives them the reputation for being spineless, or not standing up for anything, or being unwilling to dignify the argument by responding.

You saw this last week when one of the Duggar daughters (who I admit to having no point of reference for) wrote some stuff on FB that was detailed in a provocative post entitled ‘Liberal Christians are going to hell.

“I don’t even believe in hell” was the most vicious response I saw from my liberal brethren. [2]

See? It is so passé and beneath them that they can’t even be bothered to muster a response. Hell is so medieval and remedial … as we say: Rob Bell wins.

So I thought I would have some fun and do my friends a favor by lobbing a response over the battle-line. This sort of accusation isn’t going anywhere and is bound to come up again – so here is a ready-made response for the next time it comes.

 

If I were a liberal Christian, here is how I would want someone on our team to respond:

Liberal Christians are not going to hell! To even say something like that shows that you have not understood the very nature of being a Christian.

You are like the man at the bar who approaches a group of women having cocktails and asks if they are alone. You don’t even understand the words that you are using! You think you know what you mean by them … but a group of women can not be alone.

No Christians are going to hell! To be a Christian is to have received the work of Christ on our behalf . It is to be swept up in the gracious act of God for creation’s salvation and thus to participate in God’s covenant faithfulness.

Christ reconciled us to God – something that we could not have done on our own – and so to be a Christian, of any type, means inherently that you are not going to hell. You belong to God in Christ.

What you are saying show that you have yet to understand either the teaching of Paul, as in Romans 5, or the promises of scripture, like the end of Revelation.

In Romans 5 Paul says that the work of Christ – the second Adam – has a far greater effect and further reach (impact) than the sin of the first Adam.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In your mislead scheme the first Adam affected all but Jesus only gets to some. You have got it completely backwards.

 

And look at Revelation chapter 20. The only ones who end in the lake of fire (which I assume you think is the same as hell) are those whose names were not written in the book of life. If your name is in the book of life then you are not judged according to your deeds (which can not save you) but are exempted from that fate by virtue of your name being in the book!

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

To be a Christian, is to have ones name written in the book of God’s life! So while you make not like my brand of Christianity or think that I am not a good or the right kind of Christian, the very nature of being a Christian means that I am not going to hell.

 

Now we can get into all sorts of things about if Jesus’ Gehenna is the same as Revelation’s lake of fire … and I am willing to do that, but for Christ’s sake stop saying that any kind of Christian is going to hell. That is like saying that married people can be single or that fathers can be virgins – the very use of that category precludes your sentence having the ability to be true.

 

If you want to talk about being a different kind of Christian or believing the right things, we can do that. Just get the initial premise right: to be a Christian of any type is to have received that gracious work of Christ on our behalf. It is a gift of God and not something that we can earn on our own.

Then we can talk.

__________

[1] I am a progressive hyperTheist. I subscribe to a social constructivist worldview and politically would probably be a communitarian if anything.

[2] It is impossible for a Christian to not believe in hell. As I have argued before: you have to believe something about it.

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Sara Miles CultureCast

Back in the saddle, getting back to a weekly schedule, many important questions are answered.CultureCast

For instance:

  • Does Amy really eat human poop powder?
  • Does repentance mean you have to feel like shit?
  • What words with baggage can be reclaimed?

Christian announces the CultureCast’s first live event at 6pm April 28th at Marmoset in Portland, with Doug Pagitt, Stephen Chalke, other notables, and live music.

The interview is with Sara Miles, author of City of God, and founder of The Food Pantry, which provides free groceries to over 400 hungry families in San Francisco. Sara’s conversion story is very powerful, as well as her courage and clarity in answering God’s call through her ministry.

In the echo chamber we discuss rumors that Apple is developing an electric car; a “peace ring” created by muslims to protect jews in Oslo, and the “Christian Persecution Complex.”

Recommendations includes our favorites to replace John Stewart on The Daily Show. And don’t forget Fear of the Week. This week’s fear is a doozy.

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Sex Is Not Simple

Sexuality and spirituality have been on my mind as we prepare for tonight’s Level Ground Film Festival.

I am very aware of the cultural conversation that continues to circle around marriage equality and issues related to legal matters. As a pastor and theologian, my concern is more specifically focused on people’s understanding and engagement of sexuality and spirituality. [1]

If someone were to ask me what was the single biggest thing that would make a difference in how we approach matters of sexuality and spirituality … I would have to say that the reductive impulse to simplify sexuality is the main problem.

Sex and sexuality are not simple. [2]

When we attempt to reduce sex and sexuality down to single thing or try to squeeze it into a simplified category we make a massive error.

Sex, sexuality and spirituality are all inherently complicated and complex. [3]

 

How one is embodied in one’s own skin, how one conceptualizes of that in-carnation, who one is attracted to, and how one participates in that attraction are at least 4 separate issues. It gets more complicated from there.

Sexuality and spirituality are two areas where complexity and diversity are actually a good thing!

It is a fallacy of misplaced concreteness when we attempt a reductive move to simplify sex/uality down to one thing – especially if that one thing is the biological.

 

The unfortunate thing is that those attempting the reductive move too often attempt to reduce the purpose of sex down to procreation.

Sex is about so much more than procreation. [4]

Sex is about intimacy, expression, sensation, exploration, and experience/experimentation.

Sometimes it results in pro-creation … but, more times than not, it doesn’t.

 

Sexuality has an aspect that is emotional.complexity

And one that is physical.

Then there is the aspect that is psychological.

There is one that is social.

And one that is spiritual.

Sexuality is personal … and private … and (to a certain degree) public.

Not to mention the part of it that is political.

 

Our sexuality involves all of who we are and em-bodies so much of our identity.

It even entails part of our capacity to engage the world around us and the social constructs that we are caught up in and by which we are acted upon daily. [5]

In one sense everything is sexual, even how much money we make … in the same sense that is it political. This is why our inherited enlightenment categories do not work anymore. The reductive impulse is failing us. Things need to be recognized as complicated and part of the emergent reality.

Sex/uality is never about one thing.

We do a great disservice to all that Creator god intended for us when we reduce sexuality down to pro-creation.

We ignore all that the evolutionary process has encoded us with (and for) when we boil our sexuality down to a single act with a single purpose.

 

The more I have studied and listened and considered the challenge for the church in the matter of sex and sexuality in the 21st century, the more I am convinced that it is the reductive move that hampers and limits our capacity to explore and engage the issue in a way that would lead to life and health.

 

I would want to confess 3 things:

  • Sexuality is a gift of God and is a good thing.
  • Any view of sex that begins with secrecy or shame should be viewed with suspicion and interrogated accordingly.
  • Reducing sex and sexuality down to a single aspect is both misguided and dangerous.

 

Sex/uality is complex combination and collaboration of elements including (but not limited to) the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, private, personal, communal, and political.

One way that the church could bless the culture in the decades to come is to resist the temptation of the reductive explanation and to instead provide an understanding that is complex (even complicated). The more diverse the areas being engaged (and examined) the better!

 

We need sex/uality to be more – not less. The temptation to reduce and simplify is a false construct. The reality is that human identity is inherently complex – and that is a good thing.

Sex, sexuality and spirituality are but 3 aspects of that rich complexity.

We need more spiritually minded exploration and even theological examination of our humanity … not less.[5]

Sex and sexuality are not simple – any spirituality that attempts to make it so is both limited and, in the end, false.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s conversation and the followup when we release the podcast audio tomorrow.

 

________________

[1] We have wonderful snapshots of different historical takes on the role and purpose of sex in Biblical passages like Genesis, the Song of Solomon and some of the New Testament epistles.

[2] I am saying that things are complicated as a straight, middle-class, white, cis-gendered male in a Western culture. It doesn’t take much listening to figure out that if even one of those elements was different, let alone two, things becomes increasingly layered.

[3] In full disclosure, for those who prefer letters, I am a big fan of the Q in LGBTQ. Just FYI.

[4] As someone who has been married for 21 years and is childless, I have an admittedly different angle on that whole line of ‘reasoning’.

[5] I have found great help in those reflecting on the work of [linkMarcella Althaus-Reid’s ‘indecent theology’.

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Theopoetics Book Blog Tour

Theology Nerds! It is time for a book blog tour with one of our very own!

Way to WaterIn fall 2014 Callid released his book, Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer with Cascade Books and they’ve been awesome and said they’ll kick in a dozen books for you all to get your nerdy hands on. The book itself is chock full of goodness with chapters on process theopoetics (including Catherine Keller), the intersection of biblical and literary studies, Rubem Alves‘ liberation theology, and the sweet Continental philosophy of John Caputo, Richard Kearney, and Karmen MacKendrick.  So many people reached out from so many perspectives that this is definitely going to be sweet. Throughout the week of 2/23/15 folks will be posting their thoughts and we’ll link them below with hopes you’ll engage them as you like.

But wait, there’s more! On Thursday March 5, the week after the blog tour, Callid and the West Coast HBC Crew will get on to a public Google Hangout and it will be an open free-for-all to grill Callid (lovingly!) about his inconsistencies and theological missteps. Or, you know, say something nice or ask questions about the book and/or theopoetics in general.

So enjoy the blogs, read the book, and send Bo your questions for the Hangout. If you’re looking for a better sense of what this whole topic is about, check this short post Callid did about theopoetics this summer as part of the ABCs of Theology series.

Book Tour Blog Stops

Katelynn Carver at Spiralling Ecstatically This offers a wildly thorough engagement with the text, thinking alongside it from a lens of interdisciplinarity and asking how  theopoetics might stretch to include conversations beyond theism itself.

Patrick Reyes reads the book from a post-colonial and embodied lens, making some suggestions as to how theopoetics might help make decolonizing moves.

Tuhina Rasche at This Lutheran Life  brings in Yoda, reflects on the relevance of the book to her vocation as a pastor and questions the reality of “safe spaces.”

 Graeme Fancourt at The Reluctant Blogger takes a look at the book from a Church of England perspective wondering if the book isn’t pointing to a CoE kind of vibe.

Laura Stone at The Patchwork Pietist comes at things from an anabaptist perspective and wonders if theopoetics might be a good fit for non-violence theology.

James Hill Jr. reviews the book from “an ontologically hip-hop” perspective and reads theopoetics as a stance that “refuses to offer sacrifices before the altar of Western epistemology.”

Rick Quinn thinks about maps and racial injustice, drawing some parallels between the book and the work of  Sallie McFague.

Jon Gill / Gilead7 launches full force into a hip-hop genre’d, Mobb Deep inflected take which careens all through the book with a unique style.

Emily Richardson at Where do I Begin? steps into the fray as a self-proclaimed “newcomer” and nails it, saying  “When I could no longer carry on in the academic environment because of the limitations of my body. That was when I needed to find new ways of doing theology.”

C. Wes Daniels at Gathering in Light comes at the topic as a Quaker pastor and a theologian whose work is in intercultural studies.

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza reads the book as pointing toward a “materially becoming queer relationality.”

Jeremy Fackenthal recognizes the book tries not to flatten things (and the various types of theopoetics) in spite of dissonance.

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Excited about Easter: Resurrected Faith

Across N. America, the two largest groups of people who are reclaiming their faith are traditionally parents of little ones who are settling down and putting down roots – and those who are finding a different version of faith in a new community or expression.

Various labels are often assigned to this second group: unchurched, post-christian, or the ‘nones’. However one classifies this trend, this category is often populated by those who were raised in a fundamentalist, evangelical or even mainline tradition and have walked away.

The faith of their upbringing either doesn’t fit, doesn’t make sense or just isn’t useful anymore.

But then something happens.

The trigger may be a crisis or an unsatisfied hunger or the birth of child. Whatever initiates the change of season is not predictable. What is predictable, however, is that in a search for a community or church there is a tangible desire to connect with a vibrant but thoughtful expression of ones faith.

In my dual-role at the church, I am in a unique position to see both groups

  • finding something lost
  • connecting with something deep
  • awakening to something new

There is something so refreshing and hopeful about finding a spiritual community where you can plug-in to ministries that are making the world a better place and you don’t have to check your brain at the door.

 

As the Minister of Children, Youth and Families I have seen dozens of young families tie into the life of the church community through the liturgical Sanctuary worship. It brings great joy to my heart to watch their little one get settled into the nursery, Pre-K or Sunday School routine and know that their child has a spiritual home that will nurture them and facilitate that child’s growth into a mature believer who can intelligently embrace a faith that will carry them for the rest of their life. Touch screen mobile phone, in hand

As the co-Pastor of the Loft I have heard dozens of stories from people who had walked away from faith and who have seen that faith resurrected in our unique environment filled with coffee, couches and conversation.

As someone raised evangelical, I confess that it makes my heart sing to hear stories of resurrected faith!

I don’t apologize for my inherited soft-spot toward stories of renewal and awakening.

Many people have stories of reclaiming their childhood faith but have no interest in continuing to hold onto childish ideas. Our faith is supposed to be child-like but the 21st century requires that it be thoughtful and vibrant.

Heading into Easter this year, I have been thinking about all of the young families who have dusted off their commitment to a faith community as well as those for whom faith had all but died, and how for both this Easter is going to seem especially meaningful.

It is an exciting time to be at a church that is committed to issues of justice, thoughtful in its approach and expanding its ability to connect with the community.

 

Whether it is an awakening of a dormant faith or the resurrection of something that had completely died, faith is being renewed in the life of the church.

We are an Easter people and that means we are always coming into new life.

I pray that you are as encouraged and excited as I am in the lead up to Easter. 

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HBC21 Live Event

The Culture-Cast and TNT team up for a rowdy LIVE 3D event at C21 in Phoenix, AZ CultureCast

We want to thank everyone who came out and made this evening so memorable.

Philips Theological Seminary was our sponsor this evening – and rocked the swag!

The episode starts on a negative note but has a trajectory toward awesomeness … hope you enjoy the brew! TNT

 

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Ecstatic Naturalism

Tripp chats with Leon Niemoczynski about a philosophical approach to sacred nature. Leon Naturalism

Leon Niemoczynski teaches in the Departments of Philosophy and Theology at Immaculata University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and he is also currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Niemoczynski’s research focuses on the philosophy of nature, where he is especially interested in issues pertaining to philosophical naturalism, logic and metaphysics, aesthetics, German idealism, philosophical ecology, animal ethics, environmental philosophy, and environmental philosophy’s relationship to the philosophy of religion. He is the author/co-editor of Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World (Open Humanities Press, 2014), A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism (Lexington Books, 2014) and as sole author, Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature (Lexington Books, 2011).

He has published in numerous anthologies and journals including Process Studies, The Review of Metaphysics, The American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, and The Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, to name but just a few. His most recent book chapter covered the philosophy of Quentin Meillassoux and the radical theology of John D. Caputo, which was published in The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion (Indiana University Press, 2014).

Leon is currently working on his newest book tentatively titled Speculative Naturalism: An Ecological Metaphysics which draws from the metaphysics and theological panentheistic-process perspectives of C.S. Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, Friedrich Schelling, G.W.F. Hegel, and Quentin Meillassoux.

He resides in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife Nalina.

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TNT: Hume on Miracles

2015 starts with a deep discussion of Hume and the much contested definition of miracles. TNT

This is partially in response to the last TNT with Shultz and Taylor and the subsequent blog by Bill Walker that naturalism is not enough. 

Book suggestions from this show:

For the Bible Tells Me So 

Gangnam Style 

Ecstatic Naturalism 

The Secret Message of Jesus

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TNT: Shults and Taylor

Podcast favorite LeRon Shults sits down with Barry Taylor and Tripp in the HBC HQ to chat. tntpcsubad

LeRon has made the infamous migration from Emergent to agnostic. His new books can be found here.

Get his new book Theology After the Birth of God on discount until Feb.  Then Feb. 1 the paperback version of Iconoclastic Theology comes out in paperback!

You can hear his first visit to the podcast here where we discuss Christology.  Then his second HBC podcast here on the Church.

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