Eric Metaxa’s brilliant autobiography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was easily my favorite book of 2011. It introduced me to a teacher, preacher with the unnering and unnerving prophet’s eye. Abraham Heschel describes a prophet as ones who, “said no to to his society, condemning its habits, and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.” Such a man was Bonhoeffer and for it he paid with his life. This book made me wonder whether I was reading more of a prophesy than a biography. The choice for him was between the German Church and the Confessing Church (which he helped found). Today it might very well be the Accomodated Church one the one side and the Faithful Church on the other. But, what is clear, we desperately need more prophetic preachers like him inside as well as outside the church.
Posted on 15. Apr, 2012 by Tim Stoner.
I have been collecting the best quotes from my readings over the past 25 years–chosen both for content and style. If it is worth saying, is is worth saying well, says I. So I have decided to share the wealth. So these are short quotes (no longer than 40 tweets) for those free-thinkers who reject the notion that if a book is written by an author with bad hair and uncool glasses, it has no significance.
This one comes from The Cruciality of the Cross by P.T. Forsythe, One of the my absolute favorite books (and shortest) on the death of Jesus. In honor of the Easter Season.
Who would have imagined Stephen King was a romantic? Certainly not I. But in 11/22/63 Stephen wears his heart on his sleeve. While the horror is still there–though muted, the joy and the love for things past and things present swings, sways and carries you away in a delirium of delight. It is written out of love and for love. Love for a place, a time, a president, a dance, a car, and most of all a flawed and brilliantly drawn woman. It is a book for dancers. It is a book for lovers and maybe even for haters too. It is about suffering and loss and, ultimately, a great but terrible gain. It is a book to relish.
I wonder why we have such trouble taking the biblical depictions of heaven seriously. It seems to frighten and shame us somehow. Whether conceived as place or state, it is weightier and infinitely more substantial than ours. So we must fold, flatten and reshape it. Do we find it embarrassing because it exposes our smallness and lightness of being? Admittedly, it is too bright and too concentrated by far. After all, it is where saints live, and maybe this is why we dislike the shattering images, because it reminds us that that is precisely what we are not. But, there is hope that we still can be.
A friend asked me a question about my disagreement with Love Wins. I have to admit it kind of rankled me. It implied fear, inadequacy or inferiority. So, yes, it stung my pride. Though it had a bite to it, it forced me to uncover the motivation for my negative response to Rob’s core message. And in doing so I had to confront the masks we wear: misdirected love, reactionary love and, more to the point, a cold and careless apathy hiding behind proclamations of love.
Rob Bell asks good questions. In the middle of Love Wins he devotes a whole chapter to one of his better ones: “Does God Get What God Wants?” On the surface this appears to be a simple, straightforward question with an obvious answer. Despite misunderstanding the complexity of the question, Bell, surprisingly, gets the answer right, but for the wrong reason. And he proves that love does indeed win, but not in the way he thinks
When Jesus referred to Hell as Gehenna He had a lot more in mind than the municipal garbage dump. Gehenna was not only physically disgusting, it was spiritually terrifying. Think of a haunted house. Think of Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lekter rooming with Ted Bundy in that house and you are getting the picture. It was a place of horrific evil where the abominable demon-god Moloch was worshiped. It is a place that you would not risk going to for a minute, not for all the pleasure in Las Vegas or all the riches in Saudi Arabia.
Recently, a thoughtful young man asked a question that jarred me. This was how the question was posed: “What’s so special about the moment of death that it suddenly cuts off the availability of God’s grace?” I had no good anwer until I happened to read through the story of the encounter between Jesus and a demonized Jewish synagogue attendee. What he screams at Jesus wipes off any ironic, postmodern smirk and reveals a lot about the irrevocable line between life and death.
Something has been steadily seeping out of our discourse over several decades–the gripping awareness of God’s majesty. It is in this generation that the resultant lightness of God’s being is becoming impossible to ignore. There was a time when men and women lived in a world drenched with God, they blazed with a white-hot devotion. As I read Love Wins I was compelled to pick up a book by such a man: Knowledge of the Holy. It shows us why where there is no doxology Hell makes no sense.
In Love Wins Bell is launching a serious critique against belief in the conscious, eternal torment of those who reject Christ. Now, the really bad news hidden beneath Bell’s sympathetic and generous dismissal of the church’s historic teaching is that it drives all evil and suffering, as well as catastophes like those in Japan, completely outside the providence of God. A good God who is too good to condemn to an eternal Hell is incapable of having anything to do with the major traumas of our life, except to (after the fact) put a kindly but impotent hand on our shoulder and sympathize with our pain. This good-natured, frustrated bystander to suffering can offer us no real hope or comfort at all.
While the outcome of the Egyptian revolt was still very much in doubt, Hosam Khalaf, a 50-year-old engineer brought his wife and daughter to Tahrir Square to join the protesters. “When we meet God,” he said, “we will at least be able to say: ‘We tried to do something.” Those fearless words made me wonder: What I have risked for Jesus? When I look into “the eyes of Him to whom we must give account,” what will He see in me? Will there be exposed a long, unbroken history of fearful timidity, commitment to ease, security and avoidance of pain? Will there be any record at all of heroic obedience, costly sacrifice and courageous devotion? Will I have done anything of significance for Christ?