This week on "The 3" - a reprisal of some topics from the past few weeks, as our hearts continue to be heavy and (hopefully) motivated by Christ's love concerning the degree of human suffering in Japan. And, it's back to Rob Bell, as his new book is now out with plenty of pomp, circumstance, and controversy. Plus, a highly-watched New Hampshire case where a pre-teen girl was directed by a judge to attend public school....what could it imply?
3 - Christian blogosphere continues to heat up on Bell controversy, MSNBC video goes viral
It's quite unusual for a Christian book that deals with theological issues to gain traction in the mainstream media, but Rob Bell's new tome, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, has certainly generated discussion not only among Christians and Christian media, but among those whom we regard as secular journalists, such as Newsweek's Lisa Miller and MSNBC's Martin Bashir. In fact, Bashir's hard-hitting interview with Bell has become the subject of much discussion. Watch it below:
On its release date on Tuesday of this past week, Rob Bell spoke at a webcast, hosted by Miller. The following Thursday, a number of evangelical leaders, including Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, and others, hosted their own online roundtable discussion on the controversy (link to Baptist Press). Detroit radio host Paul Edwards interviewed Bashir himself this week, who admitted to being a "committed Christian" who attends Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, where Tim Keller is the pastor. Here is the Baptist Press story on that interview.
On Tuesday, Baptist Press published this overview on the book and some response to it.
In a nutshell, Bell seems to suggests that life in heaven with God may not be reserved only for those who accept Jesus as Savior, which fuels charges that Bell is a "universalist". Also, Bell reportedly suggests there is not a literal hell, and that the consequences of disobeying God in essence may place an individual in a "hell" on earth.
Because Bell is a communicator who quite commonly relies on the power of suggestion and uses challenging questions in his mode of operation, some of the reviewers whose pieces I have read have had trouble really determining what the Michigan pastor is trying to say. But, even in an atmosphere coated by suggestion, many are convinced that Bell is minimizing the cross and the nature - and exclusivity - of the gospel. If Bell is attempting to generate discussion among Christians, he has accomplished that purpose. And, maybe, just maybe, through a careful study of Scripture, we can gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the power of the cross and the rescue that God has performed through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
2 - New Hampshire girl, previously homeschooled, must continue to attend public school
There were many concerns in the Christian and homeschool community when a court ruling from New Hampshire was handed down in 2009 that directed an 11-year-old girl who had been homeschooled to be placed in public school. This ruling came in a divorce case, where the wishes of the father and mother with regard to the child's education were in conflict with one another. The original court ruling was upheld on appeal by the New Hampshire Supreme Court this week.
Of great concern to many homeschool families was the suggestion to the lower court that the mother was rigid with respect to questions of faith and that the girl would be best served by being exposed to a public school setting. However, in the view of the Alliance Defense Fund, the high court decision, like the original decision, appeared to be narrow in its focus and could not be applied broadly with respect to questions of the superiority or suitability of a particular form of education. In fact, the Supreme Court made an intentional effort to restrict broad application. To learn more, go to this report from CitizenLink.
1 - Christian relief groups continue to work to provide aid to Japan
This past Friday, 90 tons of badly needed relief supplies were sent on a 747 jet from Charlotte, sponsored by the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This is a great sign that despite barriers and the nuclear threat, the aid to the people of Japan is starting to penetrate the severely damaged areas. World Vision also announced that it was able to move supplies into some regions northeast of Tokyo that were in need of assistance.
These are among the tangible efforts that are designed to make headway in a daunting task to provide needed food, clean water, and other supplies to the people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the quake. Southern Baptists are moving forward, as well, as they partner with Baptist Global Response to provide the necessary supplies into the affected areas.
Prayer and partnership are key elements now in the second week following the earthquake, and will continue to be for weeks and months to come. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has a menu of member relief organizations on its website, www.ecfa.org.
In a time of crisis, people need hope, in addition to their physical needs being met - this tragedy, which reminds us that we live in a fallen and dangerous world, can be used by God, who did not cause the disaster, to draw people to Himself.