Tag Archives: rob bell

The problem with the term “heresy” is…

The Reformation.

Why, you ask? Well, as Tim Perry might say, we, as Protestants, are all schismatics. But that’ s not really what I’m getting at.

What I am getting at is this: heresy, it seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong), has to do with departing from the church’s official teaching . Prior to the Reformation it was quite easy to say, “This is heretical belief” because there was one church (I’m speaking purely of the West). Now that X number of denominations have been established and we’ve got splits of splits of splits, it’s not clear to me how we can speak of “official church teaching” in any way apart from the ecumenical creeds.

As a result, for a Reformed type to call an Arminian, for instance, a “heretic”; or a Baptist to call a Pentecostal a “heretic”, apart from Creedal doctrines, is really quite moot. Apart from the Creeds, the denominations are nuanced in a way that puts them in different theological camps. Prior to the Reformation, and post-Great Schism, the same might be said of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

Don’t get me wrong–I believe in “the one, holy, catholic church”–but we are no longer in a position where one particular theological position can claim to be the voice of the Church Universal. There is no one theological scheme that can be turned to as the litmus test for orthodoxy.

The term “heresy”, therefore, really only applies to those who claim to be among your particular Christian sect.

Which is why, in my opinion, the notion of Rob Bell’s reformed detractors dropping the word “heresy” in terms of what he (allegedly) believes is really quite silly, because from what I know, Bell isn’t claiming to be one of them.

in which I ramble…

Well, this is pathetic, isn’t it?  This blog is going to pot.  Completely.

I realized today that one of the reasons I’ve been blogging less lately is because I’ve been preaching more (approximately twice each month for the last couple of months).  Most of my writing energy and time has been directed at preparing and writing the sermons, which in the end doesn’t leave much for blogging.  Seems kind of obvious now, but it didn’t click until today.

I can’t say that the rest of my spare time has been spent studying for my seminary course–far from it, unfortunately!  It seems my study habits are no different now than they were in university nearly a decade ago.  But I’ve been fretting about the course and trying to work on it and think about it, which is draining.  And I find that required reading isn’t nearly as stimulating and thought-provoking as chosen (i.e. recreational) reading is.  I know I chose to take this course, but I think you can understand.

As my own personal confession I will tell you that I’m finding St. Augustine’s Confessions less than engaging.  Confessions is almost required reading for every Christian at some point and I had hoped it would be more enjoyable than it has been.  Maybe it gets better once he gets past the distractions and lusts of his youth (which aren’t at all tittilating stories, if that’s where you head is at).  I’m hoping that his conversion will be a turning point in Augustine’s book as well as his life.

I’m oscillating between panic (DEAR GOD!  HOW ON EARTH WILL I COMPLETE ALL THIS BY THE BEGINNING OF JUNE?!) and perhaps an overly optimistic rational calm (you have lots of time!  Read something you enjoy!)  Right now I feel calm.

I suspect the timing of all this could have used a bit more thought by yours truly.  It may not have been the best thing to start this seminary course just at the time that I was also starting to work at the church part time.  But then, knowing who I am and how I work, things would probably not have been much different if I had taken the course in other circumstances.

I have taken some time for myself and my family.  There has been some oscillation there, too (DEAR GOD!  CAN I AFFORD THE TIME TO WATCH THIS MOVIE WITH DIXIE?! and Take it easy for once!).  

I watched The Hours with Dixie the other night.  Philip Glass wrote the score.  His minimalist music is always stunning.  I first heard of Glass after inquiring into the beautiful score for The Fog of War (which you should watch), then I heard one of his “Dance #something or others” on CBC’s (now cancelled) Disc Drive.  I’ve never purchased an album or soundtrack by him–it feels like his music calls for immersion and yet I can’t bring myself to spoil the beauty of the music by having it around all the time.  It’s kind of like eggnog: if we had it all year, it wouldn’t be nearly as special.

Oh–how was The Hours?  It was pretty good, although there’s a good chance the mood of the music made the film for me.  But it was an interesting story.  It’s a study of bisexual relationships.  No–I’m kidding.  I kept joking about this throughout the film (breaking one of my own film-watching rules): lesbian kiss here, lesbian kiss there.  Oh, wait!–she also had a male lover earlier on in life, and this male lover is now gay as well.

But don’t let that stop you from watching the movie.  

For the morally sensitive ones among us, I recall a Bible college professor’s suggestion that the value of a film should not be judged by the moral actions of its characters.  There was more to it than that, of course (because clearly a pornographic film cannot be justified this way).  He made a connection to the Bible, which would be rated R or worse if made into a film (including all the gory sex and incest and murder details).

Moving on…

At Dixie’s urging, I plowed through Rob Bell’s new book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, earlier this week.  She she thought it was pertinent to what I was thinking about for today’s sermon.  It was, to an extent.  I heartily recommend this book.  Rob Bell has an amazing ability to explain big theological concepts in non-high-falootin’ terms.  It can be read in a matter of a couple of hours (thanks in part to his one-sentence paragraph style: I noted to Dixie that his publishing style is remarkably unfriendly in terms of conservation).  And there’s an “Aha!” moment every couple of pages.

I’m also almost finished Scot McKnight’s new book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, which I received as a Christmas gift.  Even though I’m not finished it yet, I already heartily recommend it.

So I’ve managed to fit in some chosen reading as well.  My justification: it’s personally edifying and beneficial to me and my position at the church and hence the church.

What I really need to do is learn to focus.  Much time is wasted aimlessly wandering around the house, flipping through books, checking email, being on the internet for no particular reason.  I hate to say it, but a little efficiency would go a long way for me.  I need to refine my use of time.

That is all.

Reclaiming the Old Testament

Reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, it struck me how the overwhelming majority of Augustine’s scriptural references (and the text is riddled with them) are from the Old Testament.  Reading Rob Bell’s Jesus Wants to Save Christians, I was reminded of the story of the travelers  on the road to Emmaus, in which Jesus uses the Old Testament to explain why the Messiah had to suffer (there’s one moment I’d travel back in time to visit, assuming the time machine was equipped with an Aramaic/Greek to English translator), as well as the story of Philip and the eunuch, in which Philip tells the good news of Jesus starting with a passage in Isaiah.

These days Christians, including myself, don’t seem to know what to do with the Old Testament.  We are embarassed by the harsh passages and unsure of what to do with the rest, which for all we know is just a prelude to the New Testament.  But the Old Testament books were the scriptures of the earliest Christians.  For the longest time, they had nothing else.

There is spiritual food to be gleaned from the Old Testament and it can easily stand on its own proverbial feet, it seems.  We need to reclaim it.