Posted tagged ‘Denny Burk’

Rob Bell Briefing

March 14, 2011

There’s no way to keep up with (or link to) all the articles, blogs, videos, and reviews coming out about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, which is scheduled to release tomorrow (March 15).  Currently, his book is #8 in all of Amazon–a rarity for any “Christian” book.  I do not recall in my six years of blogging a controversy as heated and widespread as this one which just about every major secular media outlet is inquiring and every major evangelical theologian going on record by article, review, or just a tweet or two.

Today, there were several things that came out recently worthy of your attention.

1.  Here is a video of Rob Bell explaining why he wrote the book, in particular his controlling belief and presupposition that God is love.

I will just mention briefly that I believe the doctrine of the love of God has been historically the gateway to many heresies, and what Rob Bell is doing here is consistent with the convictions of liberal theologians for centuries. Bell is simply making an old heresy available to a new audience, and making it with style.

2.  Three substantive reviews came out today regarding the book.  The first one is by Kevin DeYoung, and it is a beast.  His review, though considerably long, is careful and rather comprehensive.  It is a must-read.  The second one is by Denny Burk.  Denny breaks down his review by addressing each chapter in Bell’s book.  A third review came from Christianity Today’s Mark Galli who takes more of a middle-of-the-road approach, expressing appreciation for Bell raising the issues but also challenging Bell at certain points.

3.  Doug Wilson makes his usually insightful observation about the denial of the existence of hell not as a matter of mere consequence in the afterlife, but making your life now a literal hell.  He explains:

What is less obvious is how those who deny the future reality of Hell are much more likely to create hellish situations in the here and now. Rob Bell believes that hell is what we create when we reject God’s love. Amen. But I would want to add the absolutely critical proviso that this love of God (that is so rejected) must be defined as He defines it in the Bible, and not as we would wish it might be defined in our Big Rock Candy Mountain versions of Heaven. In the Bible, love is defined as Christ bearing the brunt of God’s wrath against our sin. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). A denial of the wrath of God is therefore a denial of propitiation (which is bearing the wrath of God), and this in its turn is a denial of love as biblically defined. This means that to deny the reality of Hell is to deny the love of God which saves us from the wrath of that Hell, and to deny the love of God is the first step in creating our own little microcosm of that Hell, which Rob Bell is engaged in doing. He is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, and if he is right about what rejecting the love of God does (and he is), then it would appear that someone is trying to turn that place into Mars Hell.

4.   I was taken back by the comments of Richard Mouw.  I find these words to be very “mysterious.”  In today’s USA TODAY (13B), you will read the following:

But Richard Mouw, president of the world’s largest Protestant seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary based in Pasadena, Calif., calls Love Wins “a great book, well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus.”  The real hellacious fight, says Mouw, a friend of Bell, a Fuller graduate, is between “generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people.”

5.  Rob Bell shared on Twitter that the book release party in NYC’s Center for Ethical Culture will be streamed live beginning at 7PM EST.  So if you would like to hear more from Rob Bell himself, this would be a good opportunity.

6.  Lastly, Southern Seminary is hosting a conversation about the book this Thursday (March 17) from 2:30-4:00PM EST. The panelists will include Justin Taylor, Denny Burk, Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore.  This event will also be livestreamed and available through their website.

More Than Endorsements and Hat Tips

June 18, 2008

In a recent blogpost, Denny Burk shares his thoughts on the passing of Resolution #6 (on regenerate church membership). After expressing his appreciation and encouragement about its passing, Burk writes,

For those who think that resolution 6 was mainly about membership numbers, I think that idea really misses the point. The inflated membership numbers aren’t really the heart of the problem being addressed by the resolution. The numbers are merely a symptom of the real issue. Southern Baptists don’t practice what they preach when it comes to a regenerate church membership, and that’s the pastoral/ecclesiastical failure that’s the heart of the problem.

That is precisely why the language of repentance is needed, and Lord willing, will be heeded in our churches today. Southern Baptists don’t need to go on record with where we stand on regenerate church membership. John Hammett writes,

History records that though regenerate church membership was at the heart of the origin of Baptists and was for most of Baptist history central to Baptist ecclesiology, it dramatically declined in Baptist life in the twentieth century and is in desperate need of recovery today.”

The need of the hour is for encouragement in what we already know, not new information. We need courage to stand on our convictions that have long been held as the “central to Baptist ecclesiology.” Mere endorsements are not enough, for as Burk notes, we are not practicing what we preach. Consider again the words of Hammett:

“Today, a denomination like the Southern Baptist Convention maintains the theology of regenerate church membership in its official statements, but in reality, its churches show little evidence of regeneration in the behavior of their members. It is widely known that divorce and moral problems are as common among church members as nonchurch members. Even the very modest index of attendance at Sunday morning worship shows close to two-thirds of Southern Baptist church members missing on any given Sunday morning. Regenerate church membership cannot be seriously maintained as characterizing most Baptist churches in North America today.”

– John S. Hammett, “Regenerate Church Membership” in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, edited by Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008), 23-27.

I share the hopes and encouragement which Nathan Finn recently wrote . . .

“I am thankful for the hundreds of Southern Baptist churches that are taking steps to make their practice more consistent with their convictions.  By God’s grace, may their tribe increase tenfold!”

Amen.

Witherington Takes on Christian Hedonism

November 23, 2007

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
Romans 15:8-9

In his book, Desiring God, John Piper writes,

God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These he performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment he has in glorifying himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to himself.

If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in him. But if he does employ all his sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of his own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. (31)

In case you missed it, Dr. Ben Witherington has written a critique of this idea of Christian Hedonism as well as Dr. Schreiner’s NT Theology in his post, “‘For God so Loved Himself?’ Is God a Narcissist?” Witherington concludes,

I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.

Recreate God in our own self-centered image? Quite the charge I must say. Denny Burk has written a nice response/rebuttal to Witherington’s scathing analysis. Here’s an excerpt:

Only with God is self-exaltation a virtue, since He is the first and best of beings, the only One who can satisfy the soul. When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God. God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing. Witherington misses all of this, and like other Arminians, removes the firmest grounding that we have for God’s love—God’s own desire to exalt the glory of His own perfections.

Michael Spencer (iMonk) has chimed in over at The Thinklings blog.  Spencer writes,

Would that statement- God so loved himself that he gave…- disturb most young Calvinists today? I tend to think a significant number wouldn’t see any problem. Once you have a truth, you can over-compliment that truth to the point of distortion, lack of ability to read Biblical texts honestly, rejection of those who use different language than you do and overall clarity.

This is happening with sovereignty, God-centeredness, inerrancy. Piper specializes in the “highest” possible logical form of theological statement, to the point that theology that doesn’t join him at the pinnacle of language and illustration (rejoicing in God’s sovereignty after your child is killed in an accident for example) is doubt and heresy. . . .

I have a feeling this is what BW is offering: does Piper’s God “come off” as a Narcissist when we hold conference after conference and publish book after book saying all that matters is God God God?

This is why I call myself a Christian Humanist. The light of the incarnation is the light by which I know MYSELF as well as God. We matter. A lot. Not in ultimate terms, but in created, God-reflecting terms. But these theologians are on the path to saying 100 things about God and nothing about humanity except we suck and it’s amazing Jesus died for such scum.

I have heard arguments similar to what Witherington has posited, such as while we should be God-centered, God is man-centered. One particular article worth reading is Piper’s “Is God for Us or For Himself?” which was written at the start of his ministry at BBC (1980).  What do you think?  Do you think philosophical commitments have clouded Piper’s vision of biblical texts?  Schreiner’s NT Theology does not do justice to the love of God?