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Dr. Tony Beam Christian Blog and Commentary

You have to hand it to Michigan Pastor Rob Bell.  Not only did he put hell on map of the evangelical landscape and on the lips of almost every evangelical; he ultimately managed to get hell on the cover of Time magazine just in time for Easter.  For Bell, what began as a creative art exhibit that encouraged artistic expressions of peace in a broken world has led to the supposed downfall of a bedrock belief of Christianity.  You can almost feel the glee flowing through Jon Meacham’s keyboard as he writes:

“Bell’s book sheds light not only on enduring questions of theology and fate but also on a shift within American Christianity.  More indie rock than Rock of Ages with its video and comfort with irony (Bell sometimes seems an odd combination of Billy Graham and Conan O’Brian), his style of doctrine and worship is clearly playing a larger role in religious life, and the ferocity of the reaction suggests that he is a force to be reckoned with.” 

Meacham’s article chronicles Rob Bell’s attempt to put the doctrine of hell on trial in his book, Love Wins.  The book flowed out of a comment left next to a quote from Mohandas Gandhi that was part of the afore mentioned art exhibit.  The note said: “Reality check: He’s in hell.”  The idea that Gandhi could be in hell sent Bell into a reflective, relativistic theological tailspin. He began asking questions like, “Somebody knows this without a doubt?”, and “Somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?”  These questions didn’t lead to a concrete answer mind you for there is no such thing in the Emergent church world of Rob Bell.  Evangelicals who have immersed themselves in the emergent world of post-postmodern theology long ago jettisoned biblical answers to tough questions in favor of an endless conversation.  It’s kind of like driving down a road that has no destination or listening to a symphony of unresolved chords.  Since there is no there at the end of post and post-postmodern theology the journey becomes the ultimate goal with reaching a destination considered to be the new heresy. 

The plain truth of the matter is the Bible is God’s revelation so that we can know who God is (within the limits of our finite minds of course) and what He expects of us.  When Luke wrote his magnificent two-volume work (Luke/Acts) for Theophilus he described his writing as “an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:3-4, NKJV, emphasis mine).  The Apostle John wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).  And Jesus rebuking the Sadducees as they tried to trap Him said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  Clearly in just these few examples we should be able to see that there are many things Jesus said we could know for sure about God. One of those things is the surety of hell. 

Consider just a few of the many passages where Jesus speaks of the surety of hell.  At the end of the parable of the king who arranged a marriage for his son Jesus say, “Then the king said to his servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot , take him away, and cast him into out darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13).  Jesus was more direct when instructing His disciples in Matthew 10.  In verse 28 Jesus told them, “And no not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  In another passage from Matthew’s gospel Jesus, speaking of those who ultimately demonstrated their rejection of Him by their lack of compassion, said, “Depart from Me you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”(25:41).

But perhaps the most compelling passage on hell can be found in Luke’s Gospel in chapter 16.  It is there Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  The rich man mistreats Lazarus in life and in death the rich man is punished while Lazarus is comforted.  Verse 23-24 speaks of the rich man, “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame.”  Call me a fundamentalist but that sounds like hell to me. 

In the Time article, Rob Bell is quoted as saying, “I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian.  Something new is in the air.”  I would say to Rob Bell that his questioning of sound Christian doctrine that is based on the veracity of God’s Word is not a new scent in the air but is rather the same stench of universalism and warmed over liberal theology that has assailed the nostrils of Christians since the beginning of the Church.  It has taken many forms and operated under many names deceiving many.  But the remedy in the 21st century is the same remedy Paul gave Timothy in the first century.  “Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:13-14).  

     Who won the just completed epic budget battle on Capitol Hill?  Most people believe Republicans won because they control only one-third of the government but they gained two-thirds of what they wanted.  Others, however say Republicans lost because they caved on their pledge to cut $100 billion out of this year’s budget.  Those people seem to forget two things.  First, the Republican controlled House passed a budget that contained $61 billion in cuts from the current budget.  That same budget represented $100 billion from President Obama’s proposed budget.  By gaining approval of reinstating the school voucher system in D.C. and by banning abortions in D.C. the Republican controlled Congress took two giant steps in the direction of life.

     In addition to cutting the budget, protecting life, and improving education the Republicans were successful in getting Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to promise to hold votes in the Senate on the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare plan.  I have no doubt both votes will fail but it will put all the Senators on the record concerning their stand on these issues.  Even the left-wing editorial section of the New York Times bemoaned the compromises President Obama and the Democrats made to get a budget deal done. 

     Now we find out from the Congressional Budget Office that nobody won because the budget deal is a sham.  CBO scoring of the deal reveals a paltry $352 million in actual cuts to the 2011 budget through September.  When you add what will be spent to fund three wars you end up with a $3.3 billion increase in spending.  No wonder the American people are crying out for integrity in leadership.  Republicans may have won the public relations war over the budget but substantive cuts remain the primary casualty of the battle. 

     The debate now becomes a battle between Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, that cuts $6.2 trillion over ten years, and President Obama’s budget that promises to raise taxes on the rich (households making over $250,000) and trim $4.4 trillion over twelve years.  The Republican controlled House of Representatives, led by the Tea Party freshmen, have already approved the Ryan budget.  It remains questionable whether or not Senator Reid will allow Ryan’s budget to make it to the floor. 

     America is in serious trouble as we face a debt crisis that threatens in short order to destroy our economy, our national security, and our way of life.  We need someone who is mature, steady, battle-tested and a rock-ribbed conservative both socially and fiscally, to rise to the top.  And we need them now, not six months or a year from now.  In a normal election cycle we might have the luxury of sifting through a myriad of candidates with the hope of finding the right person for the job.  But the sword of Damocles hangs over our heads and the heads of every succeeding generation.  We don’t have time to wonder if Donald Trump is sincere or if Rick Santorum has enough experience.  As Bonnie Tyler would say, “we need a hero and he’s gotta be sure and he’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life.” 

     More than anything else, he’s gotta have the final three qualities of real, biblical leadership.  He or she has to be an innovator…someone who is willing to lead God’s way even when it doesn’t make sense.  For example, consider Gideon.  The Bible says he started out with an army of 32,000 men against the Midianites who were, “as numerous as locusts”(Judges 7:12).  God reduced Gideon’s army down to 300 men, who routed the Midianites by following a very unorthodox battle plan.  Innovative leadership sees what God is doing, seizes the moment, and secures success by attacking the problem in a whole new way.  Many obvious solutions to our nations problems have been applied and failed.  We need the eyes of a true innovator who will see our national problems in a new way and offer solutions that can forge consensus by the power of their rightness and logic.

     We need a leader who has and will overcome adversity.  Nehemiah led the Jews back to their home city of Jerusalem where, against all odds, they completed the walls of the city.  The people were discourage, afraid, and on the brink of failure.  Nehemiah overcame the adversity of all these project killers by trusting in the Lord and calling the people to work with “the trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.”  We need a Nehemiah….a leader who knows how to deal with adversity without giving up the fight. 

     Finally, we need a leader who understands the need to leave a Godly heritage to the next generation.  Leaders who lead for the moment leave us bankrupt when the moment is past.  Elijah realized the need to pass the mantle of leadership to Elisha.  Paul raised up, encouraged, strengthened, and then passed the mantle of leadership to Timothy.  Moses relied on the wilderness-tested strength of Joshua to lead the Jews into the Promised Land.  If we are going to find our way out of our self-made wilderness into the Promised Land of fiscal, constitutional, and moral government we must realize it will take more than one generation of leaders.  We need a strong leader who will inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

     We aren’t asking for much.  We are simply asking for a leader who embodies righteousness, perseverance, courage, commitment, decisiveness, inspiration, innovation, the ability to overcome adversity, and a clear understanding of the heritage we have and the heritage we must leave behind. 

     We really do need a hero.

     Who won the just completed epic budget battle on Capitol Hill?  Most people believe Republicans won because they control only one-third of the government but they gained two-thirds of what they wanted.  Others, however say Republicans lost because they caved on their pledge to cut $100 billion out of this year’s budget.  Those people seem to forget two things.  First, the Republican controlled House passed a budget that contained $61 billion in cuts from the current budget.  That same budget represented $100 billion from President Obama’s proposed budget.  By gaining approval of reinstating the school voucher system in D.C. and by banning abortions in D.C. the Republican controlled Congress took two giant steps in the direction of life.

 

     In addition to cutting the budget, protecting life, and improving education the Republicans were successful in getting Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to promise to hold votes in the Senate on the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare plan.  I have no doubt both votes will fail but it will put all the Senators on the record concerning their stand on these issues.  Even the left-wing editorial section of the New York Times bemoaned the compromises President Obama and the Democrats made to get a budget deal done. 

 

     Now we find out from the Congressional Budget Office that nobody won because the budget deal is a sham.  CBO scoring of the deal reveals a paltry $352 million in actual cuts to the 2011 budget through September.  When you add what will be spent to fund three wars you end up with a $3.3 billion increase in spending.  No wonder the American people are crying out for integrity in leadership.  Republicans may have won the public relations war over the budget but substantive cuts remain the primary casualty of the battle. 

 

     The debate now becomes a battle between Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, that cuts $6.2 trillion over ten years, and President Obama’s budget that promises to raise taxes on the rich (households making over $250,000) and trim $4.4 trillion over twelve years.  The Republican controlled House of Representatives, led by the Tea Party freshmen, have already approved the Ryan budget.  It remains questionable whether or not Senator Reid will allow Ryan’s budget to make it to the floor. 

 

     America is in serious trouble as we face a debt crisis that threatens in short order to destroy our economy, our national security, and our way of life.  We need someone who is mature, steady, battle-tested and a rock-ribbed conservative both socially and fiscally, to rise to the top.  And we need them now, not six months or a year from now.  In a normal election cycle we might have the luxury of sifting through a myriad of candidates with the hope of finding the right person for the job.  But the sword of Damocles hangs over our heads and the heads of every succeeding generation.  We don’t have time to wonder if Donald Trump is sincere or if Rick Santorum has enough experience.  As Bonnie Tyler would say, “we need a hero and he’s gotta be sure and he’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life.” 

 

     More than anything else, he’s gotta have the final three qualities of real, biblical leadership.  He or she has to be an innovator…someone who is willing to lead God’s way even when it doesn’t make sense.  For example, consider Gideon.  The Bible says he started out with an army of 32,000 men against the Midianites who were, “as numerous as locusts”(Judges 7:12).  God reduced Gideon’s army down to 300 men, who routed the Midianites by following a very unorthodox battle plan.  Innovative leadership sees what God is doing, seizes the moment, and secures success by attacking the problem in a whole new way.  Many obvious solutions to our nations problems have been applied and failed.  We need the eyes of a true innovator who will see our national problems in a new way and offer solutions that can forge consensus by the power of their rightness and logic.

 

     We need a leader who has and will overcome adversity.  Nehemiah led the Jews back to their home city of Jerusalem where, against all odds, they completed the walls of the city.  The people were discourage, afraid, and on the brink of failure.  Nehemiah overcame the adversity of all these project killers by trusting in the Lord and calling the people to work with “the trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.”  We need a Nehemiah….a leader who knows how to deal with adversity without giving up the fight. 

 

     Finally, we need a leader who understands the need to leave a Godly heritage to the next generation.  Leaders who lead for the moment leave us bankrupt when the moment is past.  Elijah realized the need to pass the mantle of leadership to Elisha.  Paul raised up, encouraged, strengthened, and then passed the mantle of leadership to Timothy.  Moses relied on the wilderness-tested strength of Joshua to lead the Jews into the Promised Land.  If we are going to find our way out of our self-made wilderness into the Promised Land of fiscal, constitutional, and moral government we must realize it will take more than one generation of leaders.  We need a strong leader who will inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

 

     We aren’t asking for much.  We are simply asking for a leader who embodies righteousness, perseverance, courage, commitment, decisiveness, inspiration, innovation, the ability to overcome adversity, and a clear understanding of the heritage we have and the heritage we must leave behind. 

 

     We really do need a hero.

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