"Religious narcissism, no less than cultural narcissism, makes man the
measure of all things. And nowhere is this seen more clearly than the
attenuated, kinder and gentler view of Hell embraced by postmodern
(David) This is part one of a four-part series reflecting on an article by Tim Keller titled, "The Importance of Hell." Part two of the series can be found here. Part three can be found here. Pastor Keller's original document is available here.
In a narcissistic age, proclamations of sin inevitably focus inward and are psychological, not spiritual. The primary reference is self rather than God, His holiness and judgment of sinful men.
Postmoderns preaching to postmoderns are all about "Look what you've done to yourself by your selfishness." This is their conviction of sin. "Look how disordered you've made your world. Look how you--and others like you--are tearing the world's fabric by your self-centeredness."
Narcissists preaching to narcissists speak of selfishness as the supreme sin. And indeed, selfishness is a root sin of narcissism. But what solution do they offer?
Such preachers proclaim deliverance from self-centeredness by turning the sinner into a better, happier, more self-actualized narcissist. The narcissistic gospel delivers the sinner, not from himself, but to himself; to the true him as God intended him to be.
"Keller rejects the literal nature of Hell’s fire by writing, 'Since
souls are in hell right now, without bodies, how could the fire be
literal, physical fire?'"
(David) This is part two of a four-part series reflecting on an article by Tim Keller titled, "The Importance of Hell." Part one of the series can be found here. Part three can be found here. Pastor Keller's original document is available here.
Earlier this year a document titled “The Importance of Hell” appeared on Redeemer Presbyterian Church Manhattan’s web site. Despite at first appearing a full-throated affirmation of classic Biblical teaching on Hell, the article by Redeemer senior pastor Tim Keller disappoints on a number of levels.
Keller initially—and rightly—emphasizes the importance of preaching and teaching on Hell. He writes:
“Why is this so extremely important to stress in our preaching and teaching today? The
idea of hell is implausible to people because they see it as unfair that infinite punishment would be meted out for comparably minor, finite false steps (like not embracing Christianity.) Also, almost no one knows anyone (including themselves) that seem to be bad enough to merit hell. But the Biblical teaching on hell answers both of these objections.”
"In Keller’s description of man’s descent into sin and Hell, God stands
like the prodigal's father offering a life filled with love, joy, peace,
happiness, wholeness and human flourishing, but His children sin by
rejecting His proffered gifts to go their own way. In other words, man
(David) This is the third installment in a four-part series reviewing an
article on Hell by Tim Keller titled, "The
Importance of Hell." Here are parts one
and two of this review.
The most troubling section of Tim Keller’s essay on “The Importance of Hell” is the third section, which begins with the statement, “(Hell) is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.”
Having previously sought to define the nature and character of suffering in Hell, here Keller demonstrates how Hell should be preached to be understood as reasonable by postmodern man.
There is, of course, a great deal of truth in his initial statement about the danger of living for self. Selfishness is a deep evil, a sin Christ reveals as characteristic of those who will spend eternity in Hell by warning His disciples that on the day of judgment the King will consign to eternal fire those who saw Him hungry and yet, “gave Me nothing to eat,” thirsty and yet, “gave Me nothing to drink… a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” (Matthew 25:42, 43)
But in the hands of Pastor Keller, the sin of “living life for yourself” becomes even more of an offense than the characteristic sin of the damned that Christ portrays it as:
And it will be, like people, like priest... (Hosea 4:9b)
"A feminized Christianity may work to attract a certain type of man, but
he’s probably not the man you want around when the local Imam starts
practicing taqiyya on your congregation."
(Tim, w/thanks to Tim R.) Here's an article about the effeminacy of the Christian church, today. The piece approaches the crisis by noting the attractiveness of Islam to real men, making the point that a re-masculinized Christianity is necessary to hold off the forces of Islamic jihad. But if faith in Jesus is for this life only, we are of all men most foolish. We love, worship, and trust Jesus, not because it's useful, but because we fear the Holy God and know our sin, we dread Hell's worms and fire, and we ache for Heaven's joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. And yet...
Reformed men and women need to understand how focused the PCA is on gussying herself up for this effeminate age. As a denomination, we are all about perfect pitch rather than men making music to our God Who is a consuming fire. No Delta blues for us; it's all Julliard, violins, pianos, and maybe the occasional acoustic guitar or mandolin just to keep the audience off-balance. As with music, so with preaching: we allow no danger and take no risk. After all, women don't like danger. It could hurt their child.
But men? Real men don't wake up until they see why they're needed. And that need usually has something to do with danger--bullets, grenades, bombs, sexual predators, heresy, the wrath of God, death, and Hell.
But what have wedonetoHell? We've turned it into the Narcissists' heaven. It's man getting himself forever, and what's not to like about that? No scared children. No women having hissy-fits over spiders hanging over the crackling fire. No worms eating a carcass. Just me, myself, and I forever...
"Keller would seem to want to salvage some dignity for the man in hell,
saying that he has chosen from his first breath to his last that this
was where he wanted to be; and God, with a fatherly sigh, saying, 'OK,
if that’s really the way you want it, I can live with that.'"
This guest post is contributed by David DeBoor Canfield. David is a graduate of Covenant College, longtime elder in the PCA, teacher at ClearNote Pastors College, and elder of Church of the Good Shepherd.
Tim Keller’s article, "The Importance of Hell," seems to have a good motivation. It is a theodicy (defense of God), and theodicies have their place: Moses appealed to God on such a basis when he mediated for his people in Exodus 32. But theodicy works only if it is based on sound biblical principles. Despite its frequent appeal to Scripture, Keller's article fails in this regard, being such a conflation of truth and error that it almost requires a theologian to sort out the one from the other. He seems utterly incapable of realizing that the very Scriptures he cites often propel one logically to a conclusion diametrically opposed to the one he reaches.
by David and Tim Bayly on August 12, 2010 - 8:08am
(Tim, w/thanks to Taylor) Vladimir
Ladyzhenskiy is dead. It had come down to the final at the World
Sauna Championships in Heinola, Finland, last Saturday, and he placed second. But they couldn't give him his prize.
Seconds before he died Ladyzhenskiy was still competing, giving a thumbs up to the medics watching through a window (along with a thousand spectators). The sauna was above boiling--230 degrees fahrenheit, to be exact--but neither
Ladyzhenskiy nor five-time champion Timo Kaukonen were willing to lose. The other finalists exited around three minutes and Kaukonen had just three minutes more to wait until
Ladyzhenskiy's death crowned him the six-time champion.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 29, 2010 - 8:32am
(Tim) In his post below, David is right. We shepherds often sin by healing the sin of the souls under our watch-care superficially. We commend the grace of God without condemning sin. We drone on about forgiveness and never mention repentance. Luther saw the same thing among the shepherds of his day:
In regard to doctrine we observe especially this defect that, while some preach about the faith by which we are to be justified, it is still not clearly enough explained how one shall attain to this faith, and almost all omit one aspect of the Christian faith without which no one can understand what faith is or means. For Christ says in the last chapter of Luke 24:47 that we are to preach in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Many now talk only about the forgiveness of sins and say little or nothing about repentance.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 26, 2011 - 9:08am
Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:43,44).
(Jesus said) "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:42-44).
(Jesus said) "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
(Tim) We've warned against Rob Bell before here and here. That second link is a post titled, "Just one more savage wolf..." alluding to this warning to the Ephesian elders by the Apostle Paul:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)
If possible, that savage wolf, Rob Bell, becomes bolder in his wickedness. Watch this video:
by David and Tim Bayly on February 28, 2011 - 10:26am
(Tim, w/thanks to Random Thoughts) You could spend all day posting proofs of Rob Bell's wickedness. Without swallowing my time or yours, here's Rob on the extent of the Atonement and the nature of Hell:
Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. Ours or God's. (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.146)
(Tim, w/thanks to Mick) The Gray Lady reports on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell's forthcoming book attacking the Bible's teaching on Hell:
Judging from an advance copy, (Bell's) 200-page book is unlikely to assuage Mr. Bell’s critics. In an elliptical style, he throws out probing questions about traditional biblical interpretations, mixing real-life stories with scripture. Much of the book is a sometimes obscure discussion of the meaning of heaven and hell that tears away at the standard ideas.
Then we have this expert witness aiding and abetting the enemy:
(Tim) Some time ago, I panned another bad book from Inter-Varsity Press--this one on sexuality. Yesterday, the author of the book commented here on Baylyblog saying she wanted to know what our readers thought of her book itself rather than its pre-publication press release.
Rob Bell's followers have whined about people coming to a judgment against Bell's heresies based on his pre-publication video clip, but this is crazymaking. Here's my response to the IVP author and it works with Rob Bell's video ad for Love Wins:
Authors control their book's pre-publication press releases (and video ads), as they also control their bios. Your press release was meant to get people to read your book, but it backfired--with us at least. When the release backfires and is a negative incentive, you did your job well. You told people what your book was about and where it stood and they made an informed decision that they would not send you royalty money and not waste valuable time reading...
by David and Tim Bayly on March 17, 2011 - 10:06am
(Tim: For days now, I've received more recommendations of this video clip than I can count. Thanks to all of you. In a little while I'll post more on it, but first this. NOTE: This post has been changed to correct my error in saying Pastor Bill Hybels went to Wheaton College. His mentor has been now-retired Wheaton Bible Prof. Gilbert Bilezikian, but that relationship began when Bilezikian was teaching at Trinity College--not Wheaton.)
On MSNBC, Martin Bashir does the nasty job the elders of Mars Hill Church apparently can't summon the courage or insight for. He takes Pastor Rob Bell by the scruff of the neck and peels his adverbs off his verbs and nouns long enough to expose the deceptions that make him so much money. Bell's nothing more than a peddler of emotive words and idolatrous images, but many are fooled. His toxins go down smoothly and Baylyblog's warned readers against this hireling time after time.
Pastor Bell's the product of Wheaton College. Take a look at the job Wheaton didn't. Or maybe did?
When I first entered the ministry, there was another gifted prophet prophesying against the parts of historic Christian faith he judged old and in the way. His name was Bill Hybels and he studied under Gilbert Bilezikian at Trinity College (now Trinity International University) just prior to Bilezikian moving to Wheaton's Bible Department. Christianity Today fawned over Pastor Hybels, too, and my church mailbox was filled with offers to "Rev. Timothy Bayly" promising if I sent my money to one of Pastor Hybels' corporate enterprises, some of his churchly success might rub off on my ministry. Then maybe I could afford a similar campus, staff, hairdo, glasses, and jet. Think of it--my own private jet! Then I could pick up and minister internationally. Maybe even galactically!
(Tim, w/thanks to Tenile: One blogger produced a very, very rough transcript of Martin Bashir interviewing Rob Bell and I asked Tenile Victorsen if she'd give us a good one. Here it is. If you find an error, please let us know and we'll correct it. Interspersed in the text are a few comments of my own in black text between brackets, italicized.)
Bashir: One mega church pastor has ignited a theological firestorm by suggesting that our response to the Christian message in this life will not necessarily determine our eternal destiny. In his book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Rob Bell says that ultimately all people will be saved, even those who’ve rejected the claims of Christianity. He argues people will eventually be persuaded by God’s love, postmortem, in the life to come.[Note how straighforward Bashir is stating Bell's thesis. As we enter the murkiness of Bell's words, we must remind ourselves of this straighforward warning from God: "...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27)]Pastor Rob Bell joins us now. Good afternoon, sir. Before we come to talk about the book, just help us with this tragedy in Japan. Which of these is true? Either God is all-powerful but he doesn’t care about the people of Japan and, therefore, they’re suffering, or he does care about the people of Japan but he’s not all-powerful? Which one is it?[Do we really have to choose between these two, Mr. Bashir?]
Bell: I begin with the belief [Let the listener understand he means no offense to those with a different belief.] that God--when we shed a tear, God sheds a tear.[Hallmark card sentiment, but the scale of the senitment doesn't match the scale of the horror. Pastor Bell trivializes the massive death and destruction of the earthquakes and tsunamis, or the terrible suffering of the Japanese people. Just one tear? Whole cities destroyed and "a tear" for Pastor Bell and "a tear" for God?]So I begin with a divine being[Speaking to the Areopagus surrounded by the pantheon of gods, the Apostle Paul declares: “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth..." (Acts 17:24). Speaking to the world today in the midst of our pantheon of gods, Pastor Bell can't even bring himself to use the definite article to refer to his god. It's not "the God Who is there" but "a divine being."]who is profoundly [Adverbs weaken arguments but strengthen sentiment. Pastor Bell adores adverbs.] empathetic, compassionate and stands in solidarity with us.[Actually, God stands in solidarity only with those who, by faith, are "in Christ" and His Church. Concerning all others, the ax is at the root. Thus note how, by leaving "us" undefined, Pastor Bell denies the distinction between the Church and the world. This denial of distinctions is central to his false prophecies and is a defining prejudice of post-moderns--Pastor Bell's target audience.]Secondly, the dominant story[To speak of the work of redemption recorded in Scripture as a "story" reminds me of what everyone said when the planes took down the World Trade Center on 9/11: "It was just like the movies." The false images of movies helped our mind's eye to see...
(June 2--Please note that TypePad only displays the first hundred comments on a post by default. Comments past 100 can be displayed by clicking the "More Comments" link at the bottom of the 100th comment.)
Is Federal Vision theology (FV) worthy of the intense opposition Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) conservatives dignify it with? I suspect not. For a number of reasons, I suspect such opposition to FV theology in the PCA is a sign of conservative weakness rather than strength; opportunism rather than courage. But first a bit of history.
Four years ago when FV was first dealt with by the PCA at her 2007 General Assembly (GA), conservatives rallied in support of a report condemning aspects of FV theology. The report was adopted and trials of Federal Vision supporters followed, the latest of which is the upcoming trial of Peter Leithart in Pacific Northwest Presbytery. It would appear, then, that the PCA is dutifully reforming herself and the cleanup is mostly finished.
But perhaps as noteworthy as what happened within the PCA at the 2007 GA and following is what did not happen. To understand this, we must consider a pair of strange couplings that took place that year.
The 2007 General Assembly was notable, not only for its debate and subsequent vote on the FV report, but also for several mésalliances forged in the lead-up to that vote. On one side, the middle-aged lions of the Keller/Redeemer/hipster/missional party provided some support for the FV camp. On the other side, the old lions of the southern/tall-steeple/rich/broadly Reformed party provided some support for the Truly Reformed (TR) conservatives of the PCA.
When the heat of battle passed, though, both the hipster middle-aged lions and the rich old lions woke up to strange bedfellows. Neither alliance could last. Redeemer hipsters...
A brother in Christ forwarded this letter he'd just sent to Pastor Kevin DeYoung responding to DeYoung's review of Rob Bell's recent book attacking the Biblical doctrine of Hell. It was an encouragment to me and the brother gave me permission to post in here for your encouragment, also. As far as I know, Pastor DeYoung has not responded. (TB)
by David and Tim Bayly on September 19, 2011 - 7:53am
A few days ago, Tim Keller used his own Gospel Coalition blog to issue an apology for this very bad interview he did back in 2008 in conjunction with the release of his The Reason for God. The matter came to light only now because the video of the interview was only just released by Veritas Forum. Keller's apology is good in that apologies generally are; but it's bad in that some aspects of the interview that are most unfaithful to Scripture aren't addressed by the apology.
Noting this, I submitted a comment under the Gospel Coalition's announcement of the apology. The comment appeared for a few minutes, then was removed. Five days ago I submitted a request to the Coalition's e-mail asking them to...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 7, 2011 - 5:32am
Here's a comment just left under an older post critiquing Tim Keller's sashaying around the Biblical doctrine of Hell. I'd be grateful if a couple of you good readers would help lead this brother back to the green pastures where sheep may safely graze. Time is short for the next couple of weeks as my brother and I work together on a writing project for which we'd ask your prayers.
I desperately want to keep my Christian faith, but the doctrine of hell is so disturbing! I just don't see how I could ever really believe that some of the people I see every day might have to endure some form of eternal torment. It doesn't seem like there's any way to reason with this kind of a doctrine. It is just so wrong, so revolting. . . and yet, the bible is so clear about it:"eternal fire." I think that we don't know how bad hell's going to be, but we just have to trust God that it will be just punishment. This is not very easy for me to do. . .
If you're willing to respond, please do so here under this post.