Redeemer has been going through Revelation and is actually now, finally sniffing the very end of the story of redemption. Our most recent passage and its sermon focus on the victory of Jesus in triumphal judgment, punishing the wicked by subjecting them all to a fiery place of torment. The Beast of the Sea (earthly governments) and The Beast of the Earth (false religions) may seem to triumph now, but the opposite will some day be their fate. Still today, it does seem the Beast of the Earth is plenty active here in America.
It's certainly an apropos sermon in light of a new book out by a controversial, but very popular pastor Rob Bell on Hell called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the fate of everyone who ever lived, where he allegedly questions whether Hell will have any folks in it. Apparently God's love is too great; this was the same thing my bible teacher tried to make us believe at Jesuit High School. By God's grace it didn't seem consistent with God then, and it still doesn't now.
Not that everything Bell has written is to be tossed, but we ought to be aware of some new stuff that appears to give folks a picture of Hell they've always wanted. Don't worry about it!
I'll check out his book in time, so for now, I'll just point to the spirit of a "judgmentless" Christ which folks really like fine quite unoffensive.
However, John Dominic Crossan's theology seems to me a super clear picture of someone in line with the Beast of the Earth. While Bell questions some important doctrine, the Irishmen Crossan goes a lot farther, denying the resurrection, and even the need for forgiveness. Check out this article to see someone who has one foot in academia but who tries to bring his message to the masses. CNN does a great job in being "fair and balanced" by not elevating Crossan as a hero or martyr, but also including another point of view from conservative New Testament scholar Ben Witherington.
Here a few snippets from that article and my takes:
"If you believe in a God that uses violence to "save" humanity, you'll start believing that violence is permissible in certain circumstances, such as suicide bombing or invading other countries to spread democracy, Crossan says."
The message of the cross and Revelation is just the opposite. God will be the one to finally bring justice. He paid for the sins of believers so we don't need to judge others. And he will make people who don't trust Jesus pay for their sins in Hell. Therefore we don't need to revolt, nor do we need to pass laws which put sinners to death. Unfortunately Crossan is right in that Christianity has been used as the motivation to invade and spread democracy. But that has been a misinterpretation and misapplication of the cross.
"When we started out, people thought we were out on the left wing," he says. "Now, I'm talking in about 30 churches a year. ... A lot of this is becoming mainstream."
Wow. Not good. Looks like Crossan and the Doobie Brothers are truly "taking it to the streets."