Monday, April 16, 2007

Velvet Theology

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell writes:

"And when Jesus died on the cross he died for everybody.
Everybody.
Everywhere.
Every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every people group.
Jesus said that when he was lifted up, he would draw all people to himself.
All people. Everywhere.
Everybody's sins on the cross with Jesus . . . forgiveness is true for everybody.
And this reality extends beyond this life.
Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is forgiven people.
Heaven is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, who 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."

Responding to this, pastor Phil Ryken says the following: "
I wonder, though, if all the people in hell are forgiven, why are they damned? Bell is promoting the love of God at the expense of his justice, giving us a God of unjust love rather than a God of crucified love and holy justice. This is velvet theology indeed: soft and cushy, and at the same time garish in its caricature of the character of God" (original post found here).

This is becoming increasingly popular in evangelical circles today, to emphasize the love of God at the expense of all the other attributes of God. However, many people do not know that this was and is the essence of theological liberalism. The result is the rejection of any Biblical/theological theme that does not fit into this system. This could be eternal conscious torment in hell, the wrath of God, the holiness of God, a misunderstanding of the biblical doctrine of repentance, and an embrace of forms of self-esteem combined with antinomianism (which can be defined as "an ethical system that denies the binding nature of any supposedly absolute or external laws on individual behaviour" - IVP Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms). Liberalism can be summarized by this statement:

"A God without wrath
brought men without sin
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

[H. Richard Niebuhr (d. 1962), describing theological liberalism in
Kingdom of God in America (1937), p. 193. (Thanks to Justin Taylor for this quote).]

May God help us to be faithful to Scripture even when it causes people to dislike us, to hate us, or to persecute us. This is the essence of love: to suffer for the other person's benefit. This is what Jesus did; may we imitate him in this. Amen.

6 comments:

Tom said...

I had the privilege of preaching a two-part message on the doctrine of limited atonement (I prefer "particular" or "definite" atonement as a term), over the past month. This is part of a series our church is doing on the doctrines of grace.

It is amazing the contortions even some evangelicals will adopt to try to avoid this teaching. Some desire to defend God (!) against charges of injustice, of being unfair. Some refuse to give up on ideas of libertarian free will, that each individual sovereign decides their own fate. Either way, it is less than robust, biblical gospel.

I, for one, will glory and exult in the sacrifice of Christ which not only really, truly paid for my sins, but also purchased the grace that brought me to repentance and to faith. It's all HIS work, and my only contribution was the sin and folly that required forgiveness in the first case.

Lydia said...

Amen, nick hill. This was a great post. So often, evangelical circles forget that grace and truth are inextricably linked. This was a great reminder.

Nick Hill said...

Tom, I like what you say here: "I, for one, will glory and exult in the sacrifice of Christ which not only really, truly paid for my sins, but also purchased the grace that brought me to repentance and to faith. It's all HIS work, and my only contribution was the sin and folly that required forgiveness in the first case."

I love your heart, your gentle caring spirit, your love for your family, your love for God's Word, and your desire to worship God and honour God in all things. You are a real gift and I am thankful for your friendship. It was great to meet with you for coffee today! Your brother,

Nick

Nick Hill said...

Lydia,

May your tribe increase!

Nick

Michael Krahn said...

Hey,

I love the blog title! And there are people here who are not afraid to use the word "doctrine" - I like that.

I just put up a couple more parts of my review of Rob's "Velvet Elvis" at http://ascenttotruth.blogspot.com/

Join me there to discuss. I'm interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the book.

Nick Hill said...

Michael,

Thanks. Looking forward to further discussion,

Nick