Thoughts on Rob Bell and the Controversy Surrounding His Yet-To-Be-Released Book

If you have no idea what is going on, read this.

The post that started it all is here.

If you are clueless on who Rob Bell is, go here.

Update: Here is a really interesting post on Rob.

1. I have never read a Rob Bell book. And have never wanted to till now.

2. I have however prejudged a book of his before and then been found to be wrong.

3. It will not commend the gospel of grace to anyone who does not believe the gospel (or who you might think is in error), to denounce a book and it’s author before it has been released. The young people we keep saying we are worried about will not take us and our concerns seriously. Only the ones who agree with orthodox views on hell will listen. And retweet.

4. Rob Bell may be a universalist. Or he may just not be all that on clear on purpose.

5. John Stott is an annihilationist. Lewis believed in Purgatory. Would we be nicer to Bell for these beliefs?

6. I love John Piper but his ‘farewell’ tweet to Rob Bell was poorly done.

7. Harper Collins Wins.

8. The Synod of Dort took 6 months, the council of Nicea at least two months. Not sure if 6 days is enough.

9. If I had to make a prediction, I think this will end up being a non-issue when the book comes out. The worried one will not see a crystal clear declaration and the fans of Bell will keep on being fans. Again, all it would have taken to get a listen from those who do not already agree with them, would be for the Calvinist bloggers to wait till the book comes and and be able to say, “I have read it, this is what I think.” But now? Impossible.

10. I’m hoping the Publisher sends me a free copy. If I have to wait I may forget about this by the time it comes out. (Just heard from publisher and I should get a copy soon.)

Friday’s Random Thoughts

1. I may or may not tap my foot when my wife is listening to Taylor Swift.

2. I sent in a request to get a refund for the new Radiohead album. I told them I downloaded the wrong album…I downloaded an electronica album by mistake. I will keep you all up to date on that.

3. I have now read in two different places about bacon-wrapped dates. Both times I picture me going to my wife’s old apartment to pick her up and she’s wrapped in bacon. And then I just wish the kids were staying at my parents.

4. These random thoughts are effortless but get a heck of a lot of hits. Maybe I should stop writing and start thinking.

5. Tired of cool. Want beautiful. Like my daughter.

6. There are not many things more enjoyable than watching a 4-6-3 on a spring day.

7. Since Libya still remains on the UN Human Rights Panel perhaps my dreams of working with Michelle Obama on her nutrition task force are still viable.

8. Ask yourself this, “If the new radiohead were released by a new band without a cult following, would I like it”?

9. Advice to young bloggers: More questions. Less answers. More about what you are learning. Less about what others should learn.

10. So this is the new movement? I wondered what would be next.

Update: Due to some unflattering comments (one which I deleted…Dave, my mom reads this blog) I want to be clear that I’m not entirely cynical on this blog. In this edition of Random Thoughts I affirm the musical stylings of Taylor Swift, my wife, bacon, dates with my wife, my wife wrapped in bacon, random thoughts posts, baseball season, spring and my daughter.

But I am also not Pollyanna about the promises made to young men about movements and what they might produce. I am cynical about these things and would ask you to at least think long and hard about them. 

And be nice on my blog…I’ve never begged anyone to read it. Wait, there was that one time…

Wednesday’s Random Thoughts

1. For teacher appreciation day, the parents gave me buffalo wings.

2. Can’t get enough of The Wailin’ Jennys.

3. The new Radiohead album is terrible. In other words, the Emperor has no clothes.

4. I am weary of brash, angry, young pastors and I’m thirsty for men with quiet wisdom.

5. Baseball season.

6. I thought about buying one of those cheesy bumper stickers at the local Christian bookstore but then I thought, “Why would I do that when I can say it on Twitter and facebook?!”

7. Not sleeping well. I blame the Republicans for keeping their campaign promises of fiscal responsibility.

8. Birmingham is a great city.

9. Check out this great app for the iPhone from my alma mater, Covenant Seminary.

10. Stop. It is finished.

Update: In an unprecedented and sure to be controversial albeit historic move, I have been compelled by thoughtful critique to add an 11th thought regarding our favorite food group here at SFN.

11. My almost-two-year-old, Dylan will not eat anything…except bacon. ‘atta boy Dylan. ‘atta boy.

Midweek Music: The Wailin’ Jennys

Having heard of The Wailin Jennys my first thought was it would be impossible for their music to live up to such an amazing name for a group. But this past Saturday night, we were over at a friend’ house and I noticed the music playing. I was told it was a Pandora station. I looked to see what singer/band it was based on and it was The Wailin’ Jennys.

So I made my own station on Sunday. Every time I heard an incredible song and checked to see who it was, it was the Wailin’ Jennys. I am now hooked on their music. It’s lush, beautiful music for those who like Patty Griffin, Alison Krauss, The Be Good Tanyas and The Peasall Sisters.

The first video is a behind the scenes look at the making of their newest album:

The second is one I cannot get out of my head. Even on amateur video it sounds gorgeous.

A Non-Review of Eugene Peterson’s Memoir, The Pastor

…I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life:the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives – these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops and comes to birth is unique to each pastor. – Peterson

Hand-cuffed. I don’t even know how to write a review of this book. A review is what you write when it isn’t personal. A review is what you do for books. The Pastor is far more than a book. You need to understand that Eugene Peterson saved my vocational soul just over a year ago. And since that time I have been pointing people – especially pastors – to his books. Especially young pastors. So how about a non-review?

Maybe the evangelical world has been a circus for a long time. But I didn’t notice. I didn’t notice all the center rings, high-trapeze acts and dancing bears. And the unspeakable horror of then realizing you not only paid for a ticket but got paid to take part. You walk out of the arena with sticky soles under you, past the sideshows and into clean air but you have no idea if you should go back in. Who will help you now? Is the insanity the only choice? Is there a voice of sanity in this wilderness?

I remember lying in my bed. The weight of being a pastor was on me and I wanted it off. I knew I needed some help. Maybe circus is the wrong way to describe what is happening in America. For I was surrounded…hemmed in by managers and CEOs, shopkeepers and PR men and women. Marketing analysts and door-to-door salesman of religious goods were everywhere. But I needed a pastor. Lying there, I would’ve said, “I need a wise old sage.” The need was for sanity…Spirit-given sobriety in a religious subculture drunk on the cause célèbre. I needed gray hairs, wrinkles and the experience of someone outside the world I had found myself in. The need was not for all the right answers but good questions. I needed the wisdom of ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’

And then, like gifts, memories. Memories of a professor assigning one of Peterson’s books for pastors – which I never really ‘read.’ A friend – a fellow pastor – recommending another. And a frozen scene of someone else reading one, the title of which burned in my memory.

So I began reading his books, swallowing them whole sometimes and sipping from them at others. For all of last year. Each was a well-written refuge from the chaos. Every thesis leaving its mark.

Again, sanity.

So when I found out he was releasing his memoirs, I was elated. Do you remember when you were a kid and you kept going back to the same page in the toy section of the Sears Wish Book over and over, reading the description, looking at that toy, the one you wanted more than any other. That is how it was with the description page for The Pastor. And then I got my copy from the publisher. It was late in the afternoon. Too late to start, I waited till the morning. A few days later I was finished. My wife asked me if I was sad. “No, I will begin again tomorrow morning.”

Reading a memoir of Eugene Peterson is as reading in another world. A world bereft of ‘how’ but full to bursting of ‘what.’ A world without pretension, devoid of formulas. A tome of sober reflection. No romantic vistas of pastoral success. No cheerleading.

Peterson’s vision of the pastorate, as dictated by the scriptures, stands athwart the ideal American pastor. Patience over results. The ordinary over the celebrated. People over programs. Dignity over function. Leisurely spiritual direction over ministerial busyness. Prayer over a PR campaign. The even-keeled over the events. It really would be impossible to document how differently he thinks than the current zeitgeist on the definition of pastoral integrity.

Almost everyone knows him as the author of The Message. For this he is loved and hated. But Peterson was a church-planter before it was cool to be so. He was thinking and living through methodology and theology and those inevitable emotionally lean years long before most of today’s church planters were born. He was thinking about the dangers of a consumer driven religious atmosphere raising the banner of relevance before we had a category for such.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a cheerful book. It’s just not full of the saccharine sentimentality or the gritty (edgy?) cynicism we have come to expect from so many famous ministry leaders. Smiles stretch across the pages. Contented belief pervades every chapter. Bound together by the common thread of the work of Christ for sinners – the message once delivered for all the saints sits fixed like an anchor between the covers.

Chronology holds no sway over Peterson’s account of his life as a pastor. Poetry does. He moves like a poet through his experiences and insights. His love of words and their sanctity – not just utility – is witnessed in how every word counts. He has no interest in just relating stories for us to learn from. He, as the Pastor, is glorying in them as memories enlivened through words.

But there is a lot to learn.

I Have An Idea For A TV Show

Repost from old blog:

I have an idea for a TV show.

It would be about young women; beautiful women. And they will each vie for the affections of one guy. They will lie, cheat, steal and cry to get what they want. Him. The show will regularly feature them in revealing clothing. The guy will also be a liar just to up the drama factor. And there will lots of kissing. Lots of it. He will have to kiss every girl, you know, to try them on for size. In other words he will be test-driving them. But I would have to be careful to make the guy seem at once desirable and also reprehensible. Or he could be mainly one or the other as long as female viewers can see the potential for the opposite.

The show will be a hit mainly because we are taking so many women’s secret desires and giving them a cathartic release. The irony, of course is that if they were treated this way in real life – you know, with no self-respect – they would be furious. Pretty funny, huh? Yep, I will be laughing all the way to bank.

You wanna know the kicker? This show will even illicit the regular patronage of those who espouse traditional values! You want to know why? Because it’s only for a little fun with the girls. And fun is what matters the most. There is no small niche for this kinda thing. It’s gonna be huge. Women will pull for particular girls – imagine this, we will try to put at least one “good girl” on their each season – the ideas are flowing now – and the ‘good girls out there will pull for her. What if she gives in, you ask? All the better, ratings will soar as the women judge her between laughs and looks of incredulity.

I wonder if there would be a market for one with one girl and lots of guys…I’m gonna be filthy rich.

Alternate Names for the New Radiohead Album

I like Radiohead. Really, I do. But I can’t be the only one who thinks something is amiss in the new album. Critics schmitics. It’s just plain weird. Just because people keep saying ‘genius’ over and over again will not magically make it so. Is the album interesting? Well, yeah. But so is the waterless toilet at the new library. I’ll probably listen to it a few more times just to be sure… but I’m not holding out any hope.


2. Songs That Make You Wish You Were Listening to Justin Bieber

3. For Critics

4. Wait…What?

5. 8 Pseudo-Songs You Paid 9 For

6. And You Thought the Cover Was Weird

7. Melody Schmelody

8. The Emperor Has No Clothes

9. Pulling The Wool Over

10. The New Ivory Tower

Do you have any other suggestions for a title? Leave ’em in the comments.

Do you like it? Why? And ‘because it is Radiohead’ is not a valid answer. 😉

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. I have low expectations for every Radiohead new release. It’s easier that way.

2. I have a number of evangelical blogs in my Google Reader. They all talk about sex way more than any show I watch or ‘secular’ blog I read.

3. I’m astonished at how much I still like watching clips from The Simpsons. I wish there was a blog which posted a clip each day from the show.

4. Velveeta is one those contributions to our culture for which I could never thank its developer enough.

5. Wait, where’s the rest of the album?

6. You know how when you are unlocking a car door while the person outside is trying to open it, the door is unlocked but the person can’t open it? It’s 2011. This should be a problem of the past.

7. I wonder if the guitarist from Radiohead ever thinks, “Man, I really miss the old days when I got to play.”

8. The spreading protests of public school teachers is but the death rattle of a failed way of providing education.

9. A liberal’s desire to compel Americans to pay for public broadcasting is illiberal.

10. I would like the new Radiohead album more if it were OK Computer.

An Imagination of the Present

When your reading C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson, certain ideas and paradigms, once unfamiliar, begin to shape the way you think and feel about…well, everything. One, shared between them is beginning to take root. What will grow is yet to be determined.

Imagination is the kind of thing we want to cultivate in children but find very little active need for as an adult. For children, it is needed. For adults and those preparing to join their ranks, it is an abstraction for those given to distraction. But in the minds of Lewis and Peterson – where I live these days – imagination is part of the Christian life.

It got me thinking. And asking questions I had never asked before – such as, “Do I have a imagination shaped by my faith?” And, “How does my imagination, as a pastor and teacher, help me in my role as a pastor and teacher?” It was difficult thinking about these questions because they were so foreign. A very different paradigm.

I can easily imagine about the future. The future of the church. The future of a struggling saint. The future of a young student moving toward adulthood. The future is an easy dream. My guess is this comes from being conditioned to see people as problems to be fixed. You look at them and see their problem and you imagine the picture of their problem fixed. Imagining the future version of a sanctified church member with problem fixed is really so easy, there is no work involved.

The difficulty is having an imagination of the present. The tendency is to look at people and evaluate them on what you know, what you see and hear from them. And of them. Unlike my children who look at the copse on the edge of property and see a vast forest and can imagine stormtroopers and ‘bad guys’ needing to be fought with plastic guns and light sabers, I only deal with what is seen. The difference being I should know better.

My children imagine a fiction. I should be able to imagine a present reality. A reality of God’s unseen work by the Spirit. And the principalities we ignore. Emotions and facts, dreams and fears should be taken for granted, even though we have no knowledge of them. And the contours of such a life – the life we all lead – should give rise to a pastoral imagination. You could also call it a biblical imagination as Peterson does. One formed by Romans 3 and 7, the polarities expressed in the Psalms and the complex picture of sadness of Ecclesiastes. Did not the gruesomeness of the cross demand an imagination of victory? Simul iustus et peccator demands an imagination.

No one is off the hook in this. But for pastors it must be especially incumbent. It is far too easy to look at a congregation and be discouraged. Every pastor has this temptation. But biblical imaginations formed by grace demand we look at what we cannot see…imaginatively taking in all the information knowing the God of grace is working in places we cannot always diagnose.