‘Has the world gone mad, or is it me?’ Reflections on still believing in conversion

I was talking to a group of friends recently about a project I hope you will hear a lot more of soon. One, who is a very successful evangelist, said in passing, ‘I met with another evangelist recently, and he started the conversation asking me if I still believed in conversion, because too many don’t!’

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More on God as Father: thinking about adoption

I’ve been mulling over a question Krish Kandiah asked me in relation to the excellent Home for Good project: why do we make so little theologically of our adoption as children of God? Krish pointed out the lack in worship songs, originally, but it strikes me that it is just not a big theme in any recent discussion of soteriology I know, and that this seems odd given its Biblical roots and the fact that it is just wonderful good news. Yesterday, driving between snowy mountains on my way to a ministers’ conference, I suddenly realised I had a plausible answer. There is a significant debate, or perhaps better a linked series of debates, over what it means to name God ‘Father’ in English-speaking Protestantism in the second half of the...

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The bare minimum gospel?

I’ve been involved in a discussion recently, connected to the excellent Evangelical Alliance Confidence in the Gospel campaign, which raised, amongst other issues, the question ‘what is essential to a gospel presentation?’ I understood the reason the question was on the table – are their certain things that, if they are not included, make an account of the Christian gospel simply inadequate – a ‘bare minimum gospel’? – and I sympathise with the concern: of course there are ways of calling people to faith that are so misleading, or just so anaemic, that they need to be criticised. That said, this way of presenting the question was one I struggled with. The good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ His Son, the...

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Rob Bell (insert stupidly large number here)

In chapter 5, ‘Dying to live,’ Bell turns to give an account of the atonement. He begins with a reflection on the ubiquity of the symbol of the cross, and the slogan, ‘Jesus died on the cross for your sins.’ (122) But what does that mean? Bell explores a ‘multiple metaphors’ view of the atonement, where different stories are told, which each hint at a part of the truth. It’s no secret that I think this is just the right way to approach atonement theology (see any of several publications on the theme); having tried to write a popular-level book on this theme it is humbling and irritating in equal parts to see someone who can really communicate have a go: Which perspective is the right one? Which metaphor is correct? Which explanation is true? The answer, of...

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Rob Bell, Love Wins 4

Chapter 1 of the book is entitled ‘What about the flat tire? [sic...]‘ It is an example of the  questioning methodology recommended in the preface: for twenty pages, Bell offers a stream-of-consciousness meander around questions concerning the accounts of how salvation is achieved, and what that says about God. The purpose of the chapter is unstated, and (to me) unclear; is Bell wanting to validate the questions he imagines his readers might come to the book with? Or is he wanting to disturb the reader who believes that she has all this sorted out on the basis of what she has learned of the historic Christian tradition? (Or perhaps both?) The first is a noble purpose: it is a service to your readers (or hearers) to say to them ‘it’s OK,...

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