Monday, November 14, 2011

Ember Monday

Last night at Ember we continued our series on Titus, called Further the Faith. I spoke out of Titus 1:10-16, and the message was called Black Hat. (I'll upload the message later today.) The basic idea of the sermon was that anyone who adds anything to the Gospel wears a black hat--is a bad guy. Paul charged Titus to "silence" the group of people who were disrupting the churches on Crete by preaching a false gospel. They were "Judaizers" who demanded that Gentiles convert fully into Judaism in order to be saved.

I asked some tough questions in the sermon like: "Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution? Can you be a Christian and not believe in hell? Can you be a Christian and be gay?" These are difficult questions because they challenge our understanding of the Gospel, and quite possibly reveal some of the things that we have added onto the Gospel, like certain doctrinal, religious, or behavioral tests.

Then I dropped a bomb on the church when I mentioned that I don't believe in the rapture. This can be hard to hear from your pastor, I know. I'll try to clarify and summarize my position on the rapture later, but for now, you can go here to see everything I've written on it. I apologize for any extra snark in those posts. I was a jerk before I became a pastor. ...Was...

The music team has been slowly but surely adding new voices and talents into the mix, and last night was the first time that Evan Staggs joined the team. Yay, Evan! It was also the first time that Garth was not on stage, so of course he was running the sound board. The response time was really powerful, for me anyway. Heather Noble did a fantastic job of leading us in a slow, but powerful, version of Jesus Paid It All. I know I say this a lot, but I really, really love the music at Ember.

I also love the ideas that people bring to the table. When the band was rehearsing, they mentioned that Charlie could play Taps in honor of Veteran's Day. I hadn't even thought about doing anything for Veteran's Day, but they convinced me it would not only be awesome, but appropriate. So Charlie went into the back hallway at the start of the service, we closed the sanctuary doors, and he played a moving rendition of Taps. I love my church. Sunday nights are my favorite time of the week. Come join us next Sunday at 5!


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

I'm not sure how it's possible to be a Christian and not believe in hell. Could you explain? If a Christian does not believe in hell, wouldn't that just make him a universalist? Wouldn't that be rejecting that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Additionally, without God's wrath (and hell), I don't see how the cross makes sense. Without divine justice, we don't need Jesus' death. And without that belief and understanding of why Jesus had to die for us, how is one a Christian? I realize that there are several secondary issues in the church and that Christians can agree to disagree on certain issues (ex. evolution, as you posed), but I don't see how hell is one of them.

Perhaps you were posing the question with the answer being "You can't be a Christian and not believe in hell," but judging from the context of the question, I assume that the answer is that you can-- and that modern-day Christians have added this requirement to Christianity. Could you please explain what you meant? And going off that, how does your statement relate to Rob Bell's "Love Wins?"

andy said...

Great questions! The big picture is that Jesus, and only Jesus, is the way (John 14) and the gate (John 10). Only Jesus is able to make us enter into God's family, and he is all that is required. There is no other gate--for example, belief in the rapture. Now, there are certain assumptions made by the Gospel (the Trinity, for example) that we must also believe, but I think those are fewer than we normally imagine. Is hell one of those? It certainly could be, but I don't know. Judgment of sin is clearly a part of the Gospel, but does judgment necessitate hell?

There are those who believe that God will somehow save everyone through the atoning work of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. This is called Christian universalism, and there is some Scriptural support for this position (though I'm not convinced by it). This is where Rob Bell falls with Love Wins. Christian universalists, and Rob Bell, are different from relativists, or even pluralists because they still maintain that Jesus is the only way to the Father, but they would add that there are many ways to Jesus, and that it's possible the Father will give you infinite chances to repent in the afterlife. In that sense you don't lose divine justice because sin still needed to be atoned for, you just gain multiple access points and times to that atonement. Does that make sense?

In my opinion, that position is fundamentally flawed, but I don't think it's so deeply heretical that it would call your salvation into question. I think that you can be a Christian (that is, be saved) and not believe in hell because I think you can accept the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-5) and still be wrong about other important things. I throw these questions out there because I think it's vital, according to the Scriptures, that we keep our Gospel pure.