Hope Diminishing…


I keep listening to Rob Bell in the hope that he will restore my faith and my confidence…

His podcasts were wearying for a while, but recently I started listening again as he began to adopt more of a sermonic approach to some of what he is saying, even to the point of having a biblical base for his thoughts. There’s no question Bell is at his best when he is preaching and communicating the Bible and lately he’s picked it up again.

His three latest podcasts, creatively titled God Part 1 God Part 2 and God Part 3 are all ‘based’ in scripture, and do offer some provocative and helpful insights, but they also speak more clearly to where Bell is locating himself now.

In his final session (Part 3) he uses two passages of scripture to make his point – Jacob’s dream, where he makes the point that God has ‘been there the whole time’ but Jacob just didn’t notice – ‘his consciousness hadn’t evolved’ to that point. Then he flips to Acts where Paul states ‘in him we live and move and have our being’, from which he concludes that we are all ‘in God’ and that God is best seen as the ‘connective tissue of the universe’. He goes on to argue that the trinity is the ultimate expression of this and that we are all ‘in’ God, but only some of us have been enlightened to this.

HIs first session was actually quite helpful when he deconstructed the myth of God being separate from the world – ‘above us’ or disconnected from us, but in his reconstruction he has well and truly embraced what we would call ‘panentheism‘, the belief that all is ‘in’ God.











The wiki def is this:

Panentheism (meaning “all-in-God”, from the Ancient Greekπᾶνpân, “all”, ἐνen, “in” and ΘεόςTheós, “God”), also known as Monistic Monotheism,[1] is a belief system which posits that the divine – whether as a singleGod, number ofgods, or other form of “cosmic animating force”[2] – interpenetrates every part of the universe and extends, timelessly (and, presumably, spacelessly) beyond it. Unlike pantheism, which holds that the divine and the universe are identical,[3]panentheism maintains a distinction between the divine and non-divine and the significance of both.[4]


I keep hoping he is saying things in such a way that ‘Ophra-ites’ will be able to understand, but I am increasingly coming to realise that he is now living in a different theological and philosophical space.

And I’d suggest his podcasts are best avoided by anyone without the ability to think theologically and do some rigorous discernment. There is such a subtle melding of biblical language and ‘teaching’ with new age bullshit that a newbie may well be unable to discern the flow of thinking and its implications. (I know you’re probably going to ask me ‘so what’s the problem with panentheism?’ and rather than regurgitate someone smarter than me’s thoughts you can read them here. )

I wouldn’t often use a word like ‘dangerous’ to describe someone, but I used this word the other night as I was explaining what I was hearing to Danelle. There is enough truth, combined with blazing communication skills to make him sound compelling and smarter than all the other people, but there are also clear and definite statements that locate him now in a place that is very different to where I would want my congregation to sit.

So – again – let’s not condemn the guy…

Seriously – that doesn’t help. But let’s be aware as we listen to him that he is operating now from a paradigm that is no longer within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and while some of us might have been around for long enough to be able to eat the fruit and spit out the pips that isn’t everyone’s forte.


Welcoming My Brother Jack

Some songs kick you in the guts.

Paul Colman’s ‘My Brother Jack’ is one I found myself listening to one day on Spotify and in an instant I was smashed – heart broken at a story that is all too common.

Colman tells the story of taking a non-Christian friend along for the ride with some of his Christian mates and their shock and horror at his choice of music. The conversation turns aggressive with Jack the victim.

The song is a reminder of how our sub-cultures form and sometimes become blinkered to the real people who they serve to exclude.

Colman nails this problem and the final line of the song sums up where its at for me. Listen to it and if it doesn’t disturb you then maybe you’re ‘in too deep’…


What is Discipleship Like?


Ok so discipleship and Ikea are two juxtaposed ideas…

But… if you have ever been to Ikea then you know that the people traffic is set up to go in one direction only, to guide you thru the tempting array of sterile and banal euro-furniture that is currently trendy.

All’s good so long as you follow the plan and keep moving with the crowd, but if you want to back track – if you want to shop ‘in the opposite direction’ then you inevitably find yourself bumping into people and weaving against the flow.

Its easy to flow with the crowd in the direction you are expected to go, but try challenging that and it becomes awkward and difficult. In Ikea you aren’t meant to move in a contrary direction… (you might not hit the cash register and buy stuff)

Its a snapshot of discipleship – choosing not to go with the flow, but to swim upstream and to move in a whole different direction. Jesus’ sermon on the mount is your guide here. You never leave the environment, but you choose to live differently within it.

If you do, expect the forces of society to try and constrain you back into the ‘right direction’, but also know that you don’t have to go…

You can walk right back out the door you came in thru and buy your stuff on Gumtree…

(Thanks to my mate Billy for the conversation over coffee this morning that percolated this thought)

Finding Our Way


As we have been working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians I found myself intrigued by that little phrase in Ch 2 ‘but we have the mind of Christ’…

What’s that mean and how does that shape us?

We dug into this a bit at QBC last week. This phrase is set in a chapter where Paul contrasts ‘worldly wisdom’ and ‘spiritual wisdom’, suggesting that we can view the world from two very different angles and that will obviously shape how we live.

So we began to talk about worldviews and the consequent journey to (or from) Christlikeness. My suggestion was that while we may think we work from a Christian worldview occasionally tainted by the world, it is more commonly the case that we work from a western worldview which only becomes ‘Christian’ if we intentionally challenge and dismantle ‘common wisdom’. We are primarily discipled by our culture and unless we are able to first recognise then and then challenge it we will always struggle to live lives that are aligned with Jesus.

We’re not that unlike ole mate Tony Abbott in that we say we subscribe to the Bible as our authority, but only when it suits our lifestyle. When the biblical worldview clashes with what we want to do we can give it the shove and do what we want anyway.

So – how do we live more Christlike lives? How do we intentionally work at shifting our worldview from secular western to biblical (albeit a ‘western’ expression)?

Last Sunday I offered 3 keys to that move. They aren’t intended to be exhaustive by any means, but more ‘simple and memorable’. As we embrace them we move towards Christ and the life he offers and as we choose not to practice these things we also move away from Christlikeness and back to pragmatic self serving.

So my suggestions for living more Christlike lives and shaping a more biblical worldview begins with:

1.Recognising our source of authority – realising that when we bow the knee to Jesus and call him Lord we are then allowing him to call the shots in our lives.

We can so easily become our own source of authority and in that we make what Paul would call ‘worldly wise’ decisions. Paul says if the world ‘got’ the type of wisdom we are speaking of then they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus, but when pragmatic self interest is at the root of our decision making then we end up doing what is expedient and self serving.

We’d probably wack him on a cross too because that works for us and makes our life easier. So the first step is acknowledging that there is such a thing as Godly/spiritual wisdom – that’s it found in the pages of the ‘book’ and that this is where our source of authority is derived from.

Take that block out of place and the rest doesn’t matter. Seriously – get authority wrong and nothing else is worth considering.

2. We become like Christ in Community – and when we are out of community we struggle. We are not intended to live the life of faith alone and our hope of becoming like Jesus only gains traction as we do it with other people. As Paul finishes this chapter he says ‘But we have the mind of Christ’.

And there are two ways to read that statement. You can read it like this – ‘we’ have the mind of Christ – every single one of us – we have the ability as individuals to discern what the spirit says to us – and there is truth in that.

Obviously we do that…

But I’d suggest there is more truth and stronger truth in saying ‘WE have the mind of Christ’ we – us – together – will discern the voice of the spirit and we will do that better together than me on my own.

If we believe what the Bible says about the heart being deceptively wicked and deceitful above all things then we know that we can fool ourselves into ‘hearing God’ approve of all sorts of things that we would like him to sign off on.

But try doing that around some people who really want to follow Jesus together and see what happens. This week I had a serious conflict with a tradesman who owes me money and today sent me 18 abusive texts. Internally I feel like going round there with a baseball bat… but if I put that as a serious suggestion to my close circle of friends in church they would probably help me return to my roots and consider a more Jesus like response…

When we follow Jesus together we offer our lives up for challenge and for response. We should expect push back at times. We don’t make fait accompli statements about what we will do contrary to what the scriptures teach and expect not to be challenged.

But if we are out of community then we put ourselves in a space where we have little by way of accountability and challenge.

We have the mind of Christ together.

3. Practicing Christian living – as we live more like Christ our worldview gets changed. As we accept a greater authority than ourselves and as we live in community we begin to behave differently. And as we actually do the stuff Jesus speaks of our worldview changes again.

Today as the abusive texts rolled in, I didn’t respond. (I thought of many clever things to say…) Part of that is because over the years I have learnt and practiced a more peaceful response to conflict. There was a day when I would have been ‘punching back’, but I guess a lot of practice over a long time has had an effect.

Its been said that ‘we are what we habitually do’, that our most regular practices give shape to our lives. That’s both encouraging and worrying… It means we can reshape our lives as we engage in the practice of new habits and as we choose to leave our old ways behind.

But it begins with a different vision of the world – a different sense of what is really going on and what matters.

I’m concerned that we see Christians getting ‘better’ at actually being the kind of people we claim to be, not in a legalistic way, but in an acceptance that the life we are called to live is going to be lived in a counter-cultural way, that we will not simply follow the script and do what’s expected.

But that will take a source of authority, a community of people to discern the ‘mind of Christ’ with and a resolve to practice new ways of being.