I hate to tell you this (it’s a figure of speech), but many Christians believe things that not only don’t make sense, they have no real Biblical basis. For example, the Western world is way more influenced by Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno than we know. Many of the concepts that form our worldview are actually based on works of fiction; some are just superstitions and folk tales.
While I often have disagreements with Michael Patton on theological issues, I do appreciate him and his willingness to think about things. His article Folk Theology: Twenty Urban Legends in Theology is well worth reading. Here’s one example that will have great importance for some people and how they view their relationship with God:
12. God cannot exist in the presence of sin
This is not true. Yes, the Bible says that God’s holiness will not allow Him to approve of evil (Hab. 1:13). However, God can most certainly exist in the presence of sin. After all, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, doesn’t he? Satan presented himself to God, didn’t he (Job 1:6)? Furthermore, and most importantly, the Second member of the Trinity lived among us, didn’t he (John 1:14)?
So, check out the list.
If you’d like to get a preview of the first 40 pages or so, you can page through the beginning of the book at Google Books, which is quite a nice site; it’s like standing in a bookstore reading a few pages to see if you want to invest your hard-earned money in a copy.
In other news, a couple of Amazon’s associate stores are now offering the paperback copy at discounted prices (plus $3.99 shipping, of course)
I’m very happy to report that The Gospel Uncensored is now available for ordering (and if you are a Kindle user, it’s available for download today). I haven’t seen a copy yet myself, but don’t let that stop you from ordering!
Hardcover, softcover and Kindle versions are available through amazon.com. However, they don’t have any of the paper versions in stock, so it’s probably quicker to order these directly from westbowpress.com. I believe eventually it will also be available at bn.com (Barnes & Noble).
If you would like to order from Amazon, click the “I Recommend” button to the right, and I make an extra nickel or two (believe me, my cut isn’t that much…).
It would also be a wonderful thing if you were inclined to bring in the Westbow ordering info to your local bookstore and ask that they order it for you… you’d save shipping, and they may just order a couple of extra copies. And, please tell your pastors and friends about the book. Please?
I plan at some point to be able to offer other e-versions from this website, including Sony and iPad, and perhaps the Nook. I can’t promise when, though.
I am currently writing a study guide for The Gospel Uncensored to use either individually or for a group study, and will make that available here as a free download.
For those of you with iPhones, Droids or whatever have you, the blog should now appear on your mobile device appropriately formatted. Give it a shot, and let me know if you have any problems.
Westbow reported this morning that the book is apparently at the printers, awaiting activation, whatever that means. Within a few days, the book will be available for sale at both Amazon and BN.com (the Barnes & Noble online store).
And, soon I’ll even have the first book off the press, which I’ll have bronzed, or perhaps autograph it for myself. I should also be getting a few copies to sell personally. I’m considering selling some directly from this site, including some additional e-formats (a Kindle version will be available at Amazon) when I get that process figured out.
So, keep your eyes open (and your credit card ready) for the big announcement!
I was recently talking about my book with some dinner guests, and after hearing the title, one gentleman asked, “So what part of the Gospel has been censored?”
He asked a very perceptive question.
Typically when we think of something being censored, we think of something which has been hidden or removed, like bad words being bleeped out of TV broadcasts or black bars meant to erase words or parts of photographs which someone has deemed objectionable. Merriam-Webster defines censor as “to suppress or delete as objectionable.” This brings to mind the Jefferson Bible, in which Thomas Jefferson cut out the portions he didn’t like, or the complete suppression of the Gospel in places like China.
However, the unusual thing about the Gospel is that it is typically not censored in the Western world by removing anything. The Gospel is censored — suppressed and deleted — by adding to it.
The Gospel message according to the New Testament is this:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8,9 NIV)
To change this “Jesus plus nothing” formula — even by adding good works like Bible reading, tithing and prayer to simple faith in Jesus — is to delete the Gospel completely. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, if we could gain righteousness through our works, then Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21).
The expectations that many churches put on people — things to make us “more holy” or “better” Christians — have the same effect as those black censorship rectangles. They censor the Gospel, eviscerating it, rendering it powerless. What is left is religion — a form of godliness, but without any saving power (2 Tim. 3:5).
The goal of The Gospel Uncensored is to rip off the black bars of censorship wherever we have found them, exposing the raw Gospel of radical grace.
One of the first things I saw this morning was an e-mail update from a LinkedIn group I belong to discussing how to address issues with a certain well-known leader in the prosperity/faith movement. For whatever reason I clicked on the link and read some of the comments, and was shocked to see two or three people raising the “don’t touch the Lord’s anointed” defense.
As we write in Chapter 5 — The Source of Authority, this concept arises from taking 1 Samuel 26:9-11 out of context. The passage states,
But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.
The context for the passage is that David and his men were on the run from Saul and his men; Saul was a bit mad, and was attempting to kill David. While David was openly critical and in opposition to Saul, he refused to kill him because Saul literally was God’s anointed King over Israel. He had been anointed with oil, and was one of the few individuals to have actually been anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Today, of course, all Christians have received the Holy Spirit; we are all anointed. No pastor or leader has any special status; no one is free from criticism and challenge.
We, of course, should be careful with our words when speaking about anyone, whether public figures or not. If someone is in sin, Jesus laid out a good course to follow in Matthew 18. If someone is in error, they should be confronted (Galatians 2:11).
The Gospel Uncensored addressed these topics in more detail. In a month or so, you should be able to read it for yourself.
(Cross-posted at aldenswan.com.)
A great post today from Molly Friesen at Route 5:9, Forgiveness is an Investment: What it Costs. She’s blogging through Paul Tripp’s book on marriage, What Did You Expect. This, and Linda’s prior post, The Dark “Benefits” of Unforgiveness, are worth reading. I’m guessing Tripp’s book is, too.
It’s interesting that so many legalists forget about the rule of forgiveness, which is a key element in Jesus’ teaching. He even went so far as to say that if we don’t forgive, our Heavenly Father won’t forgive us, either. Seriously – it’s at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Now, you can try to take the position that this “is more of a guideline than a rule,” but Jesus doesn’t seem to give much leeway here.
So how does this fit into a theology of radical grace?
It fits quite well, actually, with a proper understanding of forgiveness. As many of us were taught in Sunday School, Jesus dies for the sins of the world.
1 John 2:2: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (NIV)
Jesus’ sacrifice was not made for us individually; forgiveness was truly once and for all. If we refuse to acknowledge and participate in this forgiveness for someone who has wronged us, we are simply refusing to participate in God’s forgiveness. Being forgiven means we agree that everyone is forgiven. Refusing to forgive someone means we are closing our heart, not that God is withholding anything from us.
Now, do we forgive perfectly? I seriously doubt it. I don’t think I do, even if it is my intent. But, God’s grace–God’s power made real in our lives–is sufficient for that, too.
We have been set free, not to sin, but so we can live–and forgive–freely.
This past Sunday, a friend of mine was in a car accident on her way to church. During the coffee/fellowship break (the contemporary version of “passing the peace”), the pastor announced it to the church, mentioning that it was the 2nd time my friend has been hit on her way to church. He asked, “Have you been tithing?” The church broke into laughter.
Now, I’ve been to churches where this question would have been asked seriously; or at the last, it would never have been the subject of a joke. The fact that the church treats the “tithe superstition” as a joke is a great sign that you’re in a grace-filled church.
Ain’t freedom grand?
Here’s the first look at the new cover design. Elliot is still fine-tuning to make sure the cover text pops sufficiently. What do you think?