Tag Archives: theology

Hell, Here We Go Again

*Originally posted at Sacred Duty, my Chron.com blog

Just when you thought the impassioned discussion about Rob Bell and his theology “about heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived” was going to fade quietly into the distance, several publishers thought it might be a good idea to get everyone riled up again.

Back in March of this year Christian pastor Rob Bell got the whole Evangelical universe into a general freak-out mode when he released a teaser video and then a few weeks later launched his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Following the teaser video there was a Twitterverse and blogosphere explosion, resulting in a lot of name calling and back-and-forth. Rob Bell went from hip-young-evangelical-pastor to black-rimmed-glasses-wearing-heretic-evangelical-pariah overnight (read more about When All Hell Breaks Loose in the Evangelical Twitterverse). Then the book came out and the reviews started coming in. Conservative neo-Calvinist Evangelical leaders decried the book’s theology and Scriptural interoperation about heaven and hell and made it clear that a) Bell is a universalist and b) that he is WAY off the track of orthodox Evangelical Christianity.

At the time there were plenty of soul-searching and Scripture-exploring Christians, skeptics and de-churched individuals seeking out the truth, reading the book, perusing the blogs and lamenting the whole “he said…no, she said” environment of the (dialogue, discussion, debate) drag-out fight.

As the religious community and the general public got over the initial news, many thought Bell’s Love Wins was going to recede into the background and that the Evangelical climate would calm. They were wrong. Rushing their tomes to press, influential publishers, teachers and authors are reviving the debate and hitting back at Rob Bell for his proposed hell heresy. The editor for HarperOne, the publishing company behind Love Wins, Mickey Maudlin says he is sad to see no less than six different ripostesbeing penned and printed to counter Bell and his newest book. Of those six I know of three prominent pieces: Waterbrook Multnomah Press’ forthrightly titled Hell, Rob Bell and What Happens When People Die, Mark Galli with his God Wins and Evangelical super-pastor Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell.

With all the publishing publicity the blogs, Tweets, book reviews, videos and articles on Rob Bell and his theology of heaven and hell are starting to pop up yet again. If this were not enough to clue me in to the fact that the debate is really just getting started I received three messages just this last week asking for my perspective on Love Wins, Rob Bell and the whole theological debacle. Certainly, with the ongoing discussion, the staying power of Bell’s book on the bestseller list and the release of several new titles on the topic it is clear that the Evangelical community is in for a protracted review of its doctrines of heaven and hell.

So, religious community and Evangelical universe, brace yourselves for another round of “hell-ish” discussion, because here we go again.



Filed under Christianity

I Am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise

On 1 June 2010 I started my MA in Theology and Culture at Concordia University Irvine, CA. Thus begins a four year jaunt into the lifestyle of the grad student.

The other day when I was reading an article in my running magazine (Runner’s World) I came across a section where the author was commenting on how he trained for a triathlon during grad school because HE HAD SO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS.


Since starting my degree in June I’ve read at least 700 pages of text, written another 30-40, taken several quizzes and submitted six assignments…all in 38 days.

Meanwhile I have this lovely little wife to spend time with, a dog to take on walks, two jobs to close up, a VBS to run, a niece to watch on the weekdays, a social life to be concerned with, a move to prepare for, a trip to Peru to plan, my own physical training (which, oddly enough I am taking up the idea of training for a triathlon) and oh yeah, my spiritual discipline of prayer, devotional reading etc.

Not to mention my blogs, which have gone sadly neglected for over a month.

I am still searching for the balance that I hope will come. One week I focus more on studying, only to the detriment of my relationships. The next week I focus on friends only to fall behind on my studies.

For right now I think on a quote from my colleague Jacob Youmans when he said, “Sometimes, to stay in balance means saying ‘no’ to great opportunities.”

I also remember the axiom, “Living things first” or “People over programs.”

Maybe these good words will help me find the balance I so earnestly desire and my life so desperately needs.

For now, the posts will probably become rare, endangered little animals trying to find a safe habitat in my slightly hectic life. That is, at least until we move to Texas and I have an opportunity to reorganize my life and set a new schedule, that prayerfully will be settled with a new balance.

In the end, I am not surprised things got busy. I knew they would. Everyone I know who is in grad school ( or was in grad school)  shares that masters work pushes your schedule as well as your mind.
After all, a masters degree not only expands your knowledge base, but should hopefully exhort your practical skills and set you up for the Holy Grail (or maybe not so holy) of a PhD.

Although I’m not surprised, I didn’t exactly “know” what was coming.

Or maybe I am just using the degree work as an excuse to lag on some things…who knows?

But as for all that extra time that author had in grad school, I am wondering what program he was in…


Filed under Uncategorized

Politics and Kingdoms

Preface: The blog below really isn’t a blog at all – it’s a comment on someone else’s blog. My friend Kelsey posted her thoughts on passion and politics and I initially responded with “WORD.” I obviously enjoyed her post. Then a friend of hers responded with a rebuttle of her thoughts. The plot thickens and the discussion gets interesting. After chowing down with Kelsey at Chili’s one Sunday night she came over to our apartment and we got to talking about blogs since we are both active bloggers. She asked me to respond to her friends thoughts and expound a little more on my choice “WORD.” I did. Below is my response and a link to the blog so you can get the context. Peace.

LINK: http://kelseypaulsen.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/day-2-my-view-on-politics/#comment-7

Ken // October 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Reply




The Bible needs to be interpreted by the church in order to be applied to contemporary issues (from America’s ‘religious voting issues’ of homosexual marriage, abortion etc. to ‘other’ issues like social programs, ecological development and health care) so that Christians can vote. Let me break that down.

Bible -> Interpretation – >Application->Issues- > Action->Voting (or other political action)

So, our Biblical worldview necessarily effects our political worldview. True dat. Even though you may say you don’t care Kelsey you do (I really think there was a little literary dramatic effect going on in that blog) care because in the end you are working with the aftermath of political decisions when youth, children and families come to you with certain issues or when there are announcements on the TV or in magazines that grieve you.

However, that does not necessarily mean that you have to care in the sense that there is any guilt, any pressure or any worry about how you are voting, how others are voting or who is in charge of our nation and what they are doing. Because in the end we are called to submit to the authorities (Romans 13) no matter who they are or what they do. Furthermore, God has got the entire show under control. So whatever Bush or Obama or Medvedev or Chavez or Mugabe is doing it doesn’t matter (per se) when it comes to the Kingdom of Christ.

This is Lutheran Two Kingdom theology at its best. The Right Hand Kingdom (Kingdom of Grace – what we usually think about when we think about God’s Kingdom) has to do with matters of faith, belief and salvation. The Left Hand Kingdom (Kingdom of Power – what we usually think about when we think about earthly kingdoms) has to do with the laws and rulers of the temporal world.

What I think you are getting at Annie is that our Right Kingdom position should necessarily impact our Left Kingdom position and actions. You are right. What I think you are getting at Kelsey is that Left Kingdom realities don’t matter when it comes to the Right Hand Kingdom and you are right, they don’t. Because the Right Hand Kingdom (the spiritual) can transform the Left Hand Kingdom (the physical/temporal) but not the other way around. In the end, no matter what politician is in charge and no matter what they are doing the Kingdom of God will advance (this is evident from the growth of the church in the Roman Empire, in China today and in many currently corrupt African nations). So, in the end Kelsey, you don’t care but you do and I don’t care that you don’t and you do, but I do and so does Annie. Huh?

Christ’s Kingdom, led by The Man, will advance no matter the Left Hand Kingdom reality. What’s a shame is that we make such a big issue out of Left Hand Kingdom decisions acting as if petty human choices (although sinful) can change the course of Christ’s Kingdom. This isn’t true. Remember, it was a political decision made by sinful leaders that led to Christ being crucified. They thought they killed a movement, what they didn’t know was they just got it started. Maybe what we need to do is stop fighting the Left Hand authorities trying to destroy Christian morals and instead die on the altar of secular monstrosities only to see Christianity truly begin to transform society, not by our might, our protest, our power or our vote but by the might and power of God.

And in that sense I stand behind what I said above…


P.S. Jesus Christ for President.

P.S.S. If I came off rude it was not my intention. Text on screen is so much harder to read than words. Please feel free to contact me via phone (Kelsey has my number) or send me an e-mail (it’s on my site https://ubuntuspirit.wordpress.com). Shalom.

Ken // October 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Reply


on the P.S.S. I said,

“…harder to read than words.”

I meant

“…harder to read (understand) than spoken words.”


Filed under Christianity, Religion and the Public Sphere