June 6 Raputre Update

It’s just after 4 pm PST in Seattle, and this is your rapture update.

It is just after midnight on June 7th in Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. Guess what, no sign of the rapture. No comment yet from the failed prophet himself, Steve Fletcher. I’ll do one more update tomorrow morning, but I’m calling this one busted. Guess his “Bible lock” isn’t as accurate as he thought…

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Looking For Bible Studies / Devotionals

So regular readers of the blog know that I am quite fond of the YouVersion Bible App. I literally have it on every one of my mobile devices (Kindle Fire, iPad and iPhone). However, in recent moths, I have become quite jaded with the app as the developer, LifeChurch, has started to add more conservative material and have previously voiced my displeasure. On the advice of a friend, I hung in there. While it is nice to have so many translations at my fingertips, it royally sucks when it comes to devotionals for people of my theological leaning. I mean, really, I’m not going to read a devotional by John Piper, The Gossip Coalition, or Focus on the Family. Period.

Flash forward a few months and I’m looking for a devotional. So I open my handy dandy YouVersion Bible app, find one that I think looks interesting and *BAM*, right away in the devotional material is talk of fasting. Seriously, I don’t fast. Ever. And, I’m Lutheran. I don’t know of any Lutherans that fast. That means giving up beer!

In all seriousness, I need a Bible Study / Daily Devotional that is more suited to my theological leanings (progressive, quite possibly postliberal). I mean, I could write one but that would kind of defeat the whole purpose and wouldn’t lead to any growth.

Feel free to share your recommendations below!

Bad Theology: The King James Bible Code

As if the Bible Code wasn’t bad enough, there’s a King James Bible Code…

There is not a secret code in the Bible or in the King James Bible specifically…just sayin’!

Really @YouVersion? Focus on the Family Devotionals?

I’ve been a fan of the YouVersion Bible app for some time. I like it because it has several of the translations that I use on a regular basis in one hand location. But I think these latest additions may outweigh the convenience of having several translations in one handy-dandy location.

  1. New City Catechism video series offers a collection of questions and answers teaching foundational theological principles. Designed to serve both children and adults. From The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. 20 days
  2. Focus on the Family features Reading Plans—including four brand-new ones from President Jim Daly—specifically designed to help families live out their faith based on biblical principles.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of either The Gospel Gossip Coalition or Focus on the Family. This might be the proverbial straw the broke the camels back for me and my continued used of this app.

Doubt, Rough Seas and Jesus

I was sitting in church yesterday, lamenting the fact that my work schedule has changed and we don’t get to go to the service with our friends. Needless to say, I was only partially paying attention. This year, we are not using the Lectionary. Instead, we are doing a year long sermon series on Luke. And yesterday’s sermon was on Jesus calming the seas.

One day Jesus and his disciples boarded a boat. He said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So they set sail.

While they were sailing, he fell asleep. Gale-force winds swept down on the lake. The boat was filling up with water and they were in danger. 24 So they went and woke Jesus, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” But he got up and gave orders to the wind and the violent waves. The storm died down and it was calm.

He said to his disciples, “Where is your faith?”

Filled with awe and wonder, they said to each other, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!” (Luke 8:22-25, CEB)

The pastor began preaching simply by saying the title of the sermon, “Jesus calms the storm.” When I heard this, I started paying attention a little bit more and my mind went to something I had read in Alister McGrath‘s book Doubting. In the book, McGrath points to several images of doubt in the Bible. One of the examples that he points to is doubt as a rough sea.

Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. (James 1:6)

On this image of doubt, McGrath writes:

This is a very powerful image (especially for anyone who has over been violently seasick!), an image evoking a lack of stability. The sea – along with anything that happens to be floating in it – is tossed to a fro by the wind, unable to gain stability…Doubt in the Christian life is rather like permanent seasickness on a long ocean voyage. (McGrath, 57)

I’ve been reflecting on this ever since. If Jesus can calm the storms that arise on the Sea of Galilee, then Jesus can also calm the storms of doubt in our own lives!

Now it is important to keep in mind that doubt is not a lack of faith and doubt is not unbelief. As most people who have journeyed through doubt will tell you, their faith was important. McGrath writes:

Doubt often means asking questions or voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. You believe – but have difficulties with that faith, or are worried about it in some way. (McGrath, 14)

Doubt is a tricky thing to overcome. As someone who has made the journey, I can attest to that! But things need to be put into perspective. Some things, like my new schedule, will not last until the Second Coming! My new schedule shall pass at some point. We need to hold fast to the promises of God and the gift of new life through Jesus Christ.

Remember, Jesus calms the storms!

Why We Need A (Good) Theology Of Doubting

I have been following the whole IRD/Rachel Held Evans conversation that was taking place on the IRD’s blog, Juicy Ecumenism, and one thing is pretty obvious…Christians need a good theology surrounding doubting. Let’s face the fact that our current theology concerning doubting flat out sucks. It’s complete garbage. Why? Because any time someone expresses a strong doubt, they are given funny looks, avoided like the plague, or just shunned. All one has to do is look at the comments in the post to see my point (although one commenter does get it right). Here are just some of the gems:

  1. “Mark, she isn’t “wrestling with doubt,” that’s just liberal claptrap, makes it sound like they’re openminded and consider all the options while evangelicals are stuck in our rigid orthodoxy. They have their own orthodoxy of core beliefs that are non-negotiable, but they can’t come out and admit they’re trying to replace one orthodoxy with another. Ask a liberal if she has doubts about gay marriage or ordination of women, and she won’t hesitate a second. They’re not sure is marriage is essential for men and women any more but they’re gung-ho for same-sex couples.”
  2. “Something has happened to the reasoning power of college students if they could sit through such poppycock and not laugh or walk out. She says we’re supposed to doubt (no Bible verse to support that, needless to say), but they says we’re supposed to have a “childlike faith.” Apparently she’s never had any contact with actual living children, because kids don’t like doubt, quite the contrary. I do agree that Christians should have a childlike trust in God, but in her mouth “childlike faith” sounds like an admonition to not think in a mature way about our beliefs and values. I don’t want to sound unkind, but the author strikes me as an overgrown kid who likes attention and knows bit and pieces of the Bible but isn’t mature enough to see the overall themes in it. Could we please get some adults to write Christian books”
  3. There is a seductive quality in this book—as in, a doubter trying to seduce others into doubting. The author honors doubt more than truth. Probably any purchaser of this book has already begun to doubt her faith, so it’s a relatively easy seduction. It is a sign of immaturity to boast of being in the Doubting Thomas Society instead of the Christian church—or, as the Doubters might call it, the Boring Close-Minded Reactionary Club. As a rule, the Doubting crowd ends up believing not much of anything, so there is no discernible difference between the ex-evangelical and the secular agnostic. Frankly, I have more respect for the ex-Christian who completely abandons the faith and says so bluntly. It is hard to respect this author who sorta kinda hangs on to the name of “Christian,” while she and her supposedly Christian publisher are happy to make money from books designed to tear down people’s faith instead of enriching it. When you find yourself mentally more comfortable with unbelievers than with believers, do the obvious thing: exit the church and go dabble in whatever flimsy-fluffy “spirituality” the All-Knowing Oprah is recommending that week.”

I will deal with each of these in turn.

  1. Saying one is “wrestling with doubt” is not “liberal claptrap.” There are plenty of instances within the Bible where one is dealing with doubt: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Thomas…to name a few. I think it’s safe to say that Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah probably had their doubts concerning God’s call for them. Just look at the call stories. They tried to make excuses to get out of what God was calling them to do.
  2. Point me to a verse that prohibits doubting. There are several that describe doubt and there are some that show God and Jesus dealing with doubters. To my knowledge, every story where God or Jesus is dealing with a doubter, they meet the doubter where they are and provide them with the support or evidence needed to overcome their doubt. There is no scolding or admonition.
  3. So you would deny a part of the biblical narrative because it does not conform to your views on faith and doubt. And if you believe that the doubting crowd doesn’t end up believing in anything then what “doubters” have you actually conversed with? Yes, some people do not overcome their doubts, or they don’t want to. As someone who has made the journey through doubt, I can tell you it’s hard…very hard. But you can’t have true faith without having journeyed through some kind of doubt.

I’m not the only one who thinks doubting is a part of spiritual growth. Alister McGrath wrote an entire book on doubt and dealing with doubt. It’s a book that I highly recommend as it has been a great help to me. Also, James McGrath the following video earlier today. I watched it and you should too.

To read more of my story of the journey through doubt to faith, pre-order a copy of From Fear to FaithI wrote a chapter detailing my spiritual journey through doubt.

Tony Jones Responds to @PastorMark

Patheos blogger Tony Jones has also responded to Mark Driscoll’s latest tweet of drivel.

Jones writes:

To this verbal diarrhea, I have just one response. It comes from the Bible, that book that Mark supposedly reveres so highly.

What verse did Jones use? Well, to see that, you’ll have to read the post.