The End of This Blog—the Beginning of a New One

“Do not think that I have come to abolish Being Filled; I have not come to abolish this blog, but to fulfill it. For verily I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, neither a jot nor tittle will by any means disappear from Being Filled until everything is accomplished.”

Chuck

I’ve had a great time blogging at Being Filled, but it’s time to move on. For one thing, the name and logo for this blog have always caused undue confusion. But more importantly, some of my most fundamental convictions have shifted since I began this blog. I no longer agree with much of what I’ve previously written.

At the same time, I don’t want to simply remove that content, as if I never believed it. So for now, this blog will remain as it is, and a new blog will begin. I may, over time, transfer some of the content from this blog (the stuff I do still agree with) to the new blog. The rest will stay here.

So if you want to continue following my blogging journey, update your subscriptions to my new blog, Hippie Heretic. And check out my inaugural post, explaining why I chose that name.

Locating Atonement (Book Review) & Ben Myer’s Patristic Atonement Model

Locationg Atonement

There’s been a lot of recent discussion on the nature of Jesus’ atonement. All Christians universally affirm that Jesus’ death on the cross saved us from sin. But we debate exactly how his death brought about that salvation.

Western Christianity has long been dominated by penal views of the atonement, namely Calvin’s theory of penal substitutionary atonement. According to this view, God’s holiness demands that sin be punished; Christ bore that punishment in our place; God’s wrath was thus satisfied; and we can thus receive forgiveness. But this view is starting to lose its dominance. For reasons that I won’t get into now, I count myself among those who believe that it offers a distorted picture of God and that it undermines the nature of forgiveness.

Other views—such as recapitulation, ransom, Christus victor, moral influence, mimetic theory, and many others—are becoming more prominent. And so the debate rages. Those with opposing views lock themselves into their respective camps, and little progress is made.

The Jesus-Centered Bible (Book Review)

Jesus-Centered Bible

My wife and I were recently given the opportunity to review the Jesus-Centered Bible. Be sure to check out her review as well. We’d like to thank Group Publishing for sending us our review copies.

Initial thoughts

Physically, this Bible is beautiful. It feels great in my hands. It lays open pretty well. And it comes with that amazing new-Bible smell. The layout and typesetting are classy. I like the blue-themed Old Testament and red-themed New Testament.

That brings me to the big feature that is unique to this Bible. We’re accustomed to seeing Jesus’ words in red letters. But Rick Lawrence and Ken Castor have taken this concept a step further, applying blue letters to various Old Testament references to Jesus. Cool idea. However, they admit from the outset that the blue-letter references are not intended to be exhaustive. They chose about 700 prominent texts to highlight. Each blue-letter selection comes with a sidebar explaining how the text points to Jesus. I’ll come back to these.

The Image of God and a New Proposal for Resolving Old Testament Violence

Joshua

The violence problem

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the problem of violence in the Old Testament. If you’re unfamiliar with this topic, here’s a basic summary of the problem:

  1. Jesus reveals God as completely nonviolent.
  2. The Old Testament frequently shows God engaging in and commanding violence.

If you disagree with the first point, the second won’t pose as much of a problem for you. But for the sake of this post, I’m taking the first point as granted, and I have no intention of debating it here.

My Biggest Problem with Homosexuality

Sermon on the Mount

My friend Keith Giles recently posted an article discussing homosexuality in the Bible. And I’ve previously shared a few thoughts on the subject myself.

But there’s one major issue that just keeps nagging at me—one problem I can’t seem to get around.

My biggest problem with homosexuality is love.

Let me explain. Jesus and the Apostles emphasized over and over again that love is the basis for everything, including every command God has given.

We sometimes get the impression that God arbitrarily prohibits things that offend him. But this could not be further than the truth! God always acts out of love, and his prohibitions always stem from love.

My Top 10 Scriptural Selections

Bible

Brad Jersak recently wrote about the biblical passages that are most prominent to him, and he challenged readers to make their own lists. His assignment was to pick just ten verses, but he found that he simply couldn’t do that, so he expanded on the original request.

I’m going to take up his challenge, but like Brad, I’m going to have to expand even further on the original request. Kind of. Actually, I’m going to end up with a mixed bag. Some of my prominent biblical selections will be verses that stand well on their own, others will be narratives that cannot be reduced to a verse, and others yet will be broader themes spanning multiple passages so that I cannot pick only one.

“Stop Focusing on Love, You Hippie!”

Heart

I’ve been accused a lot lately of focusing too much on love, supposedly to the exclusion of other biblical themes like holiness, justice, wrath, etc. Well, I do focus a lot on love. In fact, I base everything on it. And I won’t apologize for that.

Love is the central message of the entire New Testament. Love is the very core of the gospel message itself. Jesus and the Apostles focused on love above all else, and so I will do the same. Those other biblical themes that I supposedly exclude are, in fact, subsets of love. We can’t understand those parts until we get first get love right.

Faith and love are ultimately the only things that matter. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s see what the New Testament has to say.

How Should Christians Respond to Violence?

Jesus’ Arrest

I was recently asked to write a post for Faithlife regarding a Christian response to violence. Here’s a little excerpt:

Buy a sword . . . but don’t use it

Shortly before his arrest, Jesus told his disciples, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). Why did Jesus say this? Was he preparing them to defend themselves? Not quite. Jesus explained, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37).

The disciples said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords,” to which Jesus responded, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). Enough for what? Two swords would hardly have provided sufficient defense against “a great crowd with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47), but they were enough to fulfil the Scripture. Alternatively, many translations (CEB, CEV, HCSB, ISV, etc.) suggest that Jesus’ response is better rendered, “Enough of that!”—indicating that the disciples had misunderstood his intent.

I Don’t Know Where I Stand, but I Support Gays

Rainbow Flag

Before you start throwing stones, please read this carefully, and hear me out. What I’m going to say is likely to upset many on both ends of the spectrum, but I want you to at least understand what I’m saying if you’re going to disagree with me.

I don’t know where I stand.

Everywhere I look, I see people who appear to be absolutely certain that they know whether homosexuality is acceptable in God’s sight. I’m talking about fellow Christians—brothers and sisters in Christ who are equally committed to living out his love.

And you know what? They completely disagree with one another.

How to Redeem Psalm 137:9 (Smashing Children against Rocks) and Other Imprecatory Prayers

Rocks

It is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing verses in the Bible.

How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies and smashes them on a rock! (Psalm 137:9, NET)

It’s sickening! How could anyone even think of smashing innocent kids against a rock, let alone imagine being blessed for such an action?

How on earth could an inspired Bible include such a travesty? What’s going on here?

A More Christlike God

A More Christlike God

What is God like? Is he an angry deity, eager to pour out his wrath on sinners? Or is he a loving Father, seeking to save all of his lost children? And where do we look to determine what God is like? To the Bible, certainly, but to which parts of the Bible?

Do we look to Psalm 7:11–12, where “God is angry with the wicked every day,” and “If he does not repent, he will sharpen his sword”? Or do we look to 2 Peter 3:9, where God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”?

Do we look to 2 Kings 1:10–12, where Elijah prayed, and “the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed” over a hundred men? Or do we look to Luke 9:54–55, where Jesus rebuked two of his disciples for suggesting such a thing?

Desire Found Me by André Rabe (Book Review)

Desire Found Me

In his introduction to Desire Found Me, André Rabe makes a bold claim:

This book is a risk. A risk to your current state of mind, a risk to some of your deeply held beliefs and as such a risk to who you think you are. (page 7)

This comes shortly after what he said about the writing of this book:

I eventually realized that I was not dealing with just another topic, another set of concepts, another perspective, but rather, with the essence that connects them all. As such no one concept or perspective could ever adequately describe it. (page 4)

Such statements set up rather high expectations. The content had better be revolutionary to live up to that.

A Wolf at the Gate by Mark Van Steenwyk (Book Review)

A Wolf at the Gate

Having previously enjoyed Mark Van Steenwyk’s The unKingdom of God (see my review), I was delighted for the opportunity to read his new children’s book, A Wolf at the Gate. I have an almost-two-year-old son, so I read it out loud to him to see what he thought of it as well.

I’d like to first note the format of this book. Based on the illustrations I saw online, I initially believed this would be a short picture-based book, but it’s quite a bit more than that. The book’s seven chapters take up 76 pages, with many full-page color illustrations scattered throughout. I’d guess that about a fourth of the pages are illustrations.

Speaking of the illustrations, they’re beautiful! Joel Hedstrom did an excellent job creating them to be distinct and attractive.

The Day I Met Jesus by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth (Book Review)

The Day I Met Jesus

Frank Viola is one of my favorite authors. By contrast, I had never read anything by Mary DeMuth before, but I figured she must be alright if Frank chose her as a coauthor. Baker Books Bloggers sent me a free copy of The Day I Met Jesus in exchange for an honest review.

If you’ve read Frank Viola’s earlier book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth (or if you remember me reviewing that one previously), you can expect a very similar format with this one. In fact, the two books fit so well together, it makes me wonder why Frank went with a different publisher this time. (David C. Cook published God’s Favorite Place on Earth, along with a number of other books from Frank Viola.) I’m probably just too perfectionistic, but it does bug me a bit that the two books don’t match on the shelf.

Like God’s Favorite Place on Earth, The Day I Met Jesus follows the stories of certain people who interacted with Jesus in the Gospels.

Dear Tim @Challies, You Don’t Have to Deny Hell—or Anything Else

Dear Tim,

You may or may not know who I am, but you and I have actually appeared in print together. An article you wrote on hell was placed right next to an article I co-wrote on technology in the July–September 2012 issue of Answers magazine. A few months after that issue was published, I was asked to resign from my position at Answers in Genesis due to my belief in hell as annihilation.

A sampling of church history’s finest “hell deniers”

But that’s enough about me. I’d like to respond to your recent blog post, “What I Would Have To Deny To Deny Hell.” In your post, you assert that a denial of hell would also necessitate a denial of the following:

  • What Jesus taught
  • The plain sense of Scripture
  • The testimony of the church
  • The gospel

The unKingdom of God by Mark Van Steenwyk (Book Review)

The unKingdom of God

Mark Van Steenwyk’s The unKingdom of God is one of those books that makes me feel like I’m reading my own story. Of course Mark’s background is pretty different from my own, but the struggles he’s had with mainstream Christianity and the changes he’s gone through in his theology completely resonate with my own experience.

As an example, let me just share a short excerpt from Mark’s introduction:

An interesting challenge quickly emerged. … I assumed that the Bible was full of metaphors and poetry and prose and illustration. I didn’t read it literally. Except for the parts where it was, you know, obvious. I treated the life and sermons of Jesus in a much more straightforward manner than, say, the book of Revelation or Jesus’ parables.

The Invisible Man and His Shadow (An Allegory)

Shadow

There once was an invisible man. Though no one could see this man, they could see his shadow. Over the years, people tried to learn about the man by observing his shadow. They recorded their findings, carefully documenting every detail they saw in the shadow.

But they ran into some problems.

For one thing, the shadow didn’t always look the same to everyone. It would acquire the color and texture of whatever it happened to be resting on. And it seemed to change shape depending on the time of day and the angle from which people observed it. Some saw the shadow as extraordinarily tall and skinny, while others saw it as short and squat.

The Nature of Hell—a Skeleton in God’s Closet?

The Skeletons in God’s Closet

Joshua Ryan Butler’s The Skeletons in God’s Closet goes a long way toward correcting many of the harmful caricatures of God. As I stated in my review, I really appreciate Butler’s perspectives, even though I don’t agree with all of his conclusions.

As promised, I will now examine his view of hell in greater detail and respond with some thoughts from my own view.

Butler starts by examining the caricature of hell as an underground torture chamber (pages 4–5). He and I both disagree with this picture. Hell is not underground, its purpose is not torture, and it isn’t constructed as a chamber.

That said, while an underground chamber may be the pop-culture view of hell, I don’t personally know of many Christians who view it that way. The caricature I hear from most Christians is that hell exists as an alternate spiritual dimension. Some view this place as a literal lake of fire, and others view it as simply a place of separation from God.