Nooma “Open”: A Review

Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the producer of a series of videos he calls “Noomas.” In these videos he appears to be teaching Scripture, but a closer look reveals his message is anything but biblical (you can read about some of his earlier Nooma videos here, here, here, here, and here).

His latest offering is entitled “Open” and is fat with New Age teachings. He has tinkered with New Ageism before, but in “Open” Bell is a little more… um… open with his beliefs.

A tenant of New Ageism is the belief that we are “co-creators” with God. Bell embraces this notion in “Open,” though he tries to mask it in feigned respect for the Bible. He uses the account of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane and the biblical account of creation in Genesis (what Bell calls the “creation poem”) to lend credibility to his attempt to combine New Age teachings with Christianity. He asks why Jesus prays for “the cup of crucifixion” to pass from him and then answers it this way:

“…Jesus took very seriously the creation poem Genesis, that the Bible begins with. And in this creation poem God creates, but God creates things that are capable of creating more, and so God creates trees but then gives trees the ability to create more. God creates animals and plants and fish but then empowers them to create more. And then God creates people, and gives them the ability to create more. So everything in creation is essentially unfinished, God leaves the world unfinished, and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.”

He then goes on to say that when Jesus prayed in the garden he was, “tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.”

This sort of spiritual teaching is nothing new — but it is anything but biblical. This is the kind of stuff the New Age writers produce. Just consider the following articles by prominent New Age writers…

Some have already tried to attach Christ to the New Age movement — Bell is not the first. But it is remarkably disturbing that Bell has managed to achieve a level of credibility with certain circles of evangelical Christians and this makes him extremely dangerous. The content of his Nooma “Open” (a full transcript can be viewed here) coupled with the New Age and humanist messages contained in previous Noomas, build a pretty strong case that this man is not a biblical teacher but, rather, a full-blown false teacher who is adept at tickling the ear.

And even if he is capable of sufficiently hiding his message in his “teachings” then, at the very least, we should take him at his word when he betrays his true nature in an interview. In a recent interview with Christianity Today magazine Bell said he was, “…discovering the Bible as a human product rather than the product of divine fiat.”

Not that he sees a problem with that.

“The Bible is still in the center for us,” Bell said, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

I pray that orthodox believers will begin to recognize this man for the false teacher he is and stand guard against his blended brand of “Christianity” so that it never has an influence in Christ’s Church.

Blind to reality

ABC news reported today that America is experiencing a “perfect storm” of economic troubles. According to the report there are three primary factors at work.

  1. Rising oil prices.
  2. Rising food prices.
  3. Danger of inflation.

The ABC report also implied (though it did not explicitly claim) the solution to these problems is government interference. Which is more than just a little ironic as government interference in our free-market economy is largely responsible for all three elements of this “perfect storm” (This is painfully obvious to anyone who bothers to read even the most basic of economics books — Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” is a great place to start).

A simple study of economics should include two primary principles:

  1. The laws of supply and demand.
  2. The law of unintended consequences.

Both of these things are at work in this “perfect storm” and any president who understood them could easily solve the problem. Let’s take these issues one-at-a-time:

Rising oil prices

thidoil.jpgThe law of supply and demand tells us that prices increase anytime demand rises or supply drops. In this case both things are happening. Worldwide demand for oil is increasing and oil-producing countries restrict the supply so that they make more money for their oil.

But the United States has a lot of oil fields, too. We could be drilling for crude oil and making our own gasoline — which would increase the world’s supply of oil and drop prices. But we don’t do it.

Why?

Because environmentalists lobby in Washington to prevent us from harvesting our own oil and building new refineries to convert it to gasoline. This artificially limits supply and increases prices. Our own government is largely responsible for the high gas prices.

Rising food prices

The environmentalist answer to rising energy costs is the production of ethanol, a fuel made from corn. The federal government even mandated a certain percentage of America’s corn crop be used in the production of ethanol.

thidcorn.jpgSound like a reasonable solution? Beware the unintended consequences…

Corn is a major player in every aspect of our food supply. It is used to feed dairy cows, beef cows, and chickens. It is used to make corn syrup and corn meal. And, of course, we eat corn ourselves. But if the government forces us to use a portion of our corn crop for the production of ethanol then that limits the supply of corn left over for food. And what happens if supplies drop? That’s right, prices rise. So, once again, we have our federal government to thank for interfering with the market and, because of their ignorance of unintended consequences, bringing about higher food prices.

Danger of inflation

Most people think inflation is rising costs. But rising costs is just a symptom of inflation. Inflation is in increase in the money supply. There once was a time when American currency was tied to precious metals. When that was the case the money was stable. Now, the government can print money by fiat — meaning pretty much out of thin air. When they do that they increase the amount of money in circulation and when there is more of something available it’s value drops — hence the higher costs we associate with inflation.

thidsilverdollar.jpgThe government does this because they get to use the new money first — before it’s had time to get into circulation — so they benefit immediately from the fiat currency. But by the time it gets to average American consumers it’s value has dropped.

So this perfect storm is a direct result of government interference in the market. To think more government manipulation is the cure is lunacy. The only thing the government could do to improve this “perfect storm” of economic problems is remove restrictions on oil harvesting and gasoline production, eliminate mandates for the production of ethanol, and stop printing money out of thin air.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as these steps all require the government to relinquish some power — and governments almost never do that willingly. In fact, the tendency is for the state to acquire more and more power. Ours is not exception (here’s just one example).

Bumper sticker of the day

Joseph Farah, founder of worldnetdaily.com, is fighting this attempt by the government to limit liberty by starting a bumper sticker campaign against it. Here’s the sticker…
w0161.jpg

The State’s “messiah”

inkshield.jpgI have written several articles describing how American evangelical Christians have confused the role of government and the role of the Church. I’ve pointed out how we’ve come to expect the state to be God’s instrument of grace (when Scripture clearly gives that role to the Church), how we’ve mistaken nationalism for patriotism, and how we’ve come to regard our “country” so highly that we’ve fallen into idolatry. As a result I’ve received e-mails and comments from readers telling me I’m overreacting, that a strong love of country is not idolatry, and that it’s silly to think anyone views the state as “savior.”

Really?

Then may I refer you to an article that asks the question, “Is Obama the messiah?”

Now, I realize there probably aren’t very many people who regard Barack Obama as God in the flesh. However, to attach the word “messiah” to a mere political candidate is to betray one’s true view of government. It’s an admission that the government can be our savior — if only we would elect the right person to run it. It demonstrates an investment of hope in what the government can do and an absence of trust in the God who sent the real messiah so that we might have the blessed hope of eternity.

Civil religion — the worship of the state — is nothing new. I just hope that now someone has finally had the gall to call a potential president “messiah” it will open our eyes to that fact.

Government “Assistance”

cavalry1.jpgWhen disaster strikes in the United States, politicians and government bureaucrats have a very romanticized and unrealistic view of how things should work. I think they have a picture in their heads of old Hollywood westerns. The American citizens are the poor settlers who really don’t know how to take care of themselves. Disaster (be it man-made or natural) is a vicious tribe of Indians on the verge of killing the poor settlers. And the government agency assigned to help in the given situation? Well, that’s the cavalry riding over the hill to the sound of trumpets — just in the nick of time — to save the day.

But the Hollywood view rarely has real world application. This is no exception.

The fact of the old west is that the cavalry was rarely around to help settlers with anything. Those poor old settlers were anything but helpless. In fact, they were quite capable of taking care of themselves.

Today government officials view American citizens as helpless and in dire need of their assistance. And, this too, is an erroneous view. And if there is any group of people in America who ought to be opposed to an over-sized federal government bureaucracy being in charge of assisting people in need it is Christians.

Matthew 5:14-16 says this:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

God intends for His Church to be the agent of grace in this world so that He may be glorified. In fact, the Church is better suited to help than the government. After a tornado with wind speeds of up to 200 mph destroyed the three homes on the family farm where I grew up it was God who provided for our immediate needs.

The day after the tornado hit normal, everyday citizens were on hand to help. Members of the local churches were setting up shelters, cooking meals, providing blankets, clothes, water, and all manner of essentials to people who had lost their homes.

cavalry2.jpgThe members of my church — an hour and a half drive away — gave me supplies and money to give to my family. They organized a workday to help with the clean up. And they asked me over and over what I needed. When the scheduled workday arrived 25 people showed up. They brought their own chainsaws and hammers. They brought their trucks and trailers. They brought two heavy front-end loaders and chains for pulling heavy debris away.

They worked hard. And they accomplished in one day what I thought would take a week. And they did it because they genuinely care. They did it out of love. And their witness has brought more glory to God than we may ever know.

While they were working I had people asking me who they were and why they were doing this. When I’ve shared their story I’ve been asked what kind of church they attend and what makes it different.

Contrast what the Body of Christ did to the accomplishments of our federal agencies.

Three days after the tornado hit I saw my first representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They were standing around a Red Cross booth eating free lunches — for hours. Four days after the tornado hit three FEMA representatives arrived on the site where we were cleaning up my families destroyed homes. They got out of their car, put on their official FEMA jackets, talked on a walkie-talkie, and, seven minutes later, drove away. I haven’t seen them since.

The federal government confiscates billions of our dollars every year in the form of taxes under the guise of providing for our needs. Put aside for a second that the federal government has no constitutional authority to do this and just look at whether or not it is an efficient use of our money. When the federal government decides to provide “aid” there are hundreds of steps to take before any real aid arrives where it’s needed. They have to “assess” the damage. They have to file preliminary reports and requests. They have to send everything through “channels” to get “approval” for sending aid. Then, people who need help have to “apply” for help — the government will decide whether or not that application is legitimate.

Of course the government employees will have had the appropriate “sensitivity training” so that they will be prepared to show kindness when they waste your time.

When church members decided to help they had a two-step process:

  1. Find out what needs to be done.
  2. Do it.

woodennickel.jpgHow much more could the normal, everyday citizens have accomplished had their resources not been confiscated? They certainly would have been more efficient with them than our government has been. Even in the cases where the government actually helps it is in a manner far less efficient than we could have done on our own. They will have reduced the resources they took from us and made it worth less than a wooden nickel.
And the biggest difference is this…

To the government bureaucrats at agencies like FEMA, disasters are their business. When people are hurting it’s just another day at the office for them. All their “sensitivity training” can accomplish is to provide them with the proper canned platitude for the situation. And that will never, ever be a suitable substitute for all those regular citizens, neighbors, and church members help because they genuinely care.

God Provides

On February 5, 2008 a tornado with winds reaching 200 mph cut a 123-mile path through Arkansas. Along the way the tornado passed just south of the town of Clinton, a place known as Culpepper Mountain. It completely destroyed the three houses on the family farm where I grew up, uprooted or snapped the trees that were landmarks, scattered family memories for miles in it’s wake — and killed my grandmother.

The 23rd Psalm is read so often in times like this that it has almost become cliché. God forbid that we ever get so familiar with His Word that we fail to comprehend the meaning contained therein. Read it again:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The part that interests me most in this situation is where David mentions the valley of the shadow of death. He says he will fear no evil because God is with him. God’s rod and staff are a comfort. But what is death?

Obviously there is a physical death. But when the Bible speaks of death is that all that is meant? No. When the Bible speaks of the wages of sin being death it means much, much more. The Bible mentions two deaths — a physical death and a spiritual death. Physical death we know. Spiritual death, according to Scripture, is a separation from God — what we call hell.

My question is this: How can David be in the midst of death and still be in the presence of God if death is separation from God? Is there a contradiction in Scripture? Before I answer that I’d like to share some impressions from the week that followed the tornado that destroyed my family’s home.

It is possible to get an idea of the devastation a tornado can bring by watching news reports on television. I had seen the homes of other families destroyed by tornados and so was somewhat prepared for what I’d find the first day after the storm. I knew I’d see debris. What I was not prepared for was the debris being personal.

On television when you see the debris you see a broom, a bucket, a shoe, a photo. But when I arrived to where my grandmother’s house had once stood I saw my grandmother’s broom. I saw her shoe. I saw bits of family photos that had decorated her walls. Every piece brought back the memories in a flood. I had already been asked to speak at my grandmother’s memorial service and so I was looking for inspiration among the rubble. That’s when I saw a small prayer card.

The front of the card had an artist’s rendering of Jesus feeding the 4,000 in Mark chapter eight. On the back was a simple little prayer and a paraphrase of the passage. I immediately thought, “This has nothing to do with our situation.” But as the week progressed I realized it had everything to do with our situation. The message?

God provides.

In the passage in Mark, Jesus Christ, Himself, provided food for thousands of hungry people when, seemingly, there were no resources. But, as we know from Scripture, after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. So how did God provide in the wake of the tornado?

The Bible says that the Church is the “body of Christ.” Believers are to do what Christ would have done were He here in person. Christians came from everywhere to help after the storm. They cooked, cleaned, and worked to recover property scattered by the storm. They did normal chores for our family so the members of our family could focus on the task of cleaning up. They gave supplies and money. They prayed.

And in a lot of cases, after helping in some fashion, they apologized for not being able to do enough. They thought they had but meager resources — certainly inadequate to the task. But God took what they thought was insufficient and multiplied it. The property was cleaned up in a fraction of the time I thought it would take because of the body of Christ. We had more food and water than we could possibly use because of them. The money that was given is still paying for the expenses.

God provides.

Someone may say, “That is all well and good for those who survived the storm, but what about your grandmother? How did God provide for her?”

God’s provision for her was the greatest of all. I’ll let her elaborate on that point…

In the rubble of her home I found legal pads of my grandmother’s handwritten Bible study notes. There were stacks of them. When I picked up the first one and realized what it was I sat down in the midst of her collapsed house and read these words in my Granny’s own hand:

“The father loved us so much that he sent his Son to bridge the gap between us. John 3:16.”

Which brings me back to the 23rd Psalm. How can David say he enjoys the comfort of God’s presence in the midst of death? Because the Psalm doesn’t say David is in the midst of death, it says the “shadow of death.”

In the Bible there are “types.” A type is usually an event in the Old Testament that illustrates or foreshadows something in the New Testament. I’ll give you an example.

In the 21st chapter of Numbers God sends poisonous snakes among the Israelites because they had sinned against Him. Many of them were bitten and died. They begged Moses to go to God on their behalf. The Lord instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent, mount it on a pole and lift it up high so that everyone could see. Then God told them to look upon the bronze serpent anytime they were bitten and they would not die.

There is no medicinal quality to looking at a bronze snake on a stick. There is no scientific or medical reason that looking at the bronze snake would prevent someone from dying from a poisonous snakebite. However, those who looked to the serpent when they were bitten did not die. They did what they did in faith.

This account is a “type” of crucifixion, a “type” of Christ. Their looking to the bronze snake for salvation was an illustration, a foreshadowing, of our looking to Christ for ours.

Likewise, the “shadow of death” David speaks of is a “type” of death. It is an illustration, a picture for our benefit. It is extremely painful to be separated from a loved one when their physical body dies. But this is just a mere glimpse at what separation from God would be like.

We are all fatally snake bit. Every one of us is under a death sentence because of sin. But just as the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent for their salvation we look to the Cross of Christ — both of us in faith.

On another page of Bible study notes Granny wrote, “Two words describe faith: sure and certain. These two qualities need a secure beginning and ending point. The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character — He is who He says. The end point is believing in God’s promises — He will do what he says.”

funeralflowers.jpgGod promised the Israelites they would not die if they looked upon the bronze serpent — and they didn’t. God has made promises to us as well. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

In the 23rd Psalm David is comforted because he is merely walking in the valley of the shadow of death — not death itself — because God is with him. Providing comfort. My grandmother’s death is just a shadow — a temporary picture of something we need not experience if only we put our faith in Christ Jesus.

D. L. Moody was a famous Chicago preacher in the late 1800s. Near the end of his life he told his congregation, “One day soon you will read in the newspaper that D. L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it. I will be more alive than ever.”

The obituary page from a recent edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says that Fountaine Bayer, my grandmother, is dead.

Don’t you believe it. She is more alive than ever.

God has provided.

Thideology Research Team: Case File 004

Jerusalem, ISRAEL — Archaeologists have discovered a 2,500-year-old stone seal bearing the name of an obscure guy mentioned in the Old Testament according to a report by the Thideology Research Team (which they pretty much copied straight from a story in the Baptist Press). The discovery is just one more piece of evidence supporting the historicity of the Bible.

Members of the Thideology Research Team expressed regret for not having been in Jerusalem at the time of the discovery.

“We were actually scheduled to not be in Jerusalem just a week after the discovery,” said one member of the team. “So we missed ‘officially missing’ the discovery by a matter of days. It’s a shame. We would like to have not contributed in a more official capacity than this.”

Thideology News of the Day

Hillary thinks the government owns you

shackles.jpgThe topic of individual ownership — meaning who owns individuals — has been addressed previously on this website in the Economics of Christianity (Part 1) “The Right of Ownership.” The general idea of the article is that individuals own themselves and have certain rights as a result. It’s the philosophy of America’s founding fathers. But we now live in a country where candidates for president can claim ownership of the people and there is little or no outcry. In fact, many Americans embrace the modern version of slavery because it is couched in language that sufficiently hides its true nature.

In an interview this week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton affirmed her belief that the government owns citizens and everything they have (read for yourself). She supported the idea of garnishing a persons wages in order to force them to participate in her government-controlled socialized health-care scam. When asked about people who would prefer to purchase their own health insurance she said, “I think you can automatically enroll people, and you will then say, ‘You’ve got to be part of this.'”

Stealing a person’s money to pay for “services” they are forced to accept — this is what passes for “freedom” in 2008? Sadly, 5 of the 6 remaining candidates for president have similar notions. Only one stands steadfast for liberty.

Bumper sticker of the day:

government-owns-you.jpg

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