As a pastor-theologian, I enjoyed ‘Four new theological views you need to know about’ (February). I was, however, a bit surprised by the choice of topics.
The concept that the Gospels are eyewitness reports is not really novel. The fact that for the last few centuries nonevangelical scholars have tried to deny this doesn’t make it a new idea!
Open Theism is still (I hope) very marginal, and considered heretical by the majority of evangelical scholars. I struggle with the juxtaposition of those two theological concepts, as if they were equal in newness and controversy.
The other two [annihilationism and the new perspective] are more what I would expect from a broadminded magazine like Premier Christianity: they are relatively new, there are evangelical scholars on both sides of the debate, and they’re not in the same class of having a serious impact on the gospel as the eyewitnesses and Open Theism.
Personally I would have been more definite about what I believe is biblical and what isn’t; but then again, maybe this format will make a greater number of people think more deeply, which can only be a good thing.
Thank you for this article and for the honour of being placed alongside such worthies as John Stott and Michael Green. I would like to make it clear that I would prefer to be known as one who espouses conditional immortality, since annihilation, as Justin mentions, is understood as extinction after death, whereas I believe judgement follows and hellfire in varying degrees of punishment (Matthew 10:15) for those not in the book of life. Perhaps particular rebellions have a corresponding inbuilt consequent punishment. The only evidence in the Church for the views on the future of the lost until nearly the second century is conditional immortality. Eternal punishment, not eternally punishing!
One objection to annihilationism is that it is a product of a current culture of soft thinking about God. But that is historically naïve. Traditional theology of hell was derived from the culture of the fourth and fifth centuries.
It is important to realise that Jesus gives no direct teaching about the subject. It only occurs as a secondary point when his main point is to establish other doctrine. His references to Judaic views of hell do not amount to an endorsement, but are simply the use of terms that would be understood by people with that mindset.
WHAT TO MAKE OF BETHEL?
Andy Peck finds only one aspect of Bethel’s theology troubling (January). But Bill Johnson does not believe that Jesus was both human and divine. He therefore denies the basic Christian message of the cross.
Examples of his typically gnostic search for esoteric knowledge to gain redemption proliferate.
Johnson misquotes scripture and texts are taken out of context in a manner that denies the foundations of the Christian faith; Jesus is subordinated to God, and the gross heresy of ‘experience’, whatever the source, is elevated over truth.
I recently saw Derren Brown’s Miracle at the Palace Theatre in London. In the second half of his show he brilliantly exposed those who call themselves evangelical faith healers.
The following morning I heard Andy Peck discussing Bethel Church on John Pantry’s excellent breakfast programme on Premier Christian Radio.
I would respectfully suggest that all Christians who hold a belief in evangelical faith healing should attend Derren’s show. With an open mind, of course.
DON’T FORGET LITURGY
Many thanks for ‘How a happy-clappy charismatic rediscovered the liturgical seasons’ (January). While the Bethel Church piece appears to have produced much feedback, it is a shame this article seems to have been overlooked.
Of course the liturgical seasons might not appear to be as exciting as Bethel, but it does, as Ishmael writes, provide a regular rhythm of prayer and reflection through the year.
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I believe that the practice of the liturgical year will be continuing when Bethel Church is an event of yesteryear. This does not make them right or wrong or make the liturgical year better like some sort of church one-upmanship, but it does put things in perspective.
FAITH IN ACTION
I had the pleasure of working with Emma from ‘Locked-in but not abandoned’ (January) in Birmingham a few years ago. She and Andy invited my son and I to their church and into their home. In doing so they helped us renew our faith. They helped me find my way back to God, when others had given up on supporting us. If you want to see God’s work in action, just look to Emma and Andy and you will see love, compassion, understanding, faith, hope, courage and the kind of strength that can overcome obstacles. Love to you both.
I’ve just been reading the February issue of Christianity and felt compelled to immediately write and compliment you on an outstanding edition. I found depth (new theological ideas), encouragement (‘Discovering the lost art of friendship’), contemplation (‘Holy Places’), compassion (‘The road from Damascus’) and steadfast witness (JI Packer interview) all within its pages. Thank you, and great job!
@TheaNoEvil Thanks @Christianitymag for publishing Simon Ponsonby’s inspirational letter. I just had to highlight & make notes
@SamBuck335 Thanks Simon Ponsonby for your letter in @Christianitymag #cuttingtotheheart #itsallaboutthecross
@Joacie Seriously on point article on free speech and offensiveness from @JamesACMumford in Feb’s @Christianitymag. Helpful, thank you.
@PhilMooreLondon @UnbelievableJB Really enjoyed your article on ‘Theology Matters’ in @Christianitymag Thanks for writing it.
@Ruth_the_writer New issue of @Christianitymag came today! Love the interview of JI Packer by @krishk. Humbling and inspiring.
While I am grateful that you published my letter last month, I can see that the appropriate lessons still have not been learned, as I open my February edition of Premier Christianity magazine.
If I remember correctly (and I am rarely incorrect), Jesus was born around 2,000 years ago and parts of the canon of scripture are much older than that, so I find myself asking why there is an entire feature on ‘New theological ideas’?
What’s wrong with the old, blind faith? I can only imagine you intend me to actually think about scripture. I do quite enough thinking in my life, thank you very much. Just this week, for example, I needed to consider very carefully how loudly to shout at my curate when he announced he was rearranging the seating for the prayer meeting. I shouldn’t have to think when reading the Bible! I mean, whatever newfangled thing will be next? You will be suggesting we have drummers in church at this rate.
You’ve also decided to sully it with the kind of jaunty, bright bubble writing you might expect to find people colouring in at school. I haven’t been this upset since the church decided to start using Songs of Fellowship Book Two three weeks ago.
I trust you will fully repent from trying to think about the Bible. It is not there to be creatively engaged with. It is the word of God, not interpretive dance. Yours unthinkingly,
Rev Roger D Votional