I’ve been reading two books recently about Germany in the Hitler years, “Bonhoeffer- Pastor-Martyr-Prophet-Spy” by Erik Metaxis and “They Thought They Were Free – The Germans” by Milton Mayer. Both books speak of the nature of the relationship between the people and the state and the church and the state, and it has been interesting to read them in tandem. I have been struck by my own need to stand up and be authentic about what I think and believe, because it is only in every individual excusing his silence and opting out of the dialog that evil and error are allowed to thrive.
It was Martin Niemoller, one of the founding pastors of the “Confessing Church” in Germany (which was formed to resist the Lutheran State Church’s apostasy) who wrote the now famous words,
They came for the communists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me -
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
The Confessing Church which Niemoller helped to form (along with Bonheoffer) was not perfect. It still had a lot of stuff that left you wondering about their teaching, traditions and beliefs. It was made up of individuals who all seemed to have a variety of ideas about where to draw the line concerning the direction that Hitler was taking Germany and the Lutheran State Church.
I certainly would have found it difficult to aligning myself with them on all points.
Most of them were far too strong on “The powers that be are ordained of God.” Some of them were stronger on “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Some even joined in a conspiracy to kill Hitler, believing that in the grand scheme of things, it was less evil to murder Hitler than to allow him to continue to murder thousands of other people.
I found it disturbing that they wanted to take the place of the State church. Did they not realize that the reason the church had become so antichristian was because it was the STATE church...controlled by the state...by Hitler! The pastors didn’t want to lose their jobs and government salaries (not to mention their lives) by speaking out…so they just went further and further into idolatry and apostasy. So the Confessing Church….imperfect as it was….was raised up in opposition to it.
The thing is…they did something remarkable. They stood against evil, and despite the fact that in a way, they accomplished very little; possibly went about things wrong; were slow to take stands that seem obvious now; many of them sacrificed their lives to stand against evil.
So this week two things in my own life have stood out which have made me examine myself. One was the resignation of Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) from his mega-church. As far as I know he has simply resigned from “his” “mega-church” to do other things and was not forced to resign, but I went to Google him to see how it was being presented. What I found was an ugly slug fest amongst Christians and especially Calvinist Christians, who seem as anxious as their leader, John Calvin to murder those who oppose their view. Here is a small sampling from YouTube of their views.
http://youtu.be/guy7aE9jcs0 John Piper...who made the unloving and uncaring twitter… “Farewell Rob Bell”
http://youtu.be/XxCKxxRU_s8 Mark Driscoll…another Calvinist speaks on hell
http://youtu.be/8k6AcQvXxH8 Don’t know who this is but…could he be more graceless?
Anyhow, I have not yet read Rob Bell’s book, "Love Wins". I’m assuming he is making a case for the concept of “the restitution of all things” as taught in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. I am a believer in this teaching which I see as biblical…. Certainly more biblical than the teaching of ETERNAL TORMENT, ( I am absolutely powerless to type that in lower case) which is an affront to the character of God.
Plutarch, the great Greek biographer, once wrote, “I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch than that they should say there was one Plutarch that would eat his children as soon as they were born” (He preferred to have men deny his existence rather than have them hold an unworthy conception of his character.)
Honestly, the only reason I didn’t read Bell’s book yet is because of his label as an “emergent church leader” and a pastor of a “mega church”. I thought I might have a tough time swallowing his culture and expression….but I was wrong to judge him just because he is younger and his style is different (he probably knows how to order coffee at Starbucks)…and his interface and involvement with the institutional church is different than mine. So now I’m going to get his book and read it and I think I will find that I enjoy it and probably learn something good…and even if I don’t agree with everything he has to say or his way of saying it, I will certainly agree with his title, “Love Wins.”
I made a supportive comment on one of his videos and (I didn’t know this would happen) my comment was posted to my FB page… and I am already paying for that one small comment. My point here is…. For the last three years, I have almost given up my right to think….certainly to express who I am and what I believe just in order to keep hostilities at bay….perhaps to prevent being labeled and marginalized by Christians in the same way Rob Bell now is… So now I see that I need to be taking my stand in my own little bean patch. I want my children and my grandchildren to understand me, even if they don’t agree with me. What is the point of them having a relationship with an unauthentic me?
Church history tells us that all the movements which have brought progress have brought it at the expense of “unity” and peaceful conformity in the church...but in every important case, these movements were in response to great evils which had corrupted the former established church. And then it seems, each new iteration of "the Church" has eventually been corrupted and supplanted by the next movement… Luther was responding the corrupted practice of the Catholic Church of selling indulgences….The confessing church responded to the Lutheran church’s adoption of Hitler’s paganism….etc…etc.
I believe there is now a movement about which seeks to correct a lie which has been taught about our Father God….that it is not His mercy…but rather his torment which is eternal and I find on reflection, that I could no more go back to believing in Hell is a place of torment where 99% of people already are or should expect to be spending eternity suffering in a literal burning lake of fire….than I could to believing in the tooth fairy. I cannot…so I will have to take my stand. I guess in the immortal words of Sammy Davis Jr., “I gotta be me.” (The lyrics to this old chestnut are actually more apropos than I had imagined)
In spiritual things...as it seems in all of life, when we stop growing…we start dying. I confess I have stifled my own pursuit of God and His truth…simply to have peace and the hope of relationship. This I can no longer afford to do for several reasons.
Neil Anderson when talking about our identity in Christ says, “No person can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with the way he perceives himself.” I think it has been harmful on many levels to do what I have done in simply sitting down and shutting up. I have never said that anyone should follow me or believe what I believe I just want to follow where Jesus is leading me. I believe that Father deals with us each in His own way and doesn’t need me to bully anyone else. I do wish though, that it wasn’t so habitual for Christians to become angry and hostile rather than patient with those who have divergent ideas, or even dare to question things that have been set down for them. How many times have we all heard people say, “The Bible is as plain as the nose on your face” about this issue or the other, when in fact…it’s often not that plain at all? Makes me wonder if they've ever actually read it.
Anyhow…enough of that for now… The second thing (if you still remember I said there were two), is that I have been inspired to take my place in the peaceful 40 day vigil for life. It’s something I can do. There are many things I feel unqualified to do…but here I have been presented with a small part to play in a cause I believe is important and vital…and so this is the time to do the small thing that I CAN do, rather than ignore the whole ugly issue. There is no point in being ashamed of my past under-involvement. The thing is that I begin to live out who I am. I am not called to be anyone else….but I fail God if I am not authentically me because he wants to work through and use MY life.
Do I think these two issues are linked? Yes I do. If God is a personal God….If He cares about the individual, then He hasn’t made billions of people so that he can choose say,144,000 (just an arbitrary number) to keep, and the rest, not only destroy…but torture…not just for a thousand years or so…but FOREVER…not to correct them…but well…why then?
Also, If God is a personal God, then He cares about the lives of the children that are conceived and murdered in their mother’s wombs…and He cares about the people who have been so hardened off to their humanity and identity in Christ, that they have lost even the basic animal instinct to protect their young. I believe that God is a personal God… that He loves individuals. And I believe that these issues are part of the larger question…. “Does God love ME?” Yes He does...and...LOVE WINS...