Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Hey Indiana, If A Gay Man Asks You To Bake Him A Cake, Bake Him Two


If you haven’t heard the news, the State of Indiana and it’s Governor, Mike Pence, were feeling a wee bit nostalgic.  Pining for the good ol’ days they announced a new law that would allow people in the state to discriminate based on a religious principal.

Yep, you heard right…

This is for Jesus…

But what it really fear!

The gays are coming and we have to “take a stand” !

If we don’t we’ll be forced to:

* rent them rooms

* bake them cakes

* serve them food

* give them jobs

Heck, people will be singing show tunes in the streets…

It will be complete societal breakdown!

And as the law is designed to allow people to discriminate their professional services based on religious convictions, why stop at assuming this will only be used against the homosexual community.


Catholic owned stores deny service to Protestant customers?

Muslim owned restaurants refuse to serve Christians?

Evangelical hotel owners require proof of marriage before renting a room to a couple?

Perhaps we won’t hire a person who is:

* overweight 

* living together with a girlfriend / boyfriend

* divorced

The people of Indiana could live this way or…

…they could trump the law!

no gays

Yes, the people of Indiana could jump right over this new law and  instead do what Jesus taught; treat people around them with dignity and value.

You see, the law never stopped Jesus!  The law demanded that

* Jesus not associate with foreigners

* Jesus not eat at the same table as “sinners”

* Jesus not enter the homes of corrupt officials

* Jesus not socialize with the sexually immoral

But the Law cannot stop Grace….and it certainly didn’t stop Jesus!

Christians in Indiana have a choice:

They can either use the new law to mask their fear, insecurities, and self -righteousness


They can love people with the grace and compassion their Lord has demonstrated and taught them.  Or to paraphrase Jesus

“If a gay man asks you to bake him a cake, bake him two!”






American Jesus (March) Madness Predictions


I’ve never been into March Madness.  Call me a spoil sport but getting SO excited, not over a nation or even a city mind you, but schools?  And schools I never attended?  Do I really care about the amazing new freshman point guard at Duke?

I think not…

But over at Zack Hunt’s blog Zack has manged to put a fun twist on the “March Mania” by highlighting a madness I find even more …um maddening?

Christian soaked American religiosity

And by combining the two he has created an  American Jesus Madness bracket challenge.


So looking at the results so far I thought I would make my predictions on what appears to be very competitive quarter-final matchups:

Pope Francis vs. God’s Not Dead:  This is a tough one to call.  I mean I knew God’s Not Dead would knock Ken Ham out of the race (though despite evidence of his loss Ken still refuses to believe it) but going up against the juggernaut that is Pope Francis?  I have to go with the Holy Father on this one but this is a matchup where an upset is very possible.  If supporters of God’s Not Dead are told to picture Pope Francis as an atheist University professor attempting to silence them, well, then all bets are off.

Jesus Feminists vs. Yoga Pants: This one is a little outside my knowledge  zone.  Apparently there was a bruha over a Christian blogger who stopped wearing yoga pants so as to not cause men to lust.  To test this hypothesis scientifically I wore yoga pants around town all day with a notebook in hand. Sadly I produced no lust whatsoever but I did garner a few snickers, laughs, and a look of sickness or two.  But against Jesus Feminists?  I’m going with the yoga pants.

Christian Patriotism vs Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, and the Entire LGBT Community: Sadly for the Christian Patriots, this isn’t the same unstoppable juggernaut team they fielded in 1982.  Gone is star Forward Jerry Falwell and even though legendary Center Pat Robertson is still playing, he tends to just come out on the floor occasionally, mutter something incomprehensible, and that go and flop back down on the bench.   Also the game rules that had previously favored Christian Patriotism are being changed and the playing field is getting a little more even.  Its a new season for this team so look for the Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, and the LGBT community to take the match.

Hating Rob Bell vs. The Gospel: This is a match for the ages!  American Jesus Madness Christians LOVE to hate Rob Bell.  He represents everything they are not.  He is kind, thoughtful, compassionate…you know…Christlike and it drives them crazy.  There is one thing American Jesus Madness Christians love more than the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ and thats “hating Rob Bell”.  Look for “Hate” to triumph over “Good News” in this matchup!

Well, there you have my predictions.  What about yours?



Why Many Christians Still Build A House On Sand


An interesting conversation I had recently started when someone stated that if we “believe in Jesus” it’s like building your house on a rock. (Matt 7:24) When the rain and storms come we will be able to stand, unlike the person who doesn’t “believe in Jesus”.  That unfortunate person will be washed away because their house is built on sand.

Sounds easy enough;  Belief in Jesus produces a healthy fruitful life that can weather life’s storms.  Don’t believe, and well, all bets are off.

But is it true?

Often when we teach the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock, Christians tend to make it a “believe in Jesus” moment.  Have you accepted Jesus as “your personal Lord & Savior?”

But if we look closely, that’s not what Jesus said:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 7: 24-27

There are three things to consider here:

1) Therefore: The first word in this passage suggests it is connected to what immediately proceeded it; which is a verse that implies that calling Jesus “Lord” isn’t what God is primarily focused on:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7: 21-23

The verse is suggesting that an affirmation of God followed by a lot of ministry activities isn’t God’s priority and, even worse, is still like building your house on the sand.

Know any burned out pastors, missionaries, and ministers who feel miserable and whose families are a wreck?  Case in point…



2) Who hears my words AND puts them into practice The parable of the house built on the rock was all about hearing the words Jesus had just spoken and doing them! And what were his “words”?

Well it had nothing to do with what we would see in a standard evangelistic meeting designed to get someone to “receive” (give a verbal affirmation) of Jesus.  Instead, starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5, Christ had begun instructing the crowd in a Way of life that was counter-culture and counter intuitive to their nature.  It was teachings on:

* examining yourself rather than judging others

* sacrificing your abundance for a person in need

* loving those who would abuse you and talk bad about you

* not championing your relationship with God for your own esteem

Jesus said putting these things into practice is like building your house on the rock!

3) The authority that Jesus had when he taught these things stood in direct contrast to the religious leaders teachings of the time.  Like today, ministry leaders tend to focus on particular rituals and activities that, they teach, God smiles upon.

Jesus shook up that whole system.  

He was saying, “The religious leaders will tell you what God desires is this, but what God really desires is that!

Isn’t it really what Jesus’ ministry was all about?  He was pretty much always saying, “You think the road to God’s Kingdom is that.  But that road is wide, traveled by most folk, and leads to a life of pain, anxiety, and destruction.  I’m telling you the road to God’s Kingdom is this and unfortunately few find it.  It is quite narrow and following it will go against your natural reflex and comfort zone.”

Oh, but if you can find it, and He has promised to show us the Way, it leads to Life and Life eternal.





5 Reasons Jesus Was Rejected…And Why We Would Reject Him Again


I think as Christians we often look back at the rejection of Jesus by the religious rulers and people of the time and shake our heads in disbelief.  How could they have done that?  Were they crazy? They had the Son of God right there in front of them and they not only rejected him, they had him killed.

But if he had come today, with our present “Christian system” would we be any different? Would we embrace him…or cast him out?

Sure, if he showed up, we would be all excited at first; but once Jesus began to speak, disrupting our very notions of God, tradition, culture, and morality, I rather suspect we would reject him in much the same way as our brothers and sisters did 2000 years ago.

So here are 5 reasons Jesus was rejected…and would probably be rejected again!

1) Jesus didn’t always side with the Bible

Jesus valued the scriptures, quoted them often, and even began his ministry by publicly reading from the Book of Isaiah…


he was not a Bible literalist.

Jesus would often would give an interpretation quite at odds with the religious understanding of the day, and that didn’t go over so well.  Whether it was on issues of the Sabbath, ceremonial cleansing, sacrifice, or morality Jesus would often say, “The Bible says this but I am telling you that…

Jesus arriving today would find the “way” we often use the Bible at odds with his Way.  As he did 2000 years ago he would teach us his “Way” to correct our “way” and many would, in turn, reject the Living Word for the written word.

2)  Jesus embraced the “outcast”

Jesus was constantly raising eyebrows by the company he tended to keep. The poor, the disenfranchised, the ones who were not benefitting from “the system” were the ones Christ was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was made for. The religious establishment were aggravated with his constant siding with the people they themselves wanted to have nothing to do with.


Systems, whether religious, economic, or cultural, sustain themselves by having a clear delineation line between “us” and “them”.  Jesus was regularly going to “them” (Gentiles, Samaritans, and  ”law” breakers) and saying they were now part of “us”.

And are we any different in the modern church?  What if Jesus had encounters today that mirrored the encounters that infuriated religious folk 2000 years ago

How would we feel about Jesus:

* having dinner with politicians (right wing or left wing) that we despise? (Luke 19)

* happily receiving a homemade cake from a gay baker (Luke 7:36-40)

* seeking out and affirming a man who had been kicked out of a church (John 9: 34-37)

Although we like to assume we would react differently, I rather think we would largely remain judgemental and convinced Jesus was hanging out with the “wrong” sort.

3) Jesus wasn’t what they were hoping for

Everyone is a little guilty of creating God in their own image.  We want him to behave in a certain way; affirming what we affirm and rejecting what we reject.

We all do it to greater or lesser degrees and I stand guilty of it as well.

The people of Israel in Christ’s time were no different.  They wanted the promised Messiah…but they wanted him on their terms.  In their minds the Messiah was going to champion the Jewish religion, crush Israel’s enemies, and usher in a lasting rule under Jewish nationalism.

But Jesus, it turned out, was not a good fit for that job description.  He instead came championing the Kingdom of Heaven, embracing Israel’s enemies, and promising a lasting rule under Himself and his “Way”.

That didn’t go over so well…

If Christ were to come today we would welcome him with open arms…

…but once he began affirming his “Way” rather than ours I rather suspect we would give him the “left foot of fellowship” just like he received so many years ago.

4) Instead of answering plainly, Jesus told stories.

Jesus was asked a lot of questions…and he gave a lot of cryptic answers. Sometimes it was just because it was a “bad” question.  Sometimes it was the malicious intent of the inquisitor, but often it was simply because the Kingdom of God is best explained as a story.


People love stories. Difficult concepts can be better understood with a well told story. So Jesus told stories.

In fact, Jesus avoided getting bogged down in religious arguments and clarifying faith statements by answering theological questions with, “A man had two sons, and he said to the first son…”

This really irritated the religious folk who wanted to know where he stood on certain moral and faith based issues.  Presently there is a lot of argument going on within the church on the acceptance of “gay” Christians and whether a person can be “gay” and “Christian”.  People on both sides of this issue are certain how Jesus would respond.  But if Christ was around today and we asked him to weigh in on this controversial topic asking him to plainly say yes or no I think he would say something like,

“Ok, a business owner had two sons, and he said to the first son…” 

And many of us wouldn’t be any more happy today with that response than the folk were 2000 years ago.

5) Jesus was a threat to the temple system

By the time Jesus arrived, the religious system was running like clockwork. There were priests, offerings, worship, and sacrifices and many people had a vested interest and identity rooted in that system.

Then Jesus showed up.

* He disrupted and denounced the  commercial elements (Matthew 12:12-13),

* He proclaimed himself to be the temple God would utilize to connect with humankind (John 2:19)

* He abolished the priesthood being the gatekeepers to God by effectively making everyone a priest (1 Peter 2:9) 

Today’s church system bears a striking resemblance to the temple system of old.  We have temples (church buildings), priests (pastors), a temple tax (tithes), and regular sacrifices (time, money etc.)

Not that all these things are “bad” in and of themselves.  I participate in many aspects of this “system” myself.  But if Jesus came today, I ask myself often,  “how much of this “system” would he disrupt and how many of our vested interests would he overturn?”  We’re kidding ourselves if we think he would just remain quiet and endorse our “temple”.

And when he called into question the things we had been taught were essential to our faith would we embrace him…or reject him?

Now thats a good question?  And the answer is, “The owner of car dealership had two sons, and he said to the first son…”



Monster God or Monster Man? Michael Brown & Brian Zahnd Debate The Cross


If you grew up in a Western style evangelical or charismatic church circles you probably view how Christ took away our sins on the cross in a certain way. That God required a payment, a sacrifice, for our sins against him.  We were not worthy to pay that debt so Christ, in his love for us, goes to the cross and experiences shame, torture, and ultimately death on our behalf.  He does this to cover and remove our sin so that when the Father sees us, he really sees his Son Jesus and his wrath is no longer on us.

This “theory” of atonement (how Jesus removed our sins) is called Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  There was a legal punishment that was meant for us and Jesus “substituted” himself on our behalf allowing us to go free.

For me this kinda made sense since it was pretty much the only story we had. And generally the narrative is told with a focus on the incredible love Christ had for us and little emphasis was paid to the requirement of the Father.

But is it really “Good News”?  What does it reveal about the nature of God? Does God really require violence to satiate his wrath?

Recently Pastor Brian Zahnd debated theologian Michael Brown on this very issue.  The debate was entitled “Monster God or Monster Man” and explores whether the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) theory many of us came to Christ through in fact gives us a distorted picture of God.  Michael Brown to his credit gives a strong argument defending PSA and although I disagree with him the discussion is a wonderful example of two brothers wrestling over a very sensitive issue with respect for one another.

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015


A couple days ago a friend posted a news article saying actor Leonard Nimoy had been admitted to the hospital for chest pains.  I remember thinking, “At 83, he won’t be with us too much longer.”

Sure enough last night I got the news Nimoy had passed away due to heart complications when the first R.I.P. post appeared on Facebook.  Suddenly a flood of tribute posts began appearing on my news feed.  I must say since 2007 when I first joined Facebook I have never seen so many tributes for a celebrity who had died than for Leonard Nimoy.

And here is the kicker…

The tributes and accolades were coming from all sides of the political and religious spectrum. Right-wing, Left-wing, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jewish, and Atheist; in regular life these passionate voices may differ on whether President Obama is Savior or Satan, but upon hearing of Nimoy’s death they all paused for moment, laid down their swords and paid honor to a man who had been so much part of their life.

For me, I can’t remember a time of my life that Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock were not part of.  Star Trek was what we watched as a family growing up.  Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock was always with me and taught a boyhood Steve Hackman:

* an understanding of friendship and the responsibilities involved when someone calls you “friend”

* a love of science! Spock showed us the wonder of exploring the universe; not with a gun, but with a tricorder! 

* the confidence that we didn’t have to be afraid of the dark.  Sure, there was probably an acid spewing Horta there; but it really just wanted to be our friend.

* the understanding that an attitude of “non-violence” could be cool

* the desire to see others “Live Long and Prosper”

nimoy 3

Leonard Nimoy was a Renaissance man in real life and was known for, among other talents, his poetry. The last words he wrote were on the love he has learned and his desire to share it:

You and I have Learned

You and I have learned

The song of love

and we sing it well

The song is ageless

Passed on

Heart to heart

By those

Who have Seen

What We See

And Known

What we know

And lovers who have

Sung before

Our love is ours

To have


To share

The miracle is this

The more we share…

The more

We have

Thank you Leonard Nimoy.  Enter your rest and I’ll see you when we wake!



Top Eleven Doctor Who Quotes That Sound Like Something Jesus Would Say!

Doctor who1

Beyond the Pale readers should be made aware of the fact that that I am in BIG Doctor Who fan.  You know, the T.V. show about a 900 year old alien who travels through space and time in a phone box with a “sonic” screwdriver and friends.

Yep, that show

In fact it’s been fun for Gabriel (my son) and I to watch my wife Tammy’s transition from ambivalence bordering on contempt to full blown fan of The Doctor as well.  The transition occurred over 5 stages that went something like this:

Stage 1: “No way are we watching Doctor Who tonight!”

Stage 2: “If you guys want to watch Doctor Who, I can do something else.”

Stage 3: “I suppose if there is nothing else on, we can watch Doctor Who.”

Stage 4: “Hey, what if we watch Doctor Who tonight.”

Stage 5: “I LOVE Doctor Who!  Don’t you dare watch any episodes while I’m gone!”

Yep, she has been assimilated! :)

doctor who2

There are a lot of things I like about the Doctor Who.  The stories, the characters, the witty dialogue and fantastic locations.  But what I really enjoy is the “Christ” like arch type The Doctor represents.  I’m always drawn to “Christ” figures in stories. (Superman, Aslan etc.)

So, in honor of the upcoming regeneration (resurrection?) of The Doctor I thought I would list my Top Eleven Doctor Who quotes that Sound Like Something Jesus Would Say!

Drum roll please…

11. The Doctor: You betrayed me.  You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything I ever stood for. (Angry) You let me down!

Clara: Then why are you helping me?

The Doctor: (In disbelief) Why?  (Walks toward Clara) Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?


10.  “Big flashy things have my name written all over them. Well… not yet, give me time and a crayon.” The Doctor


9.  Jackson Lake: Please Doctor…Help Me?

The Doctor: Ah, two words I never refuse.


8. “Rose…before I go, I just want to tell you: you were fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.  And do you know what? (pause)  So was I!” The 9th Doctor’s final words before regenerating into the 10th Doctor


7. “My experience is that there is, surprisingly, always hope!” – The Doctor


6. “Good men don’t need rules.” – The Doctor


5. “Picture the biggest ship you’ve ever seen.  Are you picturing it? (yes) Good, now forget it because this ship is infinite.” – The Doctor explaining the dimensions of his ship the T.A.R.D.I.S


4. The Doctor: Didn’t anyone ever tell you? There’s one thing you never put in a trap if you’re smart. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there’s one thing you never, ever put in a trap.

Angel Bob: And what would that be, sir?

The Doctor: Me.  – (I always thought this is something Jesus could have said on the cross)


3. “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”- The Doctor explaining “time”



2.   Rose: Look at you, beaming away like you’re Father Christmas!

     The Doctor: Who says I’m not, red-bicycle-when-you-were-twelve?

     Rose: [shocked] What?

     The Doctor: And everybody lives, Rose! Everybody lives! I need    more days like this! Go on, ask me anything; I’m on fire!


and the number 1 best Doctor Who sounding like Jesus quote:

1.  You are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven. – The Doctor

There you have it.  If you have never watched Doctor Who before…there is no better time to begin.

An Affirmation For Brandan Robertson


Evangelicals are gaining quite a reputation as of late for being a tribe that eats its own.

Case in point, the recent flurry surrounding speaker and writer Brandan Robertson.

Brandan Robertson is an Evangelical Christian.

Brandan Robertson is also Queer and advocates for LGBTQ equality.

You can see where this was heading…

Apparently Destiny Image did as well.

Destiny Image, a major Christian publisher whose authors include notable “A-listers” such as T.D. Jakes and Bill Johnson, dropped Brandan’s debut book Nomad citing the fact that many Christian bookstores would probably refuse to buy it.

Now, a lot has been written about this issue.  You can check it out here or here

But I didn’t want to rehash the details per se.  I just wanted to do a little post affirming Brandan Robertson.  He’s just took a major kick in the teeth from his own, and probably needs a few friends right now.

So let me say…

I like Brandan.  I can’t claim to know him personally beyond a couple Facebook messages but I can say his earlier podcast interviews with notable folk such as N.T. Wright, Shane Claiborne, Kevin Miller, and Bob Goff were instrumental in the the journey my faith has taken since 2012.  His own journey from conservative Moody Bible Institute into a Christianity steeped in Grace has been a real encouragement to this 40 something pastor going through a similar transition.

I also admire Brandan.  He has a love for the Evangelicals that I’m sure leaves a lot of his friend’s scratching their heads but he has a loyalty and a compassion which is quite admirable, especially as the feelings don’t appear mutual  He maintains his blog on the Patheos “evangelical” channel rather than the “progressive” one and seems committed to being a voice from inside the Evangelical “family”.

As he notes in a piece for Huffington Post however that commitment comes with a price:

Time and time again, I have found myself sitting across the table from Evangelical mentors, leaders, and friends as they have explained that because of my perspectives on this singular issue, I was no longer a part of the Evangelical fold. That I could no longer be a part of my community, or school, or network, because I believed that God blesses same-sex relationships. And here again I sat, being told that because of my sexual identity and support for equality, Christian booksellers were banning me from publishing.

Like Jesus, Brandan comes to his own, but his own do not receive him (John 1:11)

Brandan learned the hard way if you don’t conform theologically, you are quickly cast out.  Funny how we Christians make such a big issue out of Statements of Faith yet Jesus never required anything of his disciples other than a willingness to “Follow Me”.  Ironically Jesus tended to seek out people who had been rejected by the religious leaders of the day:

Jesus heard that they (the religious leaders) had thrown him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

John 9:35-37

Brandan Robertson is following in the Way taught by our Lord…and following that Way comes with a price.  It often means experiencing the rejection of people we thought were brothers and sisters and sometimes even worse, by mentoring fathers.

So let me say:

Brandan, after the tears, frustration, and disappointment this setback brings, know this; there are a lot of people who need to hear your voice.  Your voice that tells the rejected, the confused, and the cast out that their Lord loves them, accepts them, and receives them just as they are.  That they are invited to “Follow Him”

You have Good News to bring!  So keep your heart soft, joy on your lips, and a spring in your step.  Know that there are many of us on the sidelines rooting for you!

Yes, the evangelicals have crucified yet another of their own but when people like Brandan Robertson follow Christ, resurrections end up becoming the final word.





Weekend Distractions: My Academy Award Predictions 2015


It’s Oscar time again and this is the first year since returning to Hong Kong that the Academy Awards fall on Chinese New Year holiday.  Because the awards are on Monday morning in Hong Kong due to the time difference this spares me the decision of whether to:

* take a vacation day and watch the show live

* go on a news and social media blackout all day and watch the evening rebroadcast

However while a Monday morning does put a cramp in my annual “Oscar Party” (which we used to do in Boulder) it in no way puts a cramp on my Oscar predictions.  So my 2015 Oscar picks are:

Best Picture: Conventional wisdom says the contest is between Birdman and Boyhood.  For me though if you take out the incredible 12 year shooting schedule watching people age for real, there was just not enough story “meat” on Boyhood’s bones.  Plus with the largest Academy voting block being actors I’m going to side with thespian narcissism and suggest the gold will go to Birdman and its story of an actor’s comeback and staging a Broadway play.  I enjoyed all the Best Picture nominees this year except Foxcatcher which bored me to no end.  The bio pics were good but to “by the numbers.”  Personally the best film of the pack for me was either The Grand Budapest Hotel or Whiplash.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel (or Whiplash)

Will win: Birdman


Best Director:  This will be the closest race of the evening.  It could go either to Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman whose single shot filmaking was visually compelling or Richard Linklater’s 12 year in the making Boyhood.  I’ll probably be wrong but I’m thinking voters will split the Director and Picture categories and ultimately give the gold to Linklater.

Should Win: Richard Linklater

Will Win: Richard Linklater


Best Actress: Julianne Moore is up for her 5th Oscar but she’s never won. Her riveting performance as an Alzheimers victim in the film Still Alice will be the Academy’s chance to give Moore the gold.  (Although Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl scarred the bejeebees out of me.)

Should Win: Julianne Moore

Will Win:  Julianne Moore


Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the wheel chair bound Stephen Hawking was stunning to watch.  To watch him capture the physical deterioration of Hawking is Oscar worthy but I think there may be an upset here with the Academy honoring Michael Keaton’s comeback.

Should Win: Eddie Redmayne

Will Win: Michael Keaton


Best Supporting Actress:  Patricia Arquette’s performance as a mother making a life for her family as a single mother will be the winner here.  Hands down!

Should Win: Patricia Arquette

Will Win: Patricia Arquette


Best Supporting Actor: It’s true I would give an award to Robert Duvall every single year…but this year Whiplash’s J.K Simmons filled us with fear and loathing as a music conductor who emotionally abuses his star pupil to coax and even higher standard of performance.

Should Win: J.K. Simmons

Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Rob Bell & 9 Things Evangelicals Should Never Do: A Response To R.C. Sproul


Bloggers love Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll.  Whenever either of them do anything whatsoever all we  have to do is write a blog post commenting on their latest statement, decision, or action and sit back and watch as the “hits” roll in.

I generally avoid the temptation to wade in to these waters too often as I want Beyond the Pale to be a site focused on ideas and theology that challenges the Christian community in a positive way and not a gossip rag.  (Yes, I can say with some pride there has been not one post on Tony Jones here at Beyond the Pale despite the viewership that market offered.)

But when I read R.C. Sproul’s take down of Rob Bell over the latter’s recent appearance with Oprah Winfrey…well…

…it’s a weekend and I have time.

So based on R.C. Sproul’s stinging indictment here are 9 things an evangelical in good standing should never do:

1) Suggest God loves too much

According to R.C. Sproul Rob Bell’s rode to perdition started with the latter’s 2011 book Love Wins where Bell suggested that in the end the love God has for us just may be the final word.  Although we make decisions all the time that produce hell for ourselves and those around us, could a God who is love itself condemn a majority of his creation to eternal conscious torment?  Bell suggested perhaps not.

Rob Bell says “God is Love”

R.C. Sproul reminds us a good evangelical says, “God is Love, but…”


2) Have too wide of audience outside the church

True evangelicals are not supposed to have visibility of note much outside the evangelical fold.  Doing so immediately invokes suspicion. (See Joel Osteen or Rick Warren)  When Rob Bell resigned as pastor of Mars Hill Church in 2011 he was was supposed to quietly fade from the evangelical radar.

Instead he did the opposite…

He became bigger, brighter, and more influential than ever.

To succeed after leaving evangelical leaders have declared you a “wolf” and “heretic” exposes the evangelical leadership for the emperor without clothes that it really is.

A big “no-no” for evangelicals…


3) Be seen with Oprah Winfrey

Ok, little secret; Evangelical leaders hate Oprah Winfrey.

(Note: this is not to be confused with much of the evangelical flock that actually love Oprah; further highlighting the disconnect between the two)

See, Oprah is kind, generous, thoughtful and people love her…and this really irritates evangelical leaders because it threatens their role as the gatekeepers for people’s spiritual development and threatens their motto:

“Evangelicalism is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to God, happiness, and fulfillment in life is to attend our churches and read our books”

People have the audacity to bypass the evangelical high priests and listen to Oprah instead of them 

Read Sproul’s post.  He is not promoting Christ’s Way or teachings.  Sproul is instead defending the evangelical fold of which he is a respected “gatekeeper”… …and Oprah is a threat to that gatekeeper position.


4) Suggest in practice that the Bible isn’t the 4th member of the Godhood

Ok, admittedly no evangelical leader will proclaim that the Bible is a member of the Godhood…but that doesn’t mean they won’t make that notion a foundation of evangelicalism in practice.

Evangelical leaders like to intertwine the Word of God (Jesus) with the word of God (Bible) so often and effortlessly that they become one and the same. Suddenly questioning what a man wrote to a church 2000 years ago becomes synonymous with questioning God himself.

R.C. Sproul’s biggest condemnation for Rob Bell is the accusation that he is “hostile” to the Word of God

But because God speaks, because God will not be silenced, because when we push against the Word of God which is an immovable rock, sooner or later we will find ourselves cursing the Word of God, and spitting on it. And that is where Rob Bell has found himself.

I thought Jesus was the immovable rock? Or is it the Bible?  See, it’s easier when you just make the Bible part of the Godhood…inerrant…infallible

Then everything will be crystal clear…really!


5) Refer to the epistles as “Letters from 2000 years ago”

By referring to sections of the Bible as “letters from 2000 years ago” Bell committed the evangelical error in #4 of not paying the proper homage to the scriptures.  But since they are, in affect, “letters from 2000 years ago” R.C. Sproul had to add the inference that Bell meant they were “irrelevant”.

If you are ever unsure of what you mean theologically, never fear, many evangelical leaders stand ready to tell you, and others, what you really meant.



6) Have a different Biblical interpretation

Evangelicals have pretty much colonized every Biblical verse with an “orthodox” interpretation.  Suggest a different interpretation or viewpoint and it matters not if you love God, love people, love Jesus… you are in danger of being a heretic, or worse,  Rob Bell!

Often in discussions with evangelicals you will hear the phrase, “But the Bible clearly says…”  However the hundreds of different denominations of Christendom might lead us to humbly acknowledge that things are not always as clear as we claim.


7) Still have an evangelical audience after evangelical leaders have declared you a “wolf”

When evangelical leaders proclaim one of their “fallen” a “wolf” that means evangelicals are supposed to stop listening to them.  Trouble is evangelicals keep listening to him, buying his books, and attending his sold out talks! It drives evangelical leaders, like R.C. Sproul, crazy!

(Cue: Renting of garments)

I can only guess this is how the Pharissees responded when they saw the Jewish audiences flocking to Jesus.  People are drawn to Life…and Rob Bell speaks a lot of Life!



8) Take the teachings of Christ and attempt to make them as meaningful for a 21st century Western culture as they were for a 1st century Middle Eastern culture.

Evangelicals are supposed to remain quiet when making the theological gymnastics necessary for applying certain scripture for today. Head coverings, women speakers, slavery etc.  Let’s face it, the Bible was written in a time when people would stone a lady (but not a man) for adultery.  Yes, her community was ready to pick up large stones and throw them at her until she was dead.

Jesus comes along and shows a better way forward.  One that brings life, redemption, and wholeness rather than judgement, condemnation, and death. Rob Bell is attempting to do the same thing…

…and is getting the same response from the religious community that Jesus did!


9) Be “liked”

Evangelical leaders are not supposed to be “liked”.  Lets face it, nobody “likes” John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur.  These men are defenders of Truth and hold the scorn they receive as a badge of honor of a job well done.

Rob Bell has an attribute that drives men like this crazy…

…people like him!

And this is unforgivable!

R.C. Sproul has a parting word of warning for Rob Bell at the end of his post.  He says:

What Rob Bell thinks of gay marriage, I’m not concerned about. What the Bible says about it, that’s the truth. The immovable, unshakeable truth, that will still be here and still be true when Rob Bell’s body is rotting in his grave, and unless he repents, when his soul is just beginning to suffer the wrath of God for all eternity.

So for R.C. the wrath of God is laid upon a man whose theology is declared to wrong on an issue of Sproul’s interpretation?  As my brother often says, “a person’s position on hell tells us much more about the person than of God”.

And that statement pretty much says everything I need to know about Mr. Sproul!