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I spend my days doing stuff for Soul Survivor NZ and my church "Blueprint" in Wellington NZ. I am perplexed, amazed, in awe of, and spend a lot of time thinking about this revolutionary called Jesus and what it means to follow Him.

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A bigger - and smaller view of Mission

Selected excerpts from one of the most thought provoking articles ive read in quite some time. Written by John G. Stackhouse who is professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in the states.

"Much of the energy of the great 19th-century missionary movement among Westerners, and much of the impetus of missions work around the world to this day, has come from the horror of a Niagara of souls pouring into a lost eternity for want of an evangelist. We also need to acknowledge, however, a corresponding horror in the hearts of many—including many missions-minded Christians—about a God who allows whole nations and generations to plunge into a lost eternity simply because no one happened to reach them with the gospel. Does faithfulness to the Bible mean we must retain this picture?"

"No religion is salvific: not Hinduism or Shinto or Islam, but also not Christianity. God is salvific. Practicing religion, however correct it is and however correctly one practices it, will not save you. That is basic Christian conviction. It is trusting God that will save you—that also is basic Christian conviction".

"I am a professional theologian, so of course I think theology matters. Theology can help us live better or worse, depending on its quality. But theological accuracy is not the heart of the gospel. Encountering God's Spirit and responding in faith to him in that encounter is what finally matters. And how God meets people, through whatever theology they might have, in whatever circumstances, is ultimately not visible to us".

"God is not interested in saving merely human souls. He wants human beings, body and soul. Furthermore, he does not settle for saving human beings, but the whole earth. He made it in the first place, pronounced it "very good," and he wants it all back. So he is saving us, the lords he put over creation, as part of his global agenda to rescue, indeed, the globe."

It sounds quite liberal in bite size (dont you hate how labels box stuff in) but in its entirety is pretty solid and makes some solid arguments. I have being carrying some fairly big questions around the heaven and hell doctrine - the call to evangelism and reconciling it with the small percentage of the worlds population that call themselves christian, and this to date has being the most concise exploration into these issues that I have read.

I am a frustratingly slow processor so it will take some time before I will be able to critique it from my filters of scripture, tradition, experience and reason (go the Wesleyan quadrilateral!). But something of this article resonates with me. Would be interested in your thoughts or insights (but read the whole thing please!).

On another tangent

I am stealing Mr Darnells discovery here but I dont think I can hold off. There is a whole radiohead tribute album to radiohead's "Ok Computer" for free here.
And it is absolutely stunning - though very very unusual.

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“A bigger - and smaller view of Mission”

  1. Blogger the ROCK says Says:

    Hey Sam... heaven and hell... one of my fav topics...:)

    Great quote here... I agree whole-heartedly that God will not settle for saving human beings but the whole earth. And if God can do anything, why wouldn't He save the whole earth?

    BTW, I'm in Wellington all of next week... we should hook up..:)

  2. Blogger A. J. Chesswas Says:

    I agree that the popular evangelical view of salvation has been too narrow. I agree that there will be others saved because they, as Stackhouse puts it, "trust God will save them". I would add, also, that they have a repentant heart.

    However, I wouldn't take the next step Stackhouse seems to want to take, and say that all will be saved. Repentance and trust in God remain vital according to the biblical record, and Judgment, God's wrath and Hell remain doctrinal realities for followers of the biblical Jesus.

    As I have posted, I believe there is a middle ground between Evangelicalism and Universalism.


    Nice post Sam. Interesting topic...

  3. Blogger the ROCK says Says:

    OK...I like reading your blog AJ and I think you're a good guy (from what I've read) so I hope this doesn't seem like I'm always just trying to disagre with you but...

    I disagre and your comment annoys me.

    'Repentance and trust in God remain vital according to the biblical record, and Judgment, God's wrath and Hell remain doctrinal realities for followers of the biblical Jesus'

    There are plenty of people all over the world and throughout history who would strongly disagree with not only the idea of eternal damnation and hell but also with your opinion that it is a 'doctrinal reality.'

    Because that is what it is, your opinion. Your belief. That is all. Saying that your belief is a doctrinal reality comes across arrogant and reeks of a superiority complex.

    I believe, it is my opinion, that Universal Reconciliation is a doctrinal reality and the thought that the God could forever close his eyes, ears and heart to His own children's tormented destiny goes against the God I know from both scripture and personal experience.

    But that is simply my belief... as a follower of the 'biblical Jesus.'

  4. Blogger Sam Says:

    "the next step Stackhouse seems to want to take, and say that all will be saved."
    Interesting I didnt think he was going down that line to much. My read was that there might be some surprises as to who is actually saved. Why do you reckon he says that?
    Cool article aye!

  5. Blogger A. J. Chesswas Says:

    I agree Sam, it's just when he uses expressions like "saving...the whole earth" and "rescuing the globe" I worry that Sean will get excited.

    Sean, one of us is right, and both of us are arrogant. One of us is more arrogant than the other. And that would have to be the one propagating as truth something that isn't, and thinking the other will accept it. I'm pretty sure I know which one of us that is, but you'd think I was arrogant if I told you :)

  6. Blogger the ROCK says Says:

    Hahahaha.... thanks AJ!

    Yes... it does get me excited, yes I do think I am right and you are wrong.

    Anyone who seeks to scriptually understand the heart of God and believes in the biblical sovreignty of God would know that my doctrine is truth, anything less is heresy!!...lol... cheers mate!

  7. Blogger A. J. Chesswas Says:

    Cheers Sean :)

  8. Blogger Sam Says:

    Ha, well so far we have managed to only flirt with calling each other names...
    Guess we will have to wait 60 years or so (if we are lucky) till we find out whose right... or as the case may well be, that we are all a little right but also got it pretty wrong as well : )
    Think it would be pretty arrogant for any of us to conclude that we have nailed the understanding of how it is all going to pan out. That we have sussed the ways of God.

  9. Blogger A. J. Chesswas Says:

    Just as well Jesus nailed it for us I suppose.

  10. Blogger servant Says:

    Bloody Wesleyan Quadrilateral nails it again! Booya! ;o)

    Sooooooo, on the topic of Hell... one of my pet peeves.... can anybody venture to tell me why Jesus used a physical place to conjur up thoughts of judgement when talking to the Jews (Gehenna), and why on God's green earth, did people like Paul and Peter use Greek mythology (Hades and Tartaros) to do a similar thing? (though not exactly the same)

    ..... and then why oh why did we end up with a bunch of english translations that simply translate each of these very different concepts with one word.... hell? It seems that what we have ended up with is the lake of fire (another concept) of Revelation (symbolism again anyone?) being transposed on to these other things and then all of them being given the same name and being seen in exactly the same way.

    What the.....!?

    Clearly I'm going to have to bust out the nerd in me and read up on the commentaries.

  11. Blogger servant Says:

    ..... ok, so maybe saying the Wesleyan quadrilateral "nailed it" after A.J said that Jesus had "nailed it for us" wasn't quite appropriate.....

  12. Blogger Debs Says:

    I'm sorry servant, I don't understand what you are suggesting?

  13. Blogger servant Says:

    I'm not suggesting anything Debs, I'm pointing out that a whole bunch of different concepts have been given the one name "hell" and how that has been handed down to us today with one blanket definition.... some sort of fiery furnace where naughty people go.

    I want to know what Jesus was getting across when he talked of Gehenna, what Paul was trying to convey when he used the greek mythological concept of Hades and what Peter was doing when he did the same with Tartaros.

  14. Blogger Debs Says:

    Ok, ta. My heart races with this sort of stuff. It gets my head spinning. Maybe for now I have to know that I'm saved and leave it at that.

    But, then, what am I saved from? Hell? Is it not as simple as heaven and hell?

    Tonight marks the anniversary of me being saved/getting saved 5 years ago. It's a flippen huge deal. I'd be dead right now if it weren't for God. Stackhouse suggests that God wants the whole earth saved. Well my limited understanding is that Jesus came so that can happen. But then isn't this where free will comes into it? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Isn't that part of Jesus' love for us, that he wants us to spend eternity with him but he aint gonna force us - because he loves us?

    If that is the case, I find that hard to get my head around. A bit like me letting my daughter snort cocaine - free will and all. Ok I realise that's a silly comparison, in fact I don't even know where I'm going with this.

    I'm hanging up now.

  15. Blogger A. J. Chesswas Says:


    Jesus referred to a place near Jerusalem (Gehenna) when he was talking to people in Jerusalem. Paul and Peter used Greek concepts (Hades and Tartaros) when they spoke to people in the wider Hellenistic world. Augustine used a Germanic word (Hell) when he spoke to the Angles and the Saxons. This is fairly normative missiology – to use pictures and words a people group are accustomed to in order to effectively communicate a message.

    One thing was common to them all though – the wrath and judgment of God, and an eternal destiny of suffering apart from God. To be etymologically correct, we should say all of these different names and places have been associated with one concept: God’s wrath.

  16. Blogger the ROCK says Says:

    I'd agree with AJ (surprise, surprise) that the words used were meant to convey a place to the listner that was terrible and full of pain and misery.

    However, it was never intended to convey the idea of eternity.

    It is God's good will and purpose that none should perish and as no one can thwart God's purposes, He is able to save every person. While I believe that there will be a place of torment and pain, it will not be forever. The bible repeatedly says that God's anger (wrath) lasts but a moment but His favour is for a life-time.

    And God is able to save every person without violating their 'free will' if He chooses. (As a side-line, I'd like to point out that God has violated people's 'free will' on numerous occasions when it suited His purposes). There's the story of the man who challenged God, "God if you're real, then make me slap my own bald head!" Just as the last word was spoken,a fly landed on the man's head which he promptly reached up and slapped.

    God is love.. and love never fails.

  17. Anonymous Sylphie Says:

    I think that "Hell" is simply eternal separation from God - and that Gehenna, Hades, Tartaros etc are 'pictures' or metaphors to try to convey the utter terribleness and pain and suffering experienced when eternally separated from God. NOT literal, picture-perfect descriptions of a place. Per AJ "This is fairly normative missiology – to use pictures and words a people group are accustomed to in order to effectively communicate a message."
    Also Heaven to me is eternally being with God - I don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it will be like, just trust that it is all under control and will be fabulous.
    On a flippant note, a friend from way back used to say that he would not be going to hell as he couldn't gnash his teeth.