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Another of these drafts was simply a copy of a blog comment that referenced me. It was from the blog Epochalypsis: The Age of Unveiling. I vaguely remember seeing a Facebook ad featuring their glowing chi-rho logo and clicking over to check it out. What I found was a post that referred to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement as “twisted crap.” I commented on the post, challenging some of the writer’s presuppositions, and got this response:
The Twisted Crap: (that Pastor Bartels apparently teaches his flock) God wanted us all dead for being such terrible sinners and Jesus saved us from his wrath. Also known as "substitutionary atonement" (i.e. Jesus was substituted in our place), this is one of the most vile, unfortunate and common understandings of what Jesus and his death on the cross means for mankind. It basically takes the biblical concept of a compassionate, loving, parent-like unconditional figure of God and warps and distorts God into some kind of blood-thirsty, revenge oriented God of wrath. While this understanding of God may not be true or helpful to growing as a loving compassionate believer, it sure is helpful to make believers compliant and put butts in your church pews. Much of the Empire of Christianity owes it's growth and success to this very lie. How do I know this is crap?
Think about the concept of substitutionary atonement this way: Imagine you were standing on the side of the road watching a mother and a daughter walking toward you hand-in-hand. Suddenly, a car loses control, and careens off the road onto the sidewalk right in the path of the mother and her daughter. With but a moment to act, the mother scoops up her daughter and throws her clear of the out-of-control car and then is killed instantly as the car slams into her. You run over to the scene of the accident to see if you can help. Paramedics, police and other bystanders are rushing around. Some are attending to the little girl, some are checking the mother's vitals, some are just in shock, crying at the horrible scene and the incredible sacrifice they'd just witnessed. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this wild-eyed woman walks up next to you, grabs your arm and says, "God wanted that little girl dead. The car was His wrath, and the little girl's mommy took her place."
I bet anyone of us would look that woman in the eyes and tell her she was nuts. Crazy nuts. And yet that's what millions of Christians the world over hear and believe every Sunday. The term "sacrifice" is not meant like the virgin on the altar, or the lamb at passover. It's not some kind of offering to appease. "Sacrifice" is meant like when we say a soldier "sacrificed himself" by jumping on a mine to save his platoon. Or the mother in the story above. It's an act of compassion and love. Not an act of appeasement. And that, my friends, is what Pastor Bartels finds offensive that I call "a morbid, negative and creepy doctrine" on the blog."
Not sure what I had been planning to do with that little gem. I’m guessing that the reason it just sat there a draft is because, like The God Who Wasn’t There, after a basic critical perusal, there’s little left standing to even tip over. But it might be a useful exercise to see just how many 1. false presuppositions, 2. logical fallacies / unwarranted leaps, and 3. blatant misunderstandings of orthodox soteriology we can find here. Not because it’s fun to tear someone else’s beliefs down (although the author of the above comment clearly thinks it is), but because, despite the fading away of many doctrinal-trends-formerly-known-as-emergent, the fashionable denial of substitutionary atonement is still on the rise among self-professed followers of Jesus.
And when we encounter proponents of such thought, it’s important that we listen carefully, that we search the Scriptures to analyze, validate, or debunk their teachings, and that we don’t let them get away with pulling a record number of “fast ones.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
As of yesterday, though, the most recent entry was from January 14. But then today, I dropped the Big One.
As we say at Gut Check Headquarters / Pastor Zach’s Basement (while adjusting our wigs and looking deeply into our own souls in the mirror), It’s on now!
The aforementioned Big One:
If you want to know how it all ends . . .
Dear reader-slash-footsoldier in the Gut Check Army,
Yes, it seems that we let this project go by the wayside, as if this serialized end-times thriller is now as irrelevant as The Late Great Planet Earth. But things are not always as they seem.
True, we did have a bit of a lag there—so much so that we're having to re-work the clever “whoops, the Mayan calendar really runs out in 2011” sub-plot—but we’ve also been working on this project behind the scenes. There are now four more chapters, each building this story to a ludicrously dispen-sensational climax.
Where are these chapters, and why aren't they posted, you ask? Because we’ll be wrapping this story up as a committee in the next few weeks (somewhere in a smoke-filled back room or spark-and-steam-filled alley) and offering the whole deal as an e-book for, oh let's say, three bucks.
Stay tuned at www.gutcheckpress.com.
Honestly, this thing is a hilarious collaboration and it’s getting funnier as it gets more absurd. I’ll let you know when it’s all shrink-wrapped and ready for delivery to your Kindle or Nook.
It occurred to me that, since my blogging career has involved more “comebacks” than John Travolta’s acting career, I needed to do something drastic to prove to the world that I’m really back on the blogging horse in earnest. So here it is: I actually updated my horribly ’90s-looking blog template with something (hopefully a little bit) less outdated looking.
Let’s all just take a moment to bask in the heat of the smile now spreading the mandibles of the Calvinist Gadfly.
My fellow preachers,
I need some advice here.
When such a holiday comes along, I simply continue preaching through whatever book I was working through. More often than not, I’m shocked by the clear providence involved, as the “special day” in question (particularly days that touch on biblical themes, like Veterans Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) fits together with the text hand-in-glove—totally unplanned, of course. Sometimes, I can even throw a bone to the holiday via a sermon illustration that serves the text.
But with Mother’s Day . . . well, let’s just look at my record . . .
- My 1st Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Sermon on the Mount, I landed on, “If you look at a woman to lust after her, you've already committed adultery in your heart.”
- My 2nd Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Joshua, it happened to be about Rahab, the harlot.
- My 3rd Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Luke, the text was the woman of bad reputation (prolly a prostitute) who anointed Jesus' feet. (Some finding this less cute, and perhaps beginning to wonder if it’s by design . . . )
- My 4th Mother's Day at Judson: I had just finished 63 weeks of preaching through Luke the week before and took it as a providential sign to preach a one-off expository sermon from a Mother's-Day friendly text. Okay, fine; it was a topical sermon. (Does Act of Contrition). I actually heard more negative feedback for this move than positive.
- My 5th Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through John's epistles, it seemed that the curse was lifted, as I was able to expound on love and truth.
- My 6th Mother's Day at Judson: Didn't want to mess with it, so I took the week off and called in a real professional (Mikey Gohn) to deal with preaching on Mother’s Day.
- My 7th Mother's Day at Judson (this coming Sunday): Preaching through Revelation, and have arrived at this text . . .
Revelation 2:20-23 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead.” [Emphasis mine, natch]
Seriously? On Mother’s Day! Come on!!
Part of me thinks it’s a test or something. Either, way (if I put it off a week or not), it'll be a great intro. But what to preach? And how to address it?
I realize that many pastors do not choose their own text each week, or do not preach through books in an expository fashion, but let’s do a little inter-denominational-clergy-colleagues-take-part-in-a-Baptistic-style-vote a la bad ecclesiatical reality show action on this one. I’m thinking maybe going with whatever one of the major lectionaries has scheduled this week . . . ?
What say you?
“They’re like Romeo and Juliet.”
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Everything you've never wanted to know about Pastor Zach (and had no desire to ask...)
- Zachary Bartels
- An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary Bartels has been serving as senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for seven years. He earned his BA in world religions from Cornerstone University and his Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling. His writing, with its combination of clean prose, tight action, and cutting humor, has been highlighted by The Grand Rapids Press, www.speculativefaith.com, uber-popular blog TeamPyro, and elsewhere. He lives in Lansing with his wife Erin and son Calvin.
Click here to buy the emergent satire Kinda Christianity, written by Ted Kluck and myself.
Click here to buy the new satire Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder by Ted Kluck and Zach Bartels.
Click here to buy my novel, 42 Months Dry.
Click here to snag our end-times thriller satire, written by committee (only $2.99).
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