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February 28, 2011

Rob Bell may be a universalist. I don’t think this would prove surprising to too many people. Certainly his theological trajectory over the years has been concerning and it’s rare for a guy to suddenly and radically reverse that kind of a path.

Rob Bell Love WinsBell has a book coming out in the near future, one titled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. According to the publisher’s description, “Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.” It needs to be noted that this kind of copy is typically written by the publisher rather than the author and that it is intended to sell the book rather than necessarily provide an accurate description of the book’s contents.

A few days ago a video appeared on YouTube and Vimeo and other sites. In that video Bell describes the topic of the book. Here it is: (people reading via RSS may need to click this link):

Over the weekend several bloggers wrote about this video: Josh Harris, Denny Burk, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, Phil Johnson, and Z among them. Some of those articles went viral, garnering thousands of comments between them, making a bit impact on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

I am not going to comment on whether or not Bell is a universalist. To be honest, at this point I think it is a little bit too early to make that determination. I watch the video and read the marketing copy and think that it shows a very deliberate vagueness that is meant to raise questions but not answer questions, that is meant to generate controversy and sell books. And so far it’s succeeding admirably. My guess is that in the end Bell will take a vague universalist position—not outright universalism but still something that is still clearly unorthodox (as Brian McLaren did in his earlier days before he got into the kind of outright denial that has been the core of his more recent books).

February 23, 2011

Over the past few days I have been preparing to preach on Genesis 3, one of those amazing biblical texts that just opens wide as you begin to study it. One clear application from the first seven verses is that we need to know, believe and stand upon the Word of God. Adam and Eve did not do this—they doubted God’s Word. That doubt, that lack of trust, led to sin, led to the Fall, led to this world.

One thing I have been thinking about is the fact that Adam and Eve did not have God’s Word written for them. They had God’s Word spoken to them. And that brought me back to a study I did a few months ago on the ways in which humans have communicated over time. From the first days until today we have passed through various phases of communication, beginning with an oral culture, passing through a written and then printed culture, and now arriving at a digital culture.

I want to outline this flow over time and seek your input on a couple of things. So get reading and then help me out along the way.

Oral Culture

As far as we know, God created Adam and Eve not just with the ability to speak but with ability to speak meaningfully in some kind of a language. Created as adults, Adam and Eve were created with the ability to communicate with one another and with God. The speech they knew when they were created they taught to their children and their children after them. This was the first form of human communication. This was an oral culture in which words were not written but, rather, memorized and recited. What they did not remember or choose to record in their memories was lost forever.

February 21, 2011

My book The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion is set to release on April 1. As part of the run-up to the book, the publisher created a trailer or commercial for it. And today I get to debut it here at the blog. The commercial seeks to lampoon our technological addiction and the fact that we tend to think we own our technology while, in reality, it may just own us.

I would be exceedingly grateful if you’d consider sharing the video via email, Twitter, Facebook, your blog or any other means you can think of. You’d be doing me a great favor in getting word out (look at the bottom of this blog post for buttons that can help you do that). You might also like to pre-order it, in which case I’ll sign your copy of the book before it ships.

(RSS readers will need to click through to see the video—or check it out at YouTube)

Also, I want to share an email I received last week from someone who received an advance copy of the book. This email was a huge, huge encouragement to me. “I spent some time this morning previewing your new book. Honestly, I wasn’t all that excited about a book on technology, etc, but I gotta say I am loving your book. It’s not only well-written (you have an engaging prose), it’s also incredibly insightful and wise. Yes, this book is filled with wisdom, depth and discernment. Thanks for writing it. I can tell you put a lot of work into this—both mind and heart work.” Why do I post that? Because I think it confirms what I was hoping when I wrote the book—that this is a subject that we can all benefit from studying. The Scripture demands a place in our thinking about technology.

February 20, 2011

On Sunday I often post a prayer here at the blog. Today I want to ask you to pray. You may have heard of Said Musa, a man imprisoned in Afghanistan and awaiting execution. His crime? He converted to Christianity from Islam. He needs our prayer.

Here is what Denny Burk posted yesterday. “Said Musa is married and the father of six young children. He has been a Christian for eight years. Compass Direct News reports:

In the two-page letter, a copy of which Compass received in late October, Musa addressed Obama as ‘brother’ and pleaded with the international community: ‘For [the] sake [of the] Lord Jesus Christ please pray for me and rescue me from this jail otherwise they will kill me because I know they [have] very very very cruel and hard hearts.’

Musa wrote of being sexually abused, beaten, mocked, spat on and deprived of sleep because of his faith in Jesus. He wrote that he would be willing to suffer for his faith in order to encourage and strengthen other Christians in their faith.

So why don’t you pray for our brother, that the Lord would spare his life. And if that is not the Lord’s will, that Said would be willing to face death bravely and with his eye on the Savior.

Read more at National Review or The Christian Post.

February 08, 2011

The Next StoryI’m going to be giving away a bunch of Westminster Books gift certificates today. So keep reading.

My book The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion is set to release on April 1, 2011—less than 2 months from now. And it is now available now for pre-sale. I’d like to ask you to order a copy or two (or ten or …). I can even offer a small perk: if you order it before the release date, I can make sure you get a signed copy.

To give you some incentive, I’ve worked out what I think is a great deal with Westminster Books. Beginning today you can go to Westminster Books and pre-order The Next Story. They are selling it for $11.99, which seems very reasonable for a 224-page hardcover (the retail price is $19.99). The book will ship as soon as it is in stock. And before it ships, I’ll sign it.

I’m anticipating your question: if you order my book and another title at the same time, will you get the other book now or will you need to wait until April? Good news; the other book will be shipped as usual, with a follow-up shipment containing The Next Story when it arrives in stock.

To incentivize even further, I am going to give away a bunch of gift certificates to some of you who order it. Skip to the bottom for details.

Still not convinced? Let me explain what the book is all about.


Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by advances in digital technology. We rely upon computers, cell phones, and the Internet for communication, commerce, and entertainment. Yet even though we live in this ‘instant message’ culture, many of us feel disconnected, and we question if all this technology is really good for our souls. In a manner that attempts to be accessible, thoughtful, and biblical, I address questions such as:

  • How has life—and faith—changed now that everyone is available all the time through mobile phones?
  • How does our constant connection to these digital devices affect our families and our church communities?
  • What does it mean that almost two billion humans are connected by the Internet … with hundreds of millions more coming online each year?

Providing the reader with a framework they can apply to any technology, I explain how and why our society has become reliant on digital technology, what it means for our lives, and how it impacts the Christian faith.

So it’s a book not just for the young and digital, but for all of us.


Here is what a few people are saying about The Next Story:

“There are many books evaluating the nature and impact of new media.  There are many books on Christian discipleship.  However, this book brings these issues together, with profound simplicity and well-informed analysis.  This is an important book not only for church leaders but for all of us who seek to understand how we are used by our technology as well as use it.” Michael Horton

“Tim Challies knows technology and he knows the faith.  So, when he writes on the intersection of technology and faith, it’s a must read. The Next Story gives solid counsel to living out the gospel in the context of today’s rapid progression of technology.” Ed Stetzer

“We all marvel at the rapid technological advances that have taken place in our lifetime. But few of us stop to reflect on the profound way these changes are shaping what it means to be human. The Next Story is a great place to start. It moves beyond warnings simply to be careful what we see (important though these are) to explore how the medium of new technology affects how we know God, relate to other people and even how we think. Instead of simplistic rules or proof texts, it offers a penetrating analysis of the modern world in the light of the biblical story together with practical principles that will enable you to ensure technology is your tool and not your master.” Tim Chester

“As the co-author of 13 words in Tim’s new book, I’m very happy that he, with his skill as a writer, his experience with as a web designer, and his deeply informed, discerning faith, wrote the other 60,000.” John Dyer

“This is an important book. As someone who has spent almost two decades helping couples and families grow stronger and thrive, I have seen how what Tim Challies calls the digital explosion is sending shock waves through homes – everything from Facebook threatening marriages to couples who can’t have a conversation that goes deeper than a tweet. It’s time we think seriously about the subtle way technology is reordering our lives. The Next Story helps us do that.” Bob Lepine

So go ahead! Pre-order the book. Please!


If you place your pre-order on February 8 or 9, go ahead and send an email to nextstory@challies.com with the subject line Pre-Order. I will randomly pick some of you to win $10, $20 or $50 gift certificates to Westminster Books. That will pay for the cost of the book, or more. Send as many emails as you buy copies (so if you buy 2 copies, send 2 emails) and I’ll enter you that many times. But don’t write me anything in those emails as they’ll be automatically processed.

Last time, I promise: Pre-order the book.

Small Print: This order is available in the US of A only. Apologies to the rest of you (us). I recommend Amazon.

February 08, 2011

Eric LiddellYesterday I shared the first part of a brief biography of Eric Liddell. Today I would like to complete it. In the first part we got as far as Eric Liddell returning to Scotland after winning two Olympic medals.

And here he is, just 23 years old, a sports hero who still had at least another Olympics or two in him. He could have played professional rugby, he could have kept running. The world was before him. But he shut it all down and gave it all up, heading to China so he could preach the gospel. And here is a second lesson I see in his life. He was willing to give up everything for the sake of the gospel. Would you be willing to give up fame and money and popularity and everything else in order to heed the call of God? Let’s not make light of this and pretend like it was an easy thing. He was giving up everything most of us dream of. And it seems like it wasn’t difficult for him at all. He knew what God was calling him to do and he had no regrets, no second thoughts. Could you do that?

1925 marked the beginning of Eric Liddell’s second career, the one he cared about far more than the first. He had loved running, but now he was to be a teacher, and best of all, a teacher who could share the gospel with his students. He became a science teacher at Tientsin Anglo-Chinese College. This was a college that catered to the sons of many wealthy Chinese politicians and businessmen. The college’s founder thought this would be a way of reaching the next generation of rulers with the gospel.

Eric’s parents were serving in that very area, so for the first time in many years, Eric got to live with his family—his parents, his younger sister and his younger brother. Rob had married in the meantime and was heading to a different part of China to work as a doctor and missionary. It wouldn’t be long before Eric also started pursuing a wife.

There was just one problem.

February 07, 2011

Over the past few weeks I’ve posted a couple of short biographies I wrote this summer. I want to post just one more—this one about the olympic runner and missionary Eric Liddell.

What may be most interesting about Eric Liddell is that he is remembered for something he didn’t do far more than than something he did. And he did some great things! He was one of the best rugby players in the world, one of the fastest men in the world, a two-time Olympic medalist. He was a profoundly godly guy, a pastor, a missionary. And yet he is known for what he did not do.

His story begins in China in 1902 and ends in China in 1945, so he lived from the turn of the century, right near the end of the Victorian era, to almost the end of World War 2. He was born in January of that year in Tianjin, the second son of James and Mary Liddell. His father was a missionary with the London Missionary Society, that great organization that sent so many missionaries around the world (perhaps the best known of them being David Livingstone who is best remembered for what someone else said to him!). His parents were Scottish Presbyterians and were noted for their zeal for evangelism, something that was not very popular in the part of Scotland they had come from.

China at the time was a very unstable place. This was just two years after the Boxer Rebellion, when Chinese nationalists took up arms against foreigners. They were particularly angry at Christians, killing hundreds of them including nearly 200 missionaries. Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Missions was hit hardest with 58 of their missionaries being put to death.

February 03, 2011

I recently received an email from a long-time reader of this blog who asked if I could write about a week of prayer.

Your blog is the third time in the last month that I’ve heard of churches having a week of prayer once a year.  You state that you pray 2 hours a day every day during that week.  I would be curious how churches like yours conduct these week of prayers?  What are the finer details of how it is organized?

As the question indicates, my church begins each year with a Week of Prayer. Let me give a few details about how and why we do this.

The why is answered quite easily: we believe that prayer must be instrumental in the life of the church rather than being merely supplemental. The beginning of a new year seems like a perfect opportunity to dedicate as much time as possible to prayer, to seeking God’s will and God’s blessing for the year to come. When thinking about this I’m always drawn to a story from the life of Charles Spurgeon.

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.

Let me say a few words about the how of it all.