Todd Bentley has remarried, probably

It would appear that Todd Bentley has now married Jessa Hasbrook, apparently the “woman whom he had extramarital affair with”. This is reported by Rick Hiebert at the Shotgun blog of the Western Standard, an apparently reliable source, as well as other more dubious sources which I will not link to. I do not endorse all the comments reported in this post. But I will keep an eye open for Rick Joyner’s response.

Please, no comments which simply condemn Todd and Jessa. I will expect good arguments for any positive or negative assessments of the situation.

UPDATE: A new article by Rick Joyner confirms this news, and also announces that Todd has now started his restoration process. Please read this article; I have nothing to add to it except my prayers.

"Where people who are poorly go to get better" – heaven, but where?

I hate celebrity culture. I could almost say that I hate celebrities, especially when they fund their addiction to fame out of my pocket through my TV licence, but in Christian love I have to renounce that hate.

But the story of one celebrity has touched my heart – that of Jade Goody, who is dying of cancer but has taken this opportunity to have herself and her two young sons baptised. Sally has written a moving post about this story, with this quote, Jade recalling a conversation with one of the boys:

When I told them I was going to Heaven, Freddie said to me: ‘Heaven is a bad place, it’s where people go when they die.’

And I said: ‘No, that’s not right. It’s where people who are poorly go to get better.’

I’m not sure how much Jade understands about the Christian faith. But it is clear that she trusts in Jesus and in God to take her to heaven when she dies, which could be very soon, and she wants her sons to do the same. I’m not much of a believer in baptism of those too young to make a clear Christian profession, but in this case I see the point of it. Jade’s Christian witness, even if imperfect, can touch the nation. Let’s pray that it does. Let’s pray also for her in what may be her last few days, and for her children as they face life without a mother.

But I can’t help wondering something. I agree with Jade that heaven is “where people who are poorly go to get better”. I also believe that the church is meant to be a foretaste of heaven on earth. Heaven is not so much where good people go when they die as the presence of God, which we can know here today among God’s people. So then shouldn’t the church be the place “where people who are poorly go to get better”? At the moment I don’t have much faith to pray for healing for Jade on this earth. But surely this is what we as Christians should be praying.

The danger of worshipping Darwin

One might expect Christian authors to write articles condemning attempts to turn Darwinism into a religion. But this BBC article is interesting because its author, Andrew Marr, is apparently an atheist. After comparing how Darwin’s theories are presented today with religion, he finishes:

So where is the danger?

I believe Darwin was right and that as science advances, he is proved more prescient, not less.

But religions are absolute. They bring their truth and then repel all boarders. They divide mankind into the saved and the ignorant damned.

In this story, there is no us and them. Darwinism, as I take it, is a creed of observation, fact, a deep modesty about conclusions and lifelong readiness to be proved wrong.

I don’t say it offers everything that religion can. But I do say that, in this respect, it is better.

However we celebrate the old man, we mustn’t let his work crust into creed or harden to dogma.

Apparently this article is a trailer for a BBC2 TV series starting later tonight. You might like to watch it, at least in the UK. I am going out, so will miss the chance, although I could catch up on iPlayer.

Worship, cessationism, and Steve Chalke

As I predicted in last week, I have been rather busy recently, so no time for an in depth post, just for some reflections on what I have been reading.

Today I have had some time for blogging, but have been distracted into an interesting conversation at TC Robinson’s blog New Leaven. The post that started it was on worship, and indeed ties up somewhat with my last post. But the discussion on it quickly got on to how worship might be affected by the alleged cease of spiritual gifts, or some of them, at the end of the apostolic age. The cessationists Richard and dvopilgrim seem to be arguing that the clearest biblical model for church worship, in 1 Corinthians 14, is no longer valid because prophecy and other gifts have ceased. Thus they set aside the specific commands of God through the Apostle Paul, starting in verse 1, because they conflict with a human tradition of teaching. At least, that’s my side of the discussion; read the comment thread for Richard and dvo’s responses.

Meanwhile David Matthias, who is an elder in newfrontiers, gives a positive report of a meeting with Steve Chalke. This makes a nice change from the attitude of his fellow newfrontiers elder Adrian Warnock (correction 6th March: Adrian is not an elder at his church, but he is a regular preacher there), who a couple of years ago in effect publicly cursed Chalke – and by extension myself. David doesn’t agree with Steve about the atonement, but he shows proper Christian love in his disagreement.

Well, I suppose I shouldn’t expect newfrontiers elders all to be of one mind, as I certainly wouldn’t expect that of Church of England ministers. Indeed recently I have been getting to know and working well with one of the elders of our local newfrontiers church here in Chelmsford. I have no idea of this man’s attitude to Steve’s teaching. But it is somewhat ironic that this church meets in Adrian’s old school but uses the same name as Steve’s Oasis organisation.

Loving Jesus with all your heart

David Ker has posted another rant about “Jesus is my boyfriend” type songs, in this case specifically “Let My Words Be Few” by Matt Redman. (Is it something about the Mozambique air that makes David rant? At least he withdrew his one about Tutu.) In a comment in reply I threatened to write a post “Jesus really is my boyfriend!” This is that post, but I have reconsidered the title as I don’t want people to think I am female or gay.

So, is it right for Christians (male and female) to relate to God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the same way as a girl relates to her boyfriend, or a boy to his girlfriend? Is it proper to sing in worship “Jesus I am so in love with you”?

I would suggest to start with that if that is not actually an improper statement it is wrong for any Christian to criticise other Christians for choosing to worship in this way. If it is not helpful for you as an individual or for your church to worship with such words, then you are not obliged to do so, and can ask your church’s worship leader not to choose this song. But if the words are proper worship of God, and presuming that at least one person, the songwriter, found them helpful for his worship, then I really don’t think it is right for anyone to criticise or mock.

In the case of this particular song, as Ferg noted in a recent comment on this blog, Matt Redman has stated that he regrets including these particular words because of the misunderstanding they have caused. I think the remark is in this interview (thanks to Eddie for the link) (but I can’t check just at the moment as I have to be quiet after midnight).

So, to get back to the question, is it proper to sing in worship “Jesus I am so in love with you”? The starting point here must be that we are commanded to love God with all our hearts and souls, indeed with our whole beings, not just with our minds. I know that the Greek and Hebrew words used for “heart” didn’t refer to the emotions in quite the same way as “heart” often does in English. But the conclusion is inescapable that our love for God should involve our emotions as well as every other part of us. And as Jesus is God incarnate we are surely called to love him in this same way, that is, with an emotional love and not just a cerebral or a practical love.

The Old Testament image of God as the bridegroom and Israel as his bride is taken up in the New Testament with the church as the bride. In Ephesians 5:25-33 the love of a husband for his wife is seen as a reflection of Jesus’ love for the church, a love which led him to the cross. Paul doesn’t explicitly teach that wives should respond in love to their husbands (rather, he uses the controversial word often translated “submit”), but this is surely the implication of the teaching elsewhere that the church should respond with love to Jesus’ love on the cross.

The Song of Songs is a beautiful love song in which a man and a woman express their love for one another, in emotional language, even showing romanticism although that word is anachronistic. There is a long tradition in the church of applying parts of this to the love which the church should express towards God, effectively turning it into an expression of “God is my boyfriend”. Isaiah 5:1-7 is explicitly called a love song, but is in fact God addressing his people, so this gives biblical justification for using this genre of love between God and humans.

So it seems to me that Christians should feel in their hearts love towards God and Jesus – a love which I feel. Indeed I would suggest that someone who does not have any feelings of love towards God or Jesus has not really grasped what it is to be a Christian. If this is true it is surely right to express our feelings of love in singing to Jesus love songs, mirror images of the song of Isaiah 5. What better words for such a song than “Jesus I am so in love with you”?

And if our song is a love song, it will of course have what David calls “Trance-like melody… ooshy-gooshy lyrics … Repetition”, which are part of the genre of modern and ancient love songs – look at the Song of Songs, but of course we don’t know its original melody. Just as a boy and girl who are truly in love will not time their embraces, no one who has true and deep feelings of love for Jesus will want to ensure that their love song is “only four minutes long”.

I wonder, if we men restricted our expressions of love to our wives and girlfriends to four minute cerebral recitations of their character, how much would they appreciate that? Instead what they want is expression of true love from the heart, in which we indeed “let our words be few”, little more than “I am so in love with you”. And if that is how we please our human loved ones, surely that is a part of how we should show our love to our God.