Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A powerful gospel

The message proclaimed and preached by the Primitive Methodist pioneers was powerful in its effect.


One such preacher was John Wedgwood, who was the first Primitive Methodist to be imprisoned for open-air preaching in 1817. So powerful was the preaching of Wedgwood and his fellow pioneers that their hearers would sometimes fall to the ground, asking God for mercy.


On one occasion in 1819 when back at Tunstall, the home base for the whole movement, a group of “mourners” were on the ground “crying out for mercy”, in response to Wedgwood’s preaching. Mourners were those who were wrestling with their grief over sin. As a general rule, new converts experienced the process of such mourning, before they came to freedom as new believers in Christ.


On this occasion, a respectable man stood aloof watching the proceedings remarking with considerable disdain “Before I would demean myself as these people are doing there, I would have my hand cut off.”


Soon he too was on the ground crying earnestly for mercy like the rest.[1]


What would happen if the gospel had similar effect today?


Related links


Go to jail, go directly to jail (part three)


Go to jail, go directly to jail (part two)


Go to jail, go directly to jail


Dynamic prayer meetings (part two)


Equipping an army


[1] The Primitive Methodist Connexion: Its Background and early history, pp, 112-113

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The storm about hell continues

Normally at the end of the month I post a simple summary of posts. This month however has been noted in the wider community for a stormy discussion about hell.

I began with a post reviewing a survey by the UK Evangelical Alliance, which showed that the issue over which there is greatest uncertainty is the reality of hell. Only 37% of evangelicals strongly agree that hell is a place where the condemned will suffer eternal conscious pain. Note that this was a survey of 17,000 evangelical believers.

The media storm was triggered by Rob Bell's promotion and launch of his book, Love Wins which examines the Biblical doctrines of heaven and hell. The blogo-sphere and twitter-verse exploded with comment. It subsequently became mainstream news on CNN.

It also seems one of the common links of the case for and against is "Mars Hill". Let me explain.

Rob Bell is pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He proposes what is essentially a universalist approach - in other words "it'll all be alright in the end".

Here is Rob Bell's interview with Martin Bashir.


Click here to view the YouTube clip.

Mark Driscoll is pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He teaches the reality of heaven and hell and how the idea of God's love is consonant with his righteous anger (wrath).

Here is an extract from Mark Driscoll's sermon on Heaven and Hell given on Sunday 27 March 2011.




Click here to view the full sermon, based on Luke 16:19-31.

In my posts I have explained how the Primitive Methodists were derailed by liberal theology in the late 1880s, over similar questions. By 1900 their theology changed from ‘the Divine Sovereignty’ to ‘the Fatherhood of God’. The all-loving father figure disposed of hell. In effect God became a Santa Claus like figure who presided over the Sunday School picnic. By the time of their centenary in 1907 the doctrine of hell was being substantially watered down.

It seems as though we've been here before.

Related posts


UK Evangelical Alliance survey

The gathering storm

A hell of a storm

Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

Eternal consequences

Doing a U-turn

Going off track (1)

Going off track (2)

Going off track (3)

Going off track – heresy

Simple Gospel or Social Gospel?


Other blogs


Remaining Clear On What Is Clear: On Rob Bell Again

On Hell

Bell on Hell

Out of Ur - Rob Bell: Universalist?

Gospel Coalition - Rob Bell: Universalist?

To Hell with Hell


Mark Driscoll on Emerging Church - this message has renewed relevance

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The gathering storm

In the last week there has been a media storm over heaven and hell. The Blogo-sphere and Twitter-verse exploded with comment, debate and opinion on the question of whether a loving God will send people to hell. It was provoked by Rob Bell's promotion of his new book “Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived”. See other blogs below for some examples.

Similar ideas derailed the Primitive Methodist movement over a century ago. From the mid 1870s various Methodist groups were affected by the acceptance of liberal theology, which included a new and radically different concept of heaven and hell.

Robert Currie notes that after 1875 the concept of hell was increasingly modified. Primitive Methodists noted the concealment of hell in ‘soft and dainty phrases’.

In 1900, Joseph Ritson noted,

‘At the opening of the [nineteenth] century the doctrine of eternal punishment was held almost universally and in its most literal and absolute form… It is still in the creeds, and in some form it is still held by many in all the churches; but it cannot be denied that comparatively little is heard of it in the pulpit.’[1]

The Primitive Methodist pioneers preached a confronting message, namely “flee from the wrath to come”. With the advent of liberalism, the concept of God’s wrath, or righteous anger was downplayed.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was not a lot to flee from and the realities of heaven and hell became much more vague concepts. A Ranter preacher had no message to proclaim.

The idea of progress led Methodism to reconstruct its concept of the deity. A Primitive Methodist writing in 1900 saw the most significant change in nineteenth century theology as that from ‘the Divine Sovereignty’ to ‘the Fatherhood of God’…. The all-loving father figure disposed of hell.[2]

Time will tell how the current debate over Rob Bell's book will play out.


Related posts

A hell of a storm

What UK evangelicals think

Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

Eternal consequences

Doing a U-turn

Going off track (1)

Going off track (2)

Going off track (3)

Going off track – heresy

Simple Gospel or Social Gospel?


Other blogs

Waiting for Rob Bell

Out of Ur - Rob Bell: Universalist?

Gospel Coalition - Rob Bell: Universalist?

To Hell with Hell

[1] Robert Currie, Methodism Divided, (Faber and Faber, London, 1968), p119, quoting the Primitive Methodist magazine December 1900, pp. 823-824

[2] Robert Currie, Methodism Divided, (Faber and Faber, London, 1968), p122

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A hell of a storm

In the last week there has been a media storm over heaven and hell. The Blogo-sphere and Twitter-verse exploded with comment, debate and opinion on the question of whether a loving God will send people to hell. It was provoked by Rob Bell's promotion of his new book “Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived”. See other blogs below for some examples.

Whilst the storm rages here is a link to a level headed response by Scot McKnight :

Waiting for Rob Bell

Mcknight writes

"My own estimation is that somewhere near 75% of my students, many if not most of them nurtured in the church, are more or less (soft) universalists. They believe in Jesus and see themselves as Christians but don’t find significant problems in God saving Muslims and Buddhists or anyone else on the basis of how God makes such decisions. The Baylor Study of Religion, if my memory is correct, asked a question or two that reveals that an increasing number of American evangelical Christians think the majority of humans will be saved. That’s the issue and Rob Bell had the moxie to write a book about it. He’s rattled cages with his promo video and he will undoubtedly stir the waters in the book"


McKnight's contention is this:

"the approach to this generation is not to denounce their questions, which often enough are rooted in a heightened sensitivity to divine justice and compassion, but to probe their questions from the inside and to probe thoughtful and biblically-responsible resolutions. We need to show that their questions about justice and God’s gracious love are not bad questions but good questions that deserve to be explored"

It's a challenging debate and one that the Primitive Methodists faced over a century ago.

Related posts

What UK evangelicals think

Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

Eternal consequences

Doing a U-turn

Going off track (1)

Going off track (2)

Going off track (3)

Going off track – heresy

Simple Gospel or Social Gospel?


Other blogs

Waiting for Rob Bell

Out of Ur - Rob Bell: Universalist?

Gospel Coalition - Rob Bell: Universalist?

To Hell with Hell

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What UK evangelicals think

Recent research by the UK Evangelical Alliance discovers some interesting facts.

The survey of 17,000 people gives an insight into the beliefs, opinions and habits of evangelical Christians in the UK. Respondents were asked a range of questions on topics like belief in miracles, abortion, the Bible and sex before marriage.

Here is the Online view (best viewed in full screen mode)

Download the PDF

  • Whilst the survey affirms distinctive characteristics, there is divergence and uncertainty in a number of areas

  • The issue over which there is greatest uncertainty is the reality of hell. 37% of evangelicals strongly agree that hell is a place where the condemned will suffer eternal conscious pain.

  • There is a spectrum of opinions on other issues such as abortion, assisted suicide and homosexuality

  • The percentage of those who read or listen to the Bible everyday goes up markedly after the age of 44 (of whom only 38% read or listen to the Bible everyday)

Here is the full survey

Related posts