I always love going on retreats with my college students. The retreats are usually very exhausting on many levels, from the physical (not getting sleep), to the emotional (retreats tend to be common place for deep confiding in me), to spiritual (I receive lots of questions, and much conversation ensues).

So it is not unusual that I am returning from this retreat with my head filled with all kinds of thoughts, information and the like. What I want to do in this blog, is to simply raise what some of the issues were, and then to provide some resources and discussions for these topics. I am not providing answers so that you do not have to think. I have been thinking through these issues for years, and have come to some conclusions on them. As for the others, well I’m still thinking through some of them, and I have filed them over “in the margins” at this point, as one of my favorite professors would say.

I realize that most of us are uncomfortable functioning in the “gray zones” especially when it comes to issues of theological orthodoxy (right thinking). But sometimes that is the place we need to be on our way to clearer understanding. By the way, a good question was recently posed by Brian McClaren who is part of the Emergent Church movement. In his latest book A Generous Orthodoxy, McClaren asks, why Christians are often more concerned about orthodoxy (right thinking) than orthopraxy (right practice)? That is a good question. I think that he has hit on something that happens a lot in Christian, and especially evangelical circles. And that is that we are more concerned with having the right orthodoxy, than we are with having the right orthopraxy. I think that both of those are important. We should have good theology, and we should practice what we believe. “Practice what you preach” we often say. The issues below are for us to not only formulate some good orthodoxy, but to live out some good orthopraxy. It is one thing for a Christian to think he or she has all the right answers, and correct doctrine, but it is a whole other thing to practice that among the people we live.

Issue #1:
One of my students raised the question of hell after reading our devotion on Revelation 21:5. That verse began a process where he began to question what hell was, and why hell. If there is going to be a new heaven and earth, what about hell? He stated, “Hell seems unjust. It seems to go against the character of God.”

I assured him that he is not the first person to think on this issue, and that there is currently a debate in many theological circles over this issue, with key figures divided on the issue.

The debate: Is hell really a place, or is it more a state? And is annihilation a viable Biblical option?

Here is the debate in Christianity Today.

Issue #2:
What is the debate over all these Bible translations, and is one better than the other? Is the TNIV not a good translation because they have changed some language?

Here is the debate: TNIV.

Issue #3:
If you are at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, it is more than likely that you will lean right of center when it comes to political issues. That is a true generalization, though that does not fit everyone, nor all of my students. Some of the most interesting conversations I am a part of are discussions where someone left of center, and right of center, have an inteligible and respectful conversation on the relation of politics and the commands of Christ.

The debate: The guy who is often at the center of politics and Christianity is Jim Wallis of Sojourners.

I hope that these issues are some of the things that you have also been thinking over. In fact, you may be the one who raised them, or a part of the group that discussed them. Now begin the process of formulating a good orthodoxy and orthopraxy.