Now that Rob Bell has decided to leave Mars Hill to pursue other ventures in Los Angeles and probably to infinity and beyond, some are wondering which direction fellow Mars Hill teaching pastor Shane Hipps will go if the baton is handed to him. Will he keep things moving down the same emergent path that Rob paved for the church?
Shane gives us an insight into his theological approach in a blog posting earlier this month. It offers a glimmer of hope, but only if Shane is able to make the full transition “back to the future.”
There is much in his blog to reveal that Shane, like Rob, is currently in a different theological galaxy than most born again people in our world today. Shane wrote on September 14, “If you haven’t died, you can only speculate about what happens to you and everyone else….I have never died, so I don’t have a theological position on heaven or hell. I can only entertain theological possibilities.” Ouch! That one is “gonna leave a mark.”
Shane’s view is far different than what the apostles and millions of other Christian martyrs believed when they were put to death because of their faith in Christ. They had a “blessed assurance” that heaven was absolutely their eternal home through faith in Jesus. They based this knowledge and assurance upon God’s promises to them in His Word.
Shane went on to write, “I take a position when I know something with certainty. Almost always through direct experience. If someone pinches me, I don’t believe they pinched me. I know it. I experienced it. It doesn’t reside somewhere in my head. Nothing to debate. It happened.”
But then why does Shane go on to write this: “I’m only aware of one person who died, and I mean really died, like three days dead, and came back to life again. His name was Jesus.”
Whoa! Slow down the horses! Wait just a second! Did Shane actually write that he knows Jesus died and rose again? How can he know such a thing? Was Shane there? Did Shane experience Jesus pinching him or standing in front of him? This is the glimmer of hope.
If Shane will recognize the inconsistency of his theology, he will be a step closer to getting free from the theology of uncertainty. The cross and the empty tomb are either speculation, or they are certain. They are not both. Shane seems to believe that the cross and empty tomb are certain. That is fantastic, especially because it’s true! If he believes what he wrote about Jesus definitely dying and rising again, he can do the same thing with paradise.
Here is the key for Shane and for anyone who has been duped by the theology of uncertainty. Go back to John 3:16 and see that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life.” Go back 2000 years to the cross. Accept it for yourself personally, or reject it. Believe it as a certain fact even though you weren’t there to witness it, or discard it.
If you accept John 3:16 not just for the world but for you personally, then jump ahead to 1 John 5:13 which says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” There is no speculation there. Only certainty. It speaks not only of faith, but also knowledge and assurance of eternal salvation for the one trusting in Christ’s work on the cross rather than his own efforts.
You can’t be sure of what Jesus did for you in the past without also being sure of what he will do for you in the future. Both of those things are either speculation, or they are certain. It can’t be one without the other as the theology of uncertainty teaches. You can’t be sure in your heart and mind about your future in paradise without first being sure in your heart and mind about what Jesus did for you in the past. You must go back to the future to be saved and to really believe in the cross as your ticket to forgiveness and eternal salvation.
By God’s grace, Shane can do it. There is a step he will need to take with his free will if it is going to happen. If he applies the same method to 1 John 5:13 that he seems to apply to John 3:16 and to the passages that tell us of Christ’s resurrection, he will be there. He will then be ready to lead Mars Hill back to the future. The angels in heaven will rejoice. Fireworks will light up the sky. Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the point.
This is no small decision. The future faith development of an entire congregation and others who look to it for spiritual guidance will be directly linked to the free will of Shane Hipps and the other spiritual leaders at Mars Hill. May God bless their study of His Word and lead them to stand upon His declarations and promises not only for past events, but for future events as well. May He completely free them from their confusion based on mere speculation and the theology of uncertainty. And finally, may He show them that without certainty for their future, they can have no real certainty about what happened for them 2000 years ago.