Sunday, April 22, 2012

Off Target by John Noe

Noe believes that Christianity has been tamed, that culture has triumphed. “The vast majority of we Christians today have been led astray, dumbed down, and pulled off target by our own leaders.” (238) Our current form of Christianity is far from that of the early church. He addresses 18 areas he believes the church is “off target.”
In a blog of this length, I'll only go through a few of the 18 issues, noting Noe's position as well as some of my own thoughts.
He notes that the kingdom of God is no longer taught when it should be central in our worldview. It follows that the gospel preached today is just partial. What should be preached is a “kingdom-oriented-salvation-coupled gospel such as Jesus was presenting...” (59)
Next, Noe reports what the Bible really says about hell: nothing. (66) Gehenna is not hell, he claims. (68) He writes, “Given the paucity, if not total non-existence, of scriptural support for the orthodox, traditional, and modern-day doctrine and understanding of 'hell,' we must reconsider this mainstay of Christianity as not being part of God's plan of afterlife punishment and/or redemption.” (75) He does note that God's justice and wrath are real but questions if they are retributive or restorative. While he does not make a final conclusion on hell, elsewhere he says of heaven, “...a hierarchical heaven is where some, many, most, or all will spend eternity.” (206)
He tackles the “last days.” “These 'last days' and end times, “ he writes, “were not a 19-centuries-and-counting extended period. Without exception, they literally refer to that 1st-century time frame in which the New Testament writers were living, there and then.” (78) “According to the Bible itself and prior to A. D. 70, the gospel was preached to all nations and to the world.” (85) The “last days” were not the last days of earth or human history. They were the last days of biblical Judaism and the first days of the church.
Parallel to this, Noe advocates a worldview of a world that never ends. He says there are three different entities in the Bible called “heaven and earth.” “One 'heaven and earth' would never pass away. Another had already passed away. A third would soon pass away and be made new.” (26) “The 'heaven and earth' that would never pass away is the physical creation (Gen. 1:1). The one that had already passed away was Babylon in the 6th century B. C. (Isa. 13:1,13; Hag. 2:6-7). The third one that would soon pass away and be made new was Old Covenant biblical Judaism (Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2-3; 51:13-16; Heb. 12:26-27).” (26)
I have to admit, that is where Noe lost me. And this was only page 26 of a 239 page book! I looked up those verses and, yes, heaven or heavens and earth are mentioned in those verses. Other than the Genesis passage, to say these references indicate Babylon and Judaism are called “heaven and earth” are such a stretch, even I cannot reach that far!
About the “second coming”: “The Bible says nothing about a 'second coming' or a 'return' of Jesus Christ. Nor do the historic creeds of the church.” (91)
Interestingly enough, I am also reading a book I'll blog a review of tomorrow. In it the author writes, “Jesus will return because the Bible says so.” (40 Questions About the End Times, p. 247) Reference is made to Acts 1:11 (“This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.”). Doesn't “come back” have the same meaning as “return”? There is also reference to John 21:22,23 where Jesus Himself says he will “come back,” twice. Noe does not address these two passages in his book. And the historic creeds? Noe says they say nothing about the “return” of Jesus. Yet the Apostles Creed (referenced to in a letter dated A.D. 390), the Nicene Creed (A. D. 325), and the Athanasian Creed (used by churches since the sixth century), all speak of Jesus ascending to heaven and affirm that He will come again.
Noe says Jesus came in judgment, “on the clouds,” around A. D. 70. But that wasn't the so called “second coming.” Noe writes, “The biblical and historical facts are, Jesus is not coming back ever because He never left – as He said (Matt. 28:20b).” (93) Jesus is now present, Noe claims. There have been and will be many “comings” of Jesus – the manifestation of Jesus into the life of an individual, group, or nation. (95)
Jesus never left earth? Noe does not address Scripture that says Jesus is in heaven, such as 1 Thess. 4:16 (“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven...”). Noe himself writes elsewhere, “...we must also recognize that the divinely determined mission of Jesus – his leaving heaven, coming to earth, and going back to heaven - ...” (122) But he also writes, “Yet Scripture declares He never left, is here with us right now in our midst...” (126)
On evil: “Shockingly for some, Scripture, clearly and plainly, presents evil as part of God's plan for this world. Moreover, it also teaches that God is the origin of evil.” (206) “But evil and sin are two different things. And God is not the origin of sin. Big Difference.” (207)
On heaven: Heaven is a gift. “But how we spend eternity there will be determined by our good works on this earth during this life. … Hence, how we live this life determines our next life – our status, privileges, provisions, levels of reward...” (226,7)

Noe writes, “My primary goals in this book is to encourage both believers and nonbelievers, alike, to take a serious new look at Jesus Christ in his unveiled and revealed contemporary form. I believe this higher and greater perspective will ring true and stir you on to higher and greater heights of faith, worship, and obedience.” (120)

That was not the case with me. I found Noe's book very confusing. I didn't like the format of the book, with bullets and so many very short sections. I didn't think he did a good job proving his points. He conveniently left out Scripture passages that opposed his views. If one is going to write a work that goes against orthodox, evangelical Christianity, then one's scholarship must be impeccable. That is certainly not true of this book.
I do enjoy reading books that challenge my thinking. But I like a well presented argument, well supported by Scripture. I don't enjoy reading books that leave me unsure of what the author was trying to communicate, as was frequently the case in this book.

You can find out more about John and his ministry: www.prophecyrefi.org and www.east2westpress.org.

You can buy this book through Amazon

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.
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