There has been a TON of news and tweeting, and blogging and conversation surrounding Rob Bell and his new book, “Love Wins.” I am still reading it and am drawing my conclusions from what Bell writes, not what other bloggers and commentators say. That said, I have been troubled and saddened by some of what I have read in the book so far.
The purpose of this post is not to talk about Rob Bell, his book, or his views. Instead, I want to talk about all the people, and many of them are Christians, who insist that the concern and outrage regarding the statements in “Love Wins” is not necessary and misses the point, or is just another case of the church beating up on new ideas when it comes to relating to God.
First of all, I want to poke a little at the idea that the church is “beating” someone, or Bell namely, up. Through all of Bell’s interviews and articles on this subject, he has stated that he believes “God can handle the discussion…” and that he is “just adding to it…” If that is true, and there is an opposing view that people have, that is part of the discussion as well. For a healthy discussion to be had both sides must be heard. In fact, I’d go so far as to say a discussion that is not two sided is no discussion at all. Rather, it is a few people patting each other on the back for being so smart.
There is a great need for discussion and debate on theological issues in the church. I believe the mind to be a huge part of our spirituality. Jesus spoke to people all the time in ways that made them think. I think Bell tries to tap into Jesus, narrative style of teaching by leading people almost to the point, and then letting them choose. I think the church has for too long, rejected discussion that is healthy and labeled it something that is unhealthy, and corralled itself with other like-minded individuals and patted each other on the back for “truly” understanding the scriptures.
On the other end, there are theological certainties that there is ample evidence for and are central to the message of the Gospel that, when debated, great care must be taken by both sides to be diligent in study, and advice, as well as being willing to hear the other side. And when these discussions go public, we must take care to be certain that we have not taught falsely, or led astray. And we must accurately state the opposing position to give credibility to our arguments. If we know what the others believe, we can be more certain of flawed thinking.
If I were to debate a mormon or jehova’s witness, I had better do my homework on every angle of my beliefs and at least a working understanding of theirs. If I don’t, I will end up assuming things that I know nothing about.
Bell brought this discussion out. And to say that people are mean or stupid or scared of the ideas and that they should not speak, I disagree. So long as they have read the book and understand his idea, they should be able to refute the idea if the choose. After all, this is a discussion…right?
Second, I want to talk about the concern or outrage at the claims of the book. Again, I am still reading it, and am not fully ready to state my thoughts for the discussion, but being halfway through the book, I can already tell you that the concern is well founded, unless Bell turns around and makes statements later that I have not read yet.
A few years ago, Bell wrote a book, that I really enjoyed, called “The Velvet Elvis.” Again stating that he was adding to the discussion, he shared that in our faith story, there are springs and there are bricks. (when I say springs, thing of a trampoline. something that is not rigid and can be a different shape.) My former Sr. Pastor said there are “majors and there are minors. Major in the majors, and minor in the minors.” Bell essentially said the same thing. Some parts are bricks, others are trampolines. They can be something shaped wholly different than we perceive. I agree with this for the most part. Some things are made a bigger deal of than they should be.
But the bricks, now they are a different matter entirely.
These are the pillars. They are the foundation of our faith. They sum up all that we believe. If they are challenged, these established, verified, authentically true, foundational elements of our faith, we must combat for them. To challenge these things is not new, nor is the battle for truth and refuting these challenges. These challenges are heresies.
The early church fathers spent much of their time refuting heresy. The Council of Nicea was convened in 325 to make a unified stand on biblical Christology, in order to combat heresies surrounding who Jesus was. This birthed the Nicean Creed, expressing a Trinitarian theology. St. Augustine, who was ordained Bishop of Hippo in 395, spent most of his life as a believer and theologian combatting various heresies. Augustine spent years battling the Donatist heresy, and then followed that with a fierce battle against Pelagius, a monk that believed and taught that human beings achieve salvation through personal acts of will that they took full credit for. In 415, Pelagian’s writings were pronounced orthodox by the synod at Diospolis in Palestine, condemned in Italy in 417, and finally declared a heresy in 418, at the Council of Carthage, led by… you guessed it, St. Augustine.
Heresy has existed since Jesus was here; even before. And when it comes around now, we should also battle it with truth.
See, here is the thing… if we refute a central teaching of Jesus, and twist things to prove our point, well that is just plan wrong. Paul warns Timothy about this type of stuff in 1 Tim. 1:3-7. It just may be that someone has no idea what they are talking about let alone the things that they confidently affirm.
Some ask, “What’s the big idea? Bell has a point!” Yes, we see hellish things everyday, but there is so much more to what he is saying than that. And that is a big deal. And we need to declare the truth. Because Jesus is the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
Let that be the fuel.
- ericjoppa posted this