a better response to rob


Not Pattinson… but Bell.

I know this is late in the game. But hey, I’ve been busy and who has time to constantly blog and still do the important things, ie. having meaningful conversation, bargain shopping and bathing? I realize fewer people are talking about this now because that’s the nature of internet buzz. Here today and gone tomorrow. But oh well.

As background, Rob Bell published a book called Love Wins that challenges the traditional view that only those who receive Jesus go to heaven. The promo video and recently published book has drawn a lot of backlash from many Evangelical outlets calling him a universalist. And there’s been an onrush of John Piper retweets, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” all over the twitterscape.

For the record, I do believe that Jesus is the only way. He says so himself. I do agree that the stuff Rob Bell is saying may do damage to the church. And, no I haven’t read the book, but have read some in-depth reviews on it.

But what bugs me the most is not that Rob might be a universalist. He’s not the first and won’t be the last. But that after his promo video [before the book release], there was this public burning-at-the-stake. He was casted aside, voted off the island. Rob was a rock-star among pastors, a “weapon” in the fight to reclaim American church-goers. But he’s now no longer worthy to be among the ranks of Gospel preachers.

I find it all pretty despicable. One of the overarching metaphors in the Bible for the church is “family.” When my cousin Ann starts spouting off nonsensical gibberish [And she certainly does! I expect a comment now... ha!], my first response isn’t to throw her to the curb. Yes, there should be an guttural reaction to that which is an affront to truth. But my response is a reflection of my relationship. Ann’s my cousin, she’s family and I love her. We come alongside, work out our differences and allow one to challenge the other. We didn’t treat Rob like family… more so like an employee or a fallen movie star.

The other thing I keep hearing is that the extreme response is warranted because of the damage Rob’s doing to the church. I agree in part that what he’s saying is leading some astray. But the bigger problem is this… we’ve nurtured a codependency between church-goer and pastor. Churches/pastors aren’t challenging people to discover for themselves what’s true in Scripture. Church-goers are convinced they aren’t capable of deciphering the Bible for themselves and need a “professional” to do it for them.

We then end up developing two types of people:

  • Blind Militants – Those who listen blindly and respond militantly. Ala Westboro Baptist.
  • Passive Adherents – Those who’ll do their religious exercise, but end up believing whatever they want anyways.

Many Evangelicals already believe that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven. Rob’s not telling them anything they don’t already believe.

We need to help/equip our people to search the Scriptures for themselves. Most wouldn’t know how to put Rob’s teaching to the test. And they’ll end up depending on another flawed leader to do a work they should be doing themselves. Rob’s stuff should push us to push our people into the Word and ask, “What does the Bible actually say?” And we should trust that the Holy Spirit is alive, willing and yearning to speak truth into those who seek. They will then encounter God for themselves, firm up their theology and be able to live a life dependent on God and not codependent on their pastors/leaders.

So chill. Use this as an opportunity to help our people discover the real Jesus and don’t be so surprised that some will teach a different Gospel. I think Rob’s book [and the ensuing media backlash] might be showing us something about ourselves. Our theology might be right, but our heart [and maybe our methodology] is in the wrong. And last I checked, Jesus said you can’t have one without the other.

On a side note: his videos are always so well produced. We should at least agree on that.

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6 thoughts on “a better response to rob

  1. You make some very good points. As a former Southern Baptist Deacon, I eventually got to the place where I just could not accept the belief any longer. The Bible says that it’s impossible for man to live a sinless life because of his nature. But who gave man his nature? God creates man with an unacceptable condition, condemns him for it and then accepts him back only after man asks forgiveness for it. Huh? God accepts children up to a certain stage of development and then condemns them for their condition which was beyond their control. Huh? God sees a large part of His creation falling into eternal suffering and just keeps right on pouring millions more each day into the same horrible situation. Huh? This is the way we define love? It is a very difficult thing to open one’s lifelong belief to serious question because we are taught that doing so is an affront to “faith” and God. I can only say I am so happy that I finally crossed that bridge and now feel a much greater and deeper spiritual understanding.

    You might like openobserver.wordpress.com

  2. Elton, great thoughts. I hadn’t really thought enough about the things you bring up, and I think you’re right. This has exposed the American evangelical’s overdependence on celebrity pastors and underdependence on their own bibles. I have to agree that I thought the negative responses to the preview video were jumping the gun — couldn’t they have waited a week? I thought Mark Galli’s CT review was the most helpful critique.

  3. Hey Elton, I agree that the reaction was probably premature, but you must admit that Rob Bell has been “out there” for some time. He just finally decided to straight contradict Scripture and Jesus’ own words. Whether masses of self-proclaimed believers believe a certain way or not, it would have been a sin of omission (in my opinion) for guys like Piper to remain silent and not respond to Bell’s lunacy.

    As far as blind followers, I completely agree. Sometimes as an old school Reformed guy that’s read a ton of Piper, Calvin, Puritan paperbacks, Doug Wilson, etc… it’s painful to see a new gen of blind Driscoll followers in the fold. They all claim to believe the same way, but as you point out, they haven’t arrived by way of their own study, rather just another blind follower of a studly dressed hipster Pastor. The answers are in the Bible.

    • first thing… great to hear from you bill! hope you’re doing well with the fam and apple. we should grab coffee.

      i agree that being silent is not the right response. but “farewell rob” might be worse. yeah i have thought rob has been kinda out there in recent years. but someone gave me tix to a speaking tour he was doing in sf. i actually thought what he was saying was pretty compelling. even though i can’t go with him on what he’s written lately, i don’t think i’m as offended by it as others.

      and yeah – blind followership of a pop-christian icon [even with good theology] is not a good thing at all. even if they are getting “good theology”, what does it matter? jesus was constantly calling people beyond their beliefs [jesus' "you've heard it said..." statements] into intimate connection with him, to follow him [even to their death] and to love him more than anything else. having good theology doesn’t mean you have the real connection. i would say good theology helps [a lot?], but i also feel we’ve spent too much time on theology and not enough time helping people connect, love and follow jesus. and in the end, that’s what jesus says himself is the most important thing.

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