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.