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Archive for the ‘Rob Bell’ Category

After reading several Facebook posts, and many more blog comments, regarding the promo video for Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins, I decided to check it out for myself.  Before I reveal my opinion, however, I’d like to offer a few comments.

Whenever theological questions are raised, there are at least three potential responses.  One might dive in wholeheartedly, fully assenting to whatever take is presented on a certain doctrine.  One might remain non-committal, perhaps appreciating or disdaining the questions raised, but unpersuaded overall.  One might, finally, reject even the conversation itself outright, fearing that such questions endanger the integrity of the faith.  Unfortunately, my fear is that many have had precisely this final response to Rob Bell’s recent video.

The problem, as I see it, is two-fold.  First, the book isn’t even out yet.  All things written at this point are conjecture, yet some have gone so far as to declare Rob Bell out of Evangelicalism (maybe even Christianity!).  I think this quite premature, even if his questions allude to his questioning the traditional formulation of the doctrine.

Second, this response manifests a distrust towards asking honest theological questions.  The sorts of questions that Bell is proposing are the very questions that cause many people to view Christianity as a narrow-minded, bigoted, arrogant expression of religiosity.  For many, the answers traditionally given are unsatisfying, so Bell wants to reexamine them, to put “hell on trial,” as the summary puts it.

Before passing judgment, think about how much of your own theological-biblical belief system is different than that of the early Church.  More than likely, it is somewhat different both in terms of theological doctrines as well as interpretational methods and assumptions.  The Church only makes significant theological progress by questioning its own beliefs.  In the early centuries of the Church, it did this to itself, not altogether with the best intentions, but due to conflicting factions.  Doctrinal disputes forced the Church to formulate answers to difficult questions.

We must find a balance between commitment to doctrinal purity and continual reevaluation, lest our tradition come to dominate interpretations of Scripture.  These things should interplay, to be sure, but care must be exercised in order that we don’t decide to shut out dissenters, and culture at large, when they raise good, relevant questions.  This is essential to being in the world but not of the world, of being salt and light.

This is why I am thankful to and for Rob Bell.  He is someone who is bridging the gap between Christianity and culture.  He has enough credibility in the secular world to discuss secular things and be heard.  One may disagree with him, however strongly, but I commend him for asking tough theological questions that have traditional answers which deeply trouble non-Christians.  His is an admirable example: one never knows Scripture so well and so certainly that he can confidently dismiss dissenters without engaging them, stubbornly relying on traditionally-formulated answers.  To do so is to spit in the face of the hurting, questioning world to which Scripture sends us.

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