Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rob Bell Is Not The Issue

The dust is beginning to clear on the whole Love Wins controversy. Not that the debate is over, mind you, but the lines have been drawn. The one team is convinced that Rob Bell is a heretic who has officially betrayed historical Christianity. The other team is convinced that Bell is a victim of pharisaical traditionalism. Likewise, all that can really be said about the theological debate has pretty much been said. I don't think we're going to see a lot more "discussion" on this issue. Everyone's pretty much had their say and we've officially arrive at the part of the debate where everyone just stares menacingly at each other.

However, in all this debate and fuss, I think it's important that we not lose sight of the main issue here. Whether or not Rob Bell is a true Christian really isn't the point. I think most on the orthodox team has failed to acknowledge that Bell and the other Emergent times have a tendency to both feed off of and feed into the current cultural mood. Bell is popular because he helps reconcile people's external religion (traditional Christianity) with their internal religion (anthrocentric postmodernism). This is just another attempt to make Christianity comply with postmodern thinking.

Bell is giving the people what they want to hear. This raises the question of why do they want to hear it? True, people don't like the idea of a God who sends people to Hell. I like what Randy Alcorn says to that, “Many imagine that it is civilized, humane, and compassionate to deny the existence of an eternal Hell, but in fact it is arrogant that we, as creatures, would dare to take what we think is the moral high ground in opposition to what God the Creator has clearly revealed. We don’t want to believe that any others deserve eternal punishment, because if they do, so do we. But if we understood God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people go to Hell (where else would sinners go?), but that any would be permitted into Heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment.”

However, I think there's something else going on here to. Perhaps we don't want the responsibility that comes along with a belief in a literal, eternal Hell. Bell keeps telling people that this really isn't that big a deal. Maybe that's because, until Bell upset the fruit basket, we haven't treated it like a big deal. Isn't it true that we often live like functional Universalists? Lately, the Holy Spirit's been driving a hot iron through my conscience in this area (as a side note, please pray that I would have the courage to follow through on this conviction and the wisdom to do so effectively).

Condemning Rob Bell really isn't the issue. The issue is that people need Jesus and He's charged us with pointing people to Him. Does our lifestyle match our theology? Would my life be any different if I truly acted like I really believe billions of souls are a breath away from eternal, horrific torment? Am I living as though I've truly been commissioned with the making of disciples? Would I treat people differently if I were living with that truth in mind?

So, don't get distracted with Rob Bell. He's not important. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is.

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