Wednesday, May 4, 2011

P4E.210 Rob Bell Fared Well

I've just finished reading Rob Bell's Love Wins - A Book About Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book was panned and Rob Bell's fate sealed in many people's minds before it was ever released; before most had ever read the book. It caused a firestorm in Twitterdom after pastor and author John Piper famously tweeted "Farewell Rob Bell."

The irony is that the controversy about the book in the "Christian" community proves many of the points that I believe Bell is trying to make. In fact, Bell's writing is less about making points and more about asking questions. His writing makes me want to ask: What do we know, for sure? Does Scripture embody the entirety of the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite God? Can Scripture be interpreted in more than one way and, if so, is discussion about the differences of interpretation to be tolerated or squelched? What is the nature of the Good News? Is it open or closed-minded? Can the meaning of words change over time?

Bell rightly points out that he is not the first to bring controversy to the Christian community. More questions (some Biblical): Circumcision or no? Pigs and crustaceans or no? Pelagius or Augustine? Ptolemaic geocentric or Copernican heliocentric? Catholic or Protestant? Apocrypha? Purgatory? Wesley or Calvin? Methodist or Presbyterian? Arminian or Calvinist? Baptism or no? Submerge or sprinkle? Saturday or Sunday? Pre or Post Trib? King James only? Tongues? Cremation or burial? Slavery? Assisted suicide? Death penalty? Global warming? Cloning? Stem cell research? Wine? Beer? Smoking? (These last two remind me that our sainted C.S. Lewis was known to frequent a pub and have a pint and smoke a pipe with his contemporaries, The Inklings. I love him no less for it. In fact, I love him more.) Then again, you may think there are no questions here; that they're all answered. But, do these questions and controversies help or harm Christ? Or is it really true that they have no effect on Him? Is the universe anthropocentric or theocentric? Does God exist to save man? Is that the central message of the Bible? What is the central message of the Bible? What constitutes "belief"?

Is it all about personal salvation or Christlikeness?

I have always believed that Christianity had to (and is completely able to) hold its own in the marketplace of ideas. The Christian community seems to me to be having a fit of paranoia and is lashing out in fear at anything that it doesn't understand or disagrees with. The irony is that the arrogance, the smugness, the inflexibility, the dogma, the closed mindedness that the Christian community has exhibited towards Bell (or anyone else that has a different idea) would seem to be exactly the same attitudes that Jesus found fault with in the Pharisees and Sadducees of His time.

Is the hidden, mysterious wisdom of God hidden and mysterious because God wants to remain hidden and mysterious or because He wants to be sought and found?

Will God punish us for pursuing His mysteries by posing questions and answers?

Do I ultimately agree with Bell on heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived? Maybe. Maybe not. But, I do not fear questions. I do not fear being "born again" over and over and over again into a different and emerging understanding of God and His people and His world and His universe. I do not fear change because God and Christ are always working and work means change. If I am to work the works of God, I must believe in Christ and the evidence of that belief, Christ said, would be love. So let it be.

"The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit." John 3:8 (NLT)

Rob Bell starts his book with a reference to Gandhi. So, I will end this post with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I pray that we can erase Gandhi's perception and be more Christlike to those closest to us and the world.

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