I figured after 10,000 words on Monday, I could take at least one day off from blogging. I don’t have much more to say about the Love Wins ordeal. (How could I? I already said 20 pages worth!). I don’t want to make this the all things Rob Bell blog. Perhaps there will be time later to get the macro-picture on this “moment.” For now, I’m ready to pay a lot less attention to the pastor from Mars Hill.
Tomorrow I’ll post a video from R.C. Sproul on the curse motif. It was one of the highlights of T4G08. The video relates to this whole controversy. But more than that, it is a precious reminder of what Christ suffered for our sakes. I could do without some of the picture collage, but listening to Sproul on Galatians 3 will be worth 8 minutes of your Thursday.
Today, just a few brief thoughts on the Bell brouhaha before moving on.
1. This issue is especially pertinent to me because I grew up where Rob Bell lives (Grand Rapids) and live where Rob Bell grew up (Lansing). I know the church he grew up at (it’s a normal evangelical church with some fine people there). And I remember buying baseball cards at the mall where Mars Hill now meets. I have people at my church that used to go to his church, and people from my home church that now go to his. Small world. Over the years, I’ve known many people that have attended Mars Hill at one time or another. Rob Bell’s influence stretches across Michigan. It seems that most people I talk to have some family member or friend or second cousin that’s gone to Mars Hill or loves Rob Bell’s books. Although few, if any, in my congregation would say they are Rob Bell fans, many interact frequently with those who are. Clarity on the important issues he raises (and misunderstands) is absolutely necessary. Especially in the Mitten.
2. As many have noted, this blow up is probably more symptom than disease. This is not going to divide evangelicalism, but it may prove that evangelicalism is already divided. What is the biggest problem in the church: people can’t stand us or we can’t stand the gospel? What is the goal of theology: to paint an attractive picture of Jesus or to say what God has already said? What is our biggest failure: we’ve turned people off or we’ve compromised our beliefs? Does the future of evangelicalism lie with progressives who can adapt and change or with conservatives who remain faithful to the old paths? Are Christians today basically too mean or too cowardly? Is our God too big and scary or too small and puny? Of course, some will not like the way I’ve framed the options, but these are some of the issues going on under the surface.
3. At some point, people need precision in our thinking. Provocation has its place. Ambiguity serves a purpose. But the work of the preacher is to present the gospel in an open statement of the truth (2 Cor. 4:2). Sooner or later people in the media, people in the hospital bed, people in the pews want to know what we think. Conversation works in the foyer, but behind the pulpit clarity is king.
4. Through the past few weeks, the Lord has been teaching me a number of lessons. He’s made me check my heart to see what my motivations are. I think they’re good, but it’s easy to write a 20-page review for all the wrong reasons. I’ve been reminded how serious the Christian gospel really is. Of course we want joy and there is a place for humor (Monday mornings for instance). But people need to see that these weighty issues weigh on us. Congregations need more Jonathan Edwards in their pastor than Jon Stewart.
5. Gospel preaching churches and gospel believing Christians need to do more to share the gospel. Preach it fifty-two Sundays. Get it out in a thousand ways. Pray for a million conversations. It starts with one person.