*/edit: The author of that article has since made some edits and added notes at the end. Now I feel comfortable recommending it. Hurray! :)
I follow John Piper on twitter, and came across this post:
I thought Rob Bell had died or something, which would have been upsetting, but I followed to the link to something that upset me even more. It was an article on thegospelcoalition calling Rob Bell out as a Universalist and a servant of Satan. It isn’t a very long article, and you can read it for yourself, but the author was basically reviewing Bell’s new book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which isn’t even out yet.
To be fair, he acknowledges that fact, saying “I haven’t seen the book yet and was hesitant to say something based on the publisher’s description (which usually isn’t written by the author)”. But then he continues, “But this video from Bell himself shows that he is moving farther and farther away from anything resembling biblical Christianity”.
As of this moment, the article has been recommended on facebook by 2,619 people. I don’t plan on being one of them.
You’ll have to watch the video for yourself to see if you agree with me or not, but from what I saw and heard, Rob Bell made no definitive statements about what he believes. In his typical fashion, he asked provocative questions meant to inspire controversy and debate. Call it a marketing strategy, call it his style, whatever; the point is that he made no statements about his faith. I don’t understand how so many people, including the author of this article, can so confidently decide that he is not a “true Christian” (as though we could determine that).
Why so quick to judge?
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” – James 1:19
No one’s even read the book yet. I think the bigger question here – certainly, the one that deeply concerns me – is: Why do so many Christians feel such an overwhelming need to ‘protect’ ourselves from things that are deemed dangerous only through speculation? I say ‘protect’ because the form that that ‘protection’ takes is avoidance and, too often, condemnation.
We must guard our hearts and minds from wrong teaching and things that might lead us astray from God, yes, but we are called to be IN the world and not OF it, and what that means is that instead of shunning ‘worldly’ things and beliefs, we should engage them in debate and bring God into that discussion, not just stand at a distance and point and judge.
I’m not saying that Rob Bell is a great Christian. I’m not saying that he isn’t. I don’t think I can make that judgment. If the only way we know how to protect ourselves is by sorting everyone and everything into two categories, “good” and “bad”, I honestly think that we’ve got serious issues. We should know by now that things aren’t all black and white. That isn’t an excuse to dabble in the blacker side of things, but it is the reason why we should not be so quick to judge! Humans are the most complex beings in the universe, and I think I can safely say that all of us are, in some way, living double (or triple or quadruple or…) lives. It’s not as simple as saying “I am good” or “I am bad”, or “I am a Christian” or “I am not a Christian”. Christians often act like non-Christians, yet we do not (I hope) strike them off the list (which really shouldn’t exist) of who we can talk to and trust. We don’t, because we recognize that we ourselves continue to sin, yet at the same time, we are continually being saved, if we ask that of God (and confess and repent and etc).
So why do we continually try to sort the world into two categories?
I do believe that there are some things that are black and white, like the facts that God is real, God sent Jesus to die for us, Jesus rose again to life, we belong to God, He calls us His children, He loves us, He is good and faithful and merciful and gracious and eternal, etc. But people are never black and white, and if we believe them to be, we believe that they can never change, and that means that we don’t really believe in the fullness of God’s power and sovereignty, because God can do all things, including changing people.
Let’s stop being so afraid of things that might challenge our own beliefs and worldviews. If we are so afraid of them, perhaps we should check ourselves and see if we are really trusting God with our lives, because if we are, what is there to fear?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
If we are continually renewing our minds in Christ, why do we fear others’ minds. If we have given ourselves and our minds completely over to Christ, why do we feel as though we need to take control and decide what we can be exposed to? Why do we feel as though we need to hide in our little Christian circles to protect ourselves?
I am not saying that we should dwell on these other, perhaps questionable opinions and beliefs. I am well aware that the Bible says:
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
To “think” here implies a “dwelling”. The New Living Translation reads, “Fix your thoughts on what is true,…”. The Message says “filling your minds and meditating on…”. Meditating. That’s a good one. I’m not saying we should meditate on others’ beliefs – we most certainly should not. But it isn’t a binary here: it’s not between acknowledging it and ignoring it. It’s a spectrum that ranges from ignoring and not acknowledging it to meditating and fixing our thoughts on it. In between, we have things like acknowledging it, considering it, testing it against God’s truth, and I think that those are things we should be doing. Most things aren’t entirely good or entirely bad, save for God and His truth. Because we have God and His truth, we have a perfect standard to hold to. We can see what matches up to His perfect truth, and what doesn’t. We can engage with other beliefs because we just might find some good in it, even though other parts might be bad.
We are to be God’s hands and feet. How can we be of any use if we aren’t willing to get into the thick of things, and get ourselves dirty a little? Why are we so afraid of dirt when we have a God who cleanses us white as snow?