March 4, 2011

Rob Bell - Herald or Heretic?

This week, Rob Bell's video promo for his new book, Love Wins, ignited quite a controversy in the Christian community. If you haven't seen the video, check it out.

I usually don't touch on this subject. It's very private and dear to my heart. But I need to get this off my chest.

I watched Rob Bell’s video. It’s interesting that he doesn’t actually answer any of the questions he’s asking. Despite that, he’s already been labeled and discarded by some Christians. I guess it’s because these aren’t the safe questions allowed by Christian doctrine. Too scary.
But here's my real point.

I don't know what Bell’s conclusions will be in his as-yet-unreleased book. More importantly, I DON'T CARE what they are.

Because the real problem isn't whether someone like Bell, who has already identified himself as Christian, believes Christian doctrine as he should. Christians are supposed to believe that God gets to decide whether Bell is a believer or not, right? As I say this, I'm not suggesting Christians shouldn't know history/doctrine/faith tenants and hold true to them.

My real problem with this entire controversy is that it clearly illustrates a significant problem with a large portion of the Christian community. Here it is.

In Rob Bell's video, he voices genuine questions asked by people unschooled in church doctrine/language. The people who aren't familiar with "allowed & safe" Christian inquiry. These aren't "pie-in-the-sky" questions. These aren't shallow questions. These aren't questions that are just "excuses" for not choosing to believe in God - as some people I know suggest. They are the kind of questions asked by the people who are supposed to be the target of the Church’s love & evangelism.

These are the questions  real people I know and love - who came face to face with Christ from outside the church (and some from within it) - have seriously wrestled with in the hopes of finding something true, deep, transcendent to believe. I'm not talking about shallow people. I'm talking about people willing to seek truth, face doubt and grapple with questions that challenge the foundation of who they are, who God is and how we're supposed to live out life.

Many of these thoughtful truth seekers discovered there was no place for real questions in the  faith communities who originally claimed to welcome them "just as they were". Sadly, this is the reason many of those friends have walked away from Church. Yet others outside the Church won't even glance toward the God of Christianity because they believe there is no place for them to ask honest questions about life. 

Did you hear that?

How can the Church expect people outside the faith to want the God inside if current members are rejected for honest inquiry? Is the God of Christianity too small/afraid to handle it?

I don’t believe it.

In this blog, I always encourage honest inquiry and the thoughtful quest for wisdom. That is part of the journey. Life happens, good and bad, tragic and joyous. You know I don't say this lightly. I've faced loss and death and I'm not afraid to ask honest questions.

I'm also no longer afraid not to have all the answers. So, I'm not going to give any here. I would rather leave you with more questions than answers so that you can think for yourself about what you believe about God, life and our purpose here with each other. Because I believe that if we seek truth, it will answer. After all, it's not really faith if it can't stand up to doubt, right?

But, for believers, I want to point you to one of the most famous Bible chapters on love, the topic of Bell's new book.

1 Corinthians 13 isn’t just a text for weddings.It’s a message about the strength of real love. How it's not easily angered, believes and hopes for the best. Love is stronger than hate, prophesy, knowledge. It transcends the dim view we have of the full picture. I believe this is the fullness of who God is.

Not threatened at all by questions. Not afraid of genuine inquiry.

Read it again.



1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version, ©2011)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


  1. Great post! Appreciate your thoughtful insights.
    An important step in clarifying your beliefs is to talk about and even defend them. So the fact that the publicity campaign for Rob Bell’s book has provided an impetus for Christians to actually do theology (to figure out what they think about God) is a positive thing. Even if you disagree with Bell, it’s important for Christians to wrestle with what they believe. Another great resource on heaven, what it's like and who will be there is “Heaven Revealed” by Dr. Paul Enns, released this week by Moody Publishers. I recommend it. Here’s the amazon page:

  2. Keri - great point. I secretly suspect that may be Bell's intention. Too much of the time, Christians talk about faith - without knowing where certain interpretations of Scripture originated. A better understanding of doctrine and historical context is a good thing.

  3. Love that scripture from 1 Corinthians! And I like the sounds of this Rob Bell guy and his focus on love. I know there are plenty of people out there who think I'll be burning in hell because of my choice of religion, but I guess I won't mind too much if I'll have Gandhi for company. ;-) Thanks for sharing.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...