Monday, March 7, 2011

When Controversy Comes to Church

While I'm by no means a social media fanatic, I am on Twitter and enjoy it. I tend to follow people who tweet biblical truths or links to thoughtful articles or blog posts. For example, I follow Pastor John Piper on Twitter. Piper's tweets are typically convicting scriptural statements, or statements about the glory of God. 

Last week, however, I saw a Piper tweet that simply said, "Farewell Rob Bell." I wondered if something lethal had happen to Pastor Rob Bell. Then I figured Piper and Bell had been having a twitter conversation of which I caught the end. Later I learned it was in reference to Bell's new book Love Wins.

Piper tweeted this, reportedly, based on Justin Taylor's blog post Rob Bell: A Universalist?

Rob Bell’s forthcoming book is raising questions about universalism, exclusivism, the love of God, and heaven and hell.  Few people have actually read the whole book at this point.  Most reactions are being based on the back cover copy, marketing descriptions, maybe a sample chapter, and a promotional video for the book. If you're unaware of the brou-ha ha that has unfolded in the last week - and you care to know - this article from Christianity Today outlines it. 

Every day more voices lend their opinions on the growing controversy—most recently Brian McLaren, Albert Mohler, Tom Batterson, Scot McKnight, and Mark Galli of Christianity Today. Even the prominent mainstream media outlet The New York Times has taken notice.

I have not read the book and, therefore, will make no declarations about what it says, means, or indicates about Rob Bell.  I will say this has served to reinforce my already burgeoning desire to examine and understand theology for myself -- so that I can rightly discern right from wrong in a marketplace clanging 24/7 with assertions, rebuttals and opinions.

When controversy comes to church I think it's a call for you and I to seek and fit together the scriptural testimony of God’s character. In this case, what did Jesus say about God’s wrath and hell? Why did Jesus go to the Cross? Why will I, as a believer in Christ, not experience hell? And what does the Bible tell me happens to those who refuse to believe? Can you articulate the Bible's answers to these questions?

Also, this particular controversy makes me ponder: What would Jesus tweet?  :)



  1. I hadn't even heard about this. I must not be reading in the right places! But then, I'm not on twitter either,

    Happy Monday - Aimee

  2. Hi Aimee. Maybe you ARE reading in the right places, and therefore you missed all this. :)

  3. I doubt Jesus would tweet or be on facebook or blog... I would think (purely my own thoughts based on the personality of Jesus through the Scripture) that he would be annoyed by the cumbersome aspect of all the social media. He may ask to borrow or see someone's blackberry or Iphone and then throw it in the trash in our modern times instead of "turning over the tables." I have such a different opinion about theology and organized religion having grown up the daughter of a preacher. I think some spend too much time debating one another on differences of opinion instead of enjoying what should draw us all together ~ the love of God. Just my completely uneducated thoughts on the matter... for whatever they may or may not be worth. :)

  4. Rachel,

    I, too, feel the need to get myself saturated with theology so that I can make discernful decisions. The world is full of compromises in theology as it is, so when we start compromising more and more, it's easier and easier to get away from the real truth.

    It is imperative for us to get into a deeper relationship with God so that we are in a position to acutely hear the Holy Spirit's direction and prompting.

    Thanks for bringing this to light for me, Rachel!

    As for social media--I tend to dislike it greatly. We'll have to see if Piper jumped the gun or not.

    Jesus would tweet truth in love. And He would only tweet what the Father said to tweet. :)

    Prayers and blessings,

  5. Wonderful, thought-provoking post. I like your approach to this. To dig in - look at what Jesus said, study. Good stuff!

    Thanks for your thoughts! Have a wonderful day :)

    - Kate

  6. Well I did the theology thing 8 years ago. BA. Has too little bearing on my Christianity to follow it up with a Masters.
    After recognizing the arguments which can be made over the most frivolous things, (this word, that word, did Jesus really say this or that, this is a myth, that is a myth this scholar says this, the next scholar says that) you find yourself in the actual Bible seeking what it says.
    It is the doing of the word not the arguing about the word. If our theology does not make us better human beings then the God of our theology is not the God of the Christ.
    Good luck to you Ms. Rachel. I think it is always better to sit at the Master's feet. Try on the gospel of John for size. It's all about love.

  7. I totally hear you, Anon. The NT even warns us about getting into endless doctrinal debates ... that verse location is escaping my mind at the moment.

    I aim to do just as you said: go to the Bible seeking undestanding through God's Spirit.

    By the way, I'm currently reading through the book of John in conjunction with Beth Moore's The Beloved Disciple. :)

    Thanks for chiming in here.

  8. Rebecca, I loved your comment:

    "Jesus would tweet truth in love. And He would only tweet what the Father said to tweet." :)

  9. I don't know that I could articulate a biblical response to all those questions, but I sure would be interested in a book by a woman who had thought it all through. :)

  10. I'm a little late joining the conversation, but I do just want to thank you for the patience and intelligence you're displaying in not forming, or voicing, an opinion about something you haven't read. I really respect that.

    The most frustrating aspect of this whole debate to me is how quickly we've all formed an opinion about something we haven't even read. It's hard to maintain a rigorous respect for those who so quickly jump to assumptions about a book based on promotional materials (which are naturally going to be designed to promote the book--and controversy is very good for sales). If an idea is wrong, it's wrong, but how can we know that when we don't even know the actual claims of the book?


Chime in.