Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rob Bell Pt 1 (What Rob Bell Said Before Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God)

Rob Bell has just published his next book, What We Talk about When We Talk about God. I began reading it tonight, and I expect much of the same from what I read in one of his other books, Velvet Elvis.

I honestly don’t get the hubbub surrounding his controversial Love Wins (written 2008), and why Evangelicalism caste the heretic label his way after this book, when never, in any of his writings was he aligned with conservative Evangelicalism.

Bell grew up in a tight, conservative home, rebelled against it, and is now aligned somewhere in the Emergent Church conversation. Some think that the Emergent Church has fallen by the wayside, but I am sure that it has not. Rob Bell’s popularity is the first sign. Also, the writings of Brian McLaren and Donald Miller, among others, are favored books among thousands of young people around my age.

So the Emergent Church has not disappeared, and it’s not too late to talk about it. It simply isn’t a “new” movement anymore, and so it is not quite as talked about as it once was.


But back to Rob Bell. I’m not quite sure why the firestorm happened with Love Wins when this kind of thing should have happened with Velvet Elvis in the same magnitude.

Velvet Elvis was written in 2005, and was Bell’s first book.

Here’s one section:

             “What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly,            
             biological father named Larry, and archaeologists, find Larry’s tomb and do DNA  
             samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just
             a bit of mythologizing the gospel writers threw in to appeal to followers of the Mithra 
             and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose 
             gods had virgin births?

            What if that spring was seriously questioned?

            Could a person keep jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian?

            Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?

            Or does the whole thing fall apart” (26-27)?

Now I will say that Bell goes on to affirm that he believes in the virgin birth of Christ, but that’s really beside the point, because directly after stating that he affirms the historic Christian faith (which is a debatable point in its own right), he writes:

            “But when the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring [of doctrine],
            then it wasn’t that strong in the first place was it" (27)?

These are the kinds of questions and assertions that just really, really grind my gears, especially when they come from one of the most influential people of 2011 (according to Time magazine).

The Psalmist disagrees with Bell:
Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life…” (Psalm 49:7).

But Jesus was not a mere man. He was both God and man. If we take away the virgin birth, yes, Christianity falls apart. We are still in our sins.

Paul thought that some doctrines were so important, that if one got removed, EVERYTHING about Christianity would fall apart.

I’ve always been amazed at this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19:
 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This verse is so blunt, so self-explanatory. If one takes away crucial doctrines of the faith, the faith is taken away.

If Jesus was born of a man named Larry, it would make him a liar. That would mean he couldn’t be trusted. That would mean that “the way of Jesus” is not the best way to live. If the disciples were just mythologizing, then they could not be trusted, and the information we have about Jesus in the Biblical accounts could not be trusted. If the Biblical accounts can't be trusted, then we don't even know if the "way of Jesus" is actually the way of Jesus at all!

Now this all seems rather obvious, rather logical. A thoughtful Christian has the answers to Bell’s propositions in a few short moments.

People my age love Rob Bell. They haven't thought through the implications of his views (even if they are his potential views) and don't have the knowledge to do so Biblically. 

Certainly the Emergent Church has some good things to say about rigid, staunch, unloving Evangelicals, but the pendulum swings to far. 

My question is, has Bell not thought of this? Probably he has. He seems like a thinker. 

Still, I guess for Bell the morality of Jesus is enough, and we can cash in on the whole forgiveness of sins bit, at least if definitive proof was found concerning Jesus potential human origins.

Jesus can be a helpful example to us only after he is our Lord and savior first. He does no good to us if he has not saved us from our sins. There are a lot of moral people. Why couldn't Bell follow the way of Ghandi? 

Bell has no desire to align himself with the Apostles, so why should Christians align themselves with him?

My faith is strong because of the surety of the doctrines I hold. Doctrines that if taken away, would leave me still in my sin, and still without the hope of the resurrection. 

That being said, the Apostles did want Christians to look to Jesus as an example, especially of humility, service, and suffering. Jesus did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself a servant. But our eternal salvation, the basis of a relationship with God is based on Jesus'  life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

No comments:

Post a Comment