The furor over Rob Bell’s book Love Wins seems to have died down. The book is out and Rob has clarified his position. Those who loved Rob before the book still love him and those who don’t… Well, you know how these things go.
The rumblings from this controversy have uncovered the fault lines in contemporary evangelical theology. Or at least they have revealed some of the cracks in our façade. The discussion has unmasked the functional universalism that characterizes many modern evangelicals. More importantly, this dispute has shown how many feel an aversion for anything that smells like dogma. This antipathy is most in evidence in the flippant tone of those who wondered why Rob was criticized in the first place. Their disdain is the antiphonal reply offered to those who have accused Bell of being a “heretic” (more on that in a later blog post).
Donald Miller’s hilarious book review posted on April 1 (note the date–it is a clue) is a good example. I could not help laughing at Miller’s post. But I also had to wonder at the tone (which was mirrored in the comments of his readers). The general message seemed to be that anyone who would be disturbed by possibility that Rob Bell denies the literal nature of hell must have too much time on his hands. Don’t Jesus’ followers have better things to do than to dispute such things?
While it must be granted that some moved too quickly to apply the “h” word to Bell, it was entirely appropriate for them to be concerned. I understand why Rob Bell might not enjoy their scrutiny but he should not have been surprised. Nor should he disdain their concern. Bell is wrong when he implies that it was un-Christian to question his views on this subject. The Scriptures command Christ’s followers to guard their doctrine as well as their way of life (1 Tim. 4:16). In the Christian life doctrine is as important as character. In fact, according to Scripture the two are related. Slovenly doctrine leads to poor character And yes, the Bible really does make that connection (1 Tim. 1:10).What is more, those who oppose sound doctrine are to be “refuted” (Titus 1:9).
I know. It sounds “old school.” It seems “ungenerous.” But what can I say. It’s what the Bible says. Unpleasant as it sounds, doctrine does matter. And no, we really don’t have better things to do.