Part 1 in a 2 part series …
I have to preface this post with a confession. I did not experience the whole @realrobbell backlash in real time. But after my post about Facebook the other day I really had been thinking that I should comment on the more sophisticated and dignified social media outlet ~ Twitter.
I’d say I’m a little late. Apparently there was nothing sophisticated or dignified in many of the criticisms or responses to such surrounding news of the release of Mars Hill Church Pastor Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: : A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived due out March 29.
In a nutshell, some of the promotional material was by design provocative and controversial ~ meant to create a little drama. Anyone who has seen Bell’s popular Nooma video series knows that Bell is nothing if not dramatic. I don’t think this was any surprise.
The surprise was that not a few critics have come out swinging hard and low at Bell’s seemingly universalist tendencies. And when these criticisms went flying through cyberspace with meteoric speed, the backlash took on a life of its own.
Now its important to note that while I’m not a Rob Bell fan, having heard him speak in person a few years ago several hours after he and other pastors met with the Dalai Lama in Seattle, I found the criticism of his book on the internet to be less than edifying to the body of Christ at large.
I don’t need John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, or Denny Burk to sound the alarm that Rob Bell has universalist tendencies. I mean, he met with the Dalai Lama … and I heard him speak not a few hours afterward. I know he has some serious red flags to his teaching. I can make that assessment for myself. I also recognize that not everyone who reads Bell’s books will recognize the error or truth contained therein and that someone needs to help differentiate between them. But that is a discussion for another day.
What I’m interested in is the whole “faster than the speed of sound” tearing down of an otherwise Christ-focused individual. In retrospect it seems the tweets were flying at an alarming rate. Each person chiming in with their opinion, well-informed or not. All of these tweets and re-tweets fanned the flames of a firestorm that could potentially make or break a person’s life and ministry. And to what end? I’m sure Bell will be selling as many or more books as anticipated.
It doesn’t seem as though his reputation is hurt all that much except maybe in more conservative circles of Christianity. But what I do see is that more than one well-know Christian speaker or author has come across as sounding unyielding and well … just plain mean – translate: un-Christ-like.
Those of you who know me know that one of my life goals is to uphold the integrity of Scripture and to help people understand how to discover truth for themselves. I would also say that I hope to encourage believers to live in an understanding way, allowing for differences in maturity and growth in Christ, for levels of understanding that are on a continuum at different rates, and for grace and patience toward the ones who struggle and need help from time to time.
I haven’t always been this way. Heaven help me, I have been quick to rush to judgment in the past. What I think of all this is that as Christians we need to be responsible with social media. We need to put careful thought into our reproof, rebuke and correction. That’s right, I believe there is a time and place to speak out against error. But a 140 character tweet often does not accomplish the righteousness of God ~ to paraphrase James 1:20.
If I think about yesterday’s post I have to admit, it could be any of us who put ourselves in the public arena who makes a statement leaning toward error. I hope that if the day comes that I need correction in my assertions about the gospel that my brothers and sisters in Christ will lovingly try to restore me. And lest Rob Bell perpetuate a lie by denouncing hell as a very real and fearsome place, I hope his friends do the same for him.
If you want to know what God’s word says about hell, read the very words of Jesus Himself, the One who has the power to cast down. Matthew 5:22-30, Luke 12:1-10, and ironically James 3:6.